Archive for the ‘Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod Lectionary’ Category

Devotion for Thanksgiving Day (U.S.A.)   Leave a comment

Above:  Thanksgiving Day–The Dance, by Winslow Homer

Image in the Public Domain

Gratitude

NOVEMBER 28, 2019

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Since antiquity and in cultures from many parts of the Earth harvest festivals have been occasions of thanksgiving.  In the United States of America, where the first national observance of Thanksgiving occurred in 1863, the November date has related to the harvest feast in Plymouth in 1621.  Prior to 1863 some U.S. states had an annual thanksgiving holiday, and there was a movement for the national holiday.  Liturgically the occasion has remained tied to harvest festivals, although the meaning of the holiday has been broader since 1863.  The Episcopal Church has observed its first Book of Common Prayer in 1789.  Nationwide Thanksgiving Day has become part of U.S. civil religion and an element of commercialism, which might actually be the primary sect of civil religion in the United States.  The Almighty Dollar attracts many devotees.

Too easily and often this holiday deteriorates into an occasion to gather with relatives while trying (often in vain) to avoid shouting matches about politics and/or religion, or to watch television, or to be in some other awkward situation.  The holiday means little to me; I find it inherently awkward.  This state of affairs is the result of my youth, when my family and I, without relatives nearby, witnessed many of our neighbors hold family reunions on the holiday.  Thanksgiving Day, therefore, reminds me of my lifelong relative isolation.

Nevertheless, I cannot argue with the existence of occasions to focus on gratitude to God.  The Bible teaches us in both Testaments that we depend entirely on God, depend on each other, are responsible to and for each other, and have no right to exploit each other.  The key word is mutuality, not individualism.  I embrace the focus on this ethos.

A spiritual practice I find helpful is to thank God throughout each day, from the time I awake to the time I go to bed.  Doing so helps one recognize how fortunate one is.  The electrical service is reliable.  The breeze is pleasant.  The sunset is beautiful.  Reading is a great pleasure.  The list is so long that one can never reach the end of it, but reaching the end of that list is not the goal anyway.  No, the goal is to be thankful and to live thankfully.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY CROSS

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Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season,

and for the labors of those who harvest them.

Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty,

for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need,

to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 8:1-3, 6-10 (17-20)

Psalm 65 or Psalm 65:9-14

James 1:17-18, 21-27

Matthew 6:25-33

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 701

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Almighty God our Father, your generous goodness comes to us new every day.

By the work of your Spirit lead us to acknowledge your goodness,

give thanks for your benefits, and serve you in willing obedience,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Year A

Deuteronomy 8:7-18

Psalm 65

2 Corinthians 9:6-15

Luke 17:11-19

Year B

Joel 2:21-27

Psalm 126

1 Timothy 2:1-7

Matthew 6:25-33

Year C

Deuteronomy 26:1-11

Psalm 100

Philippians 4:4-9

John 6:25-35

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 61

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Deuteronomy 8:1-10

Philippians 4:6-20 or 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Luke 17:11-19

Lutheran Service Book (2006), xxiii

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Originally published at SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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Devotion for the Feast of All Saints (November 1)   Leave a comment

Above:  All Saints

Image in the Public Domain

The Communion of Saints

NOVEMBER 1, 2019

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The Episcopal Church has seven Principal Feasts:  Easter Day, Ascension Day, the Day of Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, All Saints’ Day, Christmas Day, and the Epiphany.

The Feast of All Saints, with the date of November 1, seems to have originated in Ireland in the 700s, then spread to England, then to Europe proper.  November 1 became the date of the feast throughout Western Europe in 835.  There had been a competing date (May 13) in Rome starting in 609 or 610.  Anglican tradition retained the date of November 1, starting with The Book of Common Prayer (1549).  Many North American Lutherans first observed All Saints’ Day with the Common Service Book (1917).  The feast was already present in The Lutheran Hymnary (Norwegian-American, 1913).  The Lutheran Hymnal (Missouri Synod, et al, 1941) also included the feast.  O the less formal front, prayers for All Saints’ Day were present in the U.S. Presbyterian Book of Common Worship (Revised) (1932), the U.S. Methodist Book of Worship for Church and Home (1945), and their successors.

The Feast of All Saints reminds us that we, as Christians, belong to a large family stretching back to the time of Christ.  If one follows the Lutheran custom of commemorating certain key figures from the Hebrew Bible, the family faith lineage predates the conception of Jesus of Nazareth.

At Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, Georgia, where I was a member from 1993 to 1996, I participated in a lectionary discussion group during the Sunday School hour.  Icons decorated the walls of the room in which we met.  The teacher of the class called the saints depicted “the family.”

“The family” surrounds us.  It is so numerous that it is “a great cloud of witnesses,” to quote Hebrews 12:1.  May we who follow Jesus do so consistently, by grace, and eventually join that great cloud.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PETER OF CHELCIC, BOHEMIAN HUSSITE REFORMER; AND GREGORY THE PATRIARCH, FOUNDER OF THE MORAVIAN CHURCH

THE FEAST OF GODFREY THRING, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JANE CREWDSON, ENGLISH QUAKER POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF NARAYAN SESHADRI OF JALNI, INDIAN PRESBYTERIAN EVANGELIST AND “APOSTLE TO THE MANGS”

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Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in the mystical body of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord:

Give us grace to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living,

that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit

lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Year A:

Revelation 7:9-17

1 John 3:1-3

Psalm 34:1-10, 22

Matthew 5:1-12

Year B:

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9 or Isaiah 25:6-9

Psalm 24

Revelation 21:1-6a

John 11:32-44

Year B:

Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18

Psalm 149

Ephesians 1:11-23

Luke 6:20-31

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2006), 663; also Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 59

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Revelation 7:(2-8), 9-17

1 John 3:1-3

Matthew 5:1-12

Lutheran Service Book (2006), xxiii

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Originally published at SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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Devotion for the Feast of the Reformation (October 31)   2 comments

Above:  Wittenberg in 1540

Image in the Public Domain

Schism and Reconciliation

OCTOBER 31, 2019

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The Feast of the Reformation, celebrated first in the Brunswick church order (1528), composed by Johannes Bugenhagen (1485-1558), died out in the 1500s.  Initially the dates of the commemoration varied according to various church orders, and not all Lutherans observed the festival.  Original dates included November 10 (the eve of Martin Luther‘s birthday), February 18 (the anniversary of Luther’s death), and the Sunday after June 25, the date of the delivery of the Augsburg Confession.  In 1667, after the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), Elector of Saxony John George II ordered the revival of the commemoration, with the date of October 31.  Over time the commemoration spread, and commemorations frequently occurred on the Sunday closest to that date.

The feast used to function primarily as an occasion to express gratitude that one was not Roman Catholic.  However, since 1980, the 450th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession, the Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute (of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement) and the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau have favored observing the feast as a time of reconciliation and of acknowledging the necessity of the Reformation while not celebrating the schism.

This perspective is consistent with the position of Professor Phillip Cary in his Great Courses series of The History of Christian Theology (2008), in which he argues that Protestantism and Roman Catholicism need each other.

I, as an Episcopalian, stand within the Middle Way–Anglicanism.  I am convinced, in fact, that I am on this planet for, among other reasons, to be an Episcopalian; the affiliation fits me naturally.  I even hang an Episcopal Church flag in my home.  I, as an Episcopalian, am neither quite Protestant nor Roman Catholic; I borrow with reckless abandon from both sides–especially from Lutheranism in recent years.  I affirm Single Predestination (Anglican and Lutheran theology), Transubstantiation, a 73-book canon of scripture, and the Assumption of Mary (Roman Catholic theology), and reject both the Immaculate Conception of Mary and the Virgin Birth of Jesus.  My ever-shifting variety of Anglicanism is sui generis.

The scandal of schism, extant prior to 1517, but exasperated by the Protestant and English Reformations, grieves me.  Most of the differences among denominations similar to each other are minor, so overcoming denominational inertia with mutual forbearance would increase the rate of ecclesiastical unity.  Meanwhile, I, from my perch in The Episcopal Church, ponder whether organic union with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is feasible and wise.  It is a question worth exploring.  At least we are natural ecumenical partners.  We already have joint congregations, after all.  If there will be organic union, it will require mutual giving and taking on many issues, but we agree on most matters already.

Time will tell.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PETER OF CHELCIC, BOHEMIAN HUSSITE REFORMER; AND GREGORY THE PATRIARCH, FOUNDER OF THE MORAVIAN CHURCH

THE FEAST OF GODFREY THRING, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JANE CREWDSON, ENGLISH QUAKER POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF NARAYAN SESHADRI OF JALNI, INDIAN PRESBYTERIAN EVANGELIST AND “APOSTLE TO THE MANGS”

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Almighty God, gracious Lord, we thank you that your Holy Spirit renews the church in every age.

Pour out your Holy Spirit on your faithful people.

Keep them steadfast in your word, protect and comfort them in times of trial,

defend them against all enemies of the gospel,

and bestow on the church your saving peace,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 31:31-34

Psalm 46

Romans 3:19-28

John 8:31-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 58

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Revelation 14:6-7

Romans 3:19-28

John 8:31-36 or Matthew 11:12-19

Lutheran Service Book (2006), xxiii

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Originally published at SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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Devotion for the Feast of the Holy Cross (September 14)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Crucifixion and the Way of the Holy Cross, June 9, 1887

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-00312

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2019

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The Feast of the Holy Cross commemorates two events–The discovery of the supposed true cross by St. Helena on September 14, 320, and the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, on that day in 335, on the anniversary of the dedication of the First Temple in Jerusalem.  In the Eastern Orthodox Church the corresponding commemoration is the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

The Feast of the Holy Cross has had an interesting history.  It existed in Constantinople in the 600s and in Rome in the 800s.  The feast did not transfer into Anglicanism initially.  It did become a lesser feast–a black-letter day–in The Book of Common Prayer in 1561.  In The Church of England The Alternative Service Book (1980) kept Holy Cross Day as a black-letter day, but Common Worship (2000) promoted the commemoration to a major feast–a red-letter day.  The Episcopal Church dropped Holy Cross Day in 1789 but added it–as a red-letter day–during Prayer Book revision in the 1970s.  The feast remained outside the mainstream of U.S. and Canadian Lutheranism until the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and its variant, Lutheran Worship (1982).

Without getting lost in the narrative weeds (especially in Numbers 21), one needs to know that God chastises Jews and Christians for their sins yet does not destroy them, except when He allegedly sends poisonous snakes to attack them.  Then God provides a healing mechanism.  We should look up toward God, not grumble in a lack of gratitude.  Isaiah 45:21-25, set toward the end of the Babylonian Exile, argues that God is the master of history, and that the vindication of the former Kingdom of Judah will benefit Gentiles also, for Gentiles will receive invitations to worship the one true God.  Many will accept, we read.  In the Gospel of John the exaltation of Jesus is his crucifixion.  That is counter-intuitive; it might even be shocking.    If so, recall 1 Corinthians 1:23–Christ crucified is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.  God frequently works in ways we do not understand.  John 12 mentions some God-fearers, Gentiles who worshiped YHWH.  This reference picks up from Isaiah 45:21-25.  It also fits well with the Pauline mission to Gentiles and emphasis on Christ crucified.

As for God sending poisonous snakes to bite grumbling Israelites, that does not fit into my concept of God.  My God-concept encompasses both judgment and mercy, but not that kind of behavior.

The choice of the cross as the symbol of Christianity is wonderfully ironic.  The cross, an instrument of judicial murder and the creation of fear meant to inspire cowering submission to Roman authority, has become a symbol of divine love, sacrifice, and victory.  A symbol means what people agree it means; that is what makes it a symbol.  Long after the demise of the Roman Empire, the cross remains a transformed symbol.

The Episcopal collect for Holy Cross Day invites us to take up a cross and follow Jesus.  In Cotton Patch Gospel (1982), the play based on Clarence Jordan‘s The Cotton Patch Version of Matthew and John, Jesus, says that a person not willing to accept his or her lynching is unworthy of Him.

That is indeed a high standard.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA, DISCIPLE OF JESUS

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Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross

that he might draw the whole world to himself:

Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption,

may take up our cross and follow him;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Isaiah 45:21-25

Psalm 98 or 8:1-4

Philippians 2:5-11 or Galatians 6:14-18

John 12:31-36a

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 581

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Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross

that he might draw the whole world to himself.

To those who look upon the cross, grant your wisdom, healing, and eternal life,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Numbers 21:4b-9

Psalm 98:1-4 or 78:1-2, 34-38

1 Corinthians 1:18-24

John 3:13-17

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 57

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Numbers 21:4-9

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

John 12:20-33

Lutheran Service Book (2006), xxiii

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Originally published at SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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Devotion for December 2 in Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

candle-stump

Above:  A Candle Stump

Image Source = J. Samuel Burner

Light in the Darkness

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 2, 2017

NOT OBSERVED IN 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, 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:

Isaiah 8:9-9:6/7 (depending on versification)

Psalm 5 (Morning)

Psalms 84 and 29 (Evening)

1 Peter 4:1-9

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There will be grave trouble for Judah one day, Isaiah said.  It might not happen soon, but that day will come.  And it did.  Yet, in the midst of that gloomy prediction, there was a second, happy one:  There will be a ruler through whom God will deliver the people.  Scholars debate what the vague references meant, and the reading assumes a certain character if one reads it outside of Christological interpretations, but none of that is germane to my purpose here, today.  My point is this:  There is hope in the darkest darkness, thanks to God.

Speaking of difficult times, the audience of 1 Peter knew suffering for the faith (4:12-19).  Yet God was with them, not only spiritually via the Holy Spirit, but also through each other.  We human beings ought to help each other to, in the words of 1 Peter 4:8,

preserve an intense love for each other (The New Jerusalem Bible)

and use our gifts from God for the common good.  What does Jesus look like?  Hopefully, he looks like you, O reader, like me, and like many other people.  As we prepare, to celebrate the arrival of Christ nearly two thousand years ago, may we first recognize those through whom Christ is present with us today.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 3, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN OWEN SMITH, UNITED METHODIST BISHOP IN GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN ASIA

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Devotion for December 1 in Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

harrowing-of-hades

Above:  The Harrowing of Hades

Image in the Public Domain

Hope and Fear

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2017

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 1, 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 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:

Isaiah 7:10-8:8

Psalm 103 (Morning)

Psalms 117 and 139 (Evening)

1 Peter 3:1-22

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He [Jesus Christ] suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended to the dead.

On the third day he rose again.

–The Apostles’s Creed

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Christ himself died once and for all for sins, the upright for the sake of the guilty, to lead us to God.  In the body he was put to death, in the spirit he was raised to life, and in the spirit, he went to preach to the spirits in prison.  They refused to believe long ago, while God patiently waited to receive them…..

–1 Peter 3:18-20a, The New Jerusalem Bible

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The reading from Isaiah tells of the births of two boys.  Immanuel’s arrival marked hope that the Syro-Ephraimite threat to Judah would end soon.  It also contained a promise of divine judgment; read 7:17.  The arrival of Maher-shalal-hash-baz marked the doom of the Syro-Ephraimite thread at Assyria’s hands.  Hope and judgment, bound together, were part of the same message.  The author of the Gospel of Matthew read a different meaning into Isaiah 7, relating it to Jesus.  The combination of hope and judgment is also present there.  That is sound New Testament-based theology.

As much as judgment is potent, so is mercy.  1 Peter 3:19 is one basis (see also 1 Peter 4:6) for the line (from the Apostles’ Creed) about Jesus descending to the dead.  This passage indicates that Hell, at one time at least, had an exit.  And it might have one again.  There is always hope in God.  If God does not give up on us–as I suspect is true–may we extend each other the same courtesy.  Final judgment belongs to God, and I do not presume to a station higher than the one I occupy.  But I do propose that certain ideas we might have heard and internalized relative to divine judgment might be mistaken.  With God all things are possible; may we embrace that mystery.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 3, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN OWEN SMITH, UNITED METHODIST BISHOP IN GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN ASIA

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Devotion for November 30 in Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

christ-with-beard

Above:  Christ with Beard

Image in the Public Domain

Subversive Compassion

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2017

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 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 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:

Isaiah 6:1-7:9

Psalm 61 (Morning)

Psalms 138 and 98 (Evening)

1 Peter 2:13-25

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I have covered the reading from Isaiah already, so I refer you, O reader, to the labeled links for them.  At this time and place I choose to say the following:  A pressing question for many Christians in the latter portion of the first century C.E. was whether one could be both a good Christian and a good Roman.  Also, the author of 1 Peter assumed that Jesus would be back quite soon to sort out the world order.  As I write these words, our Lord has not returned. The world order is what we have made it; may we exercise our agency responsibly to improve it.  This does involve resisting authority sometimes, as in the case of tyrannical governments.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer plotted to assassinate Adolf Hitler.  Many faithful Christians–Protestants and Roman Catholics–sheltered Jews and resisted the Third Reich.  And, throughout church history, bishops have called monarchs to account.

We who read and interpret the Bible must be careful to read it as a whole, not to fixate so much on certain passages that we ignore inconvenient ones and distort the composite meaning of the texts.  There is something called confirmation bias, which means that we tend to pay attention to evidence which supports our opinions and ignore or dismiss that which does not.  I look for this in myself and try to safeguard against prooftexting, the confirmation bias method of misreading the Bible.

I keep returning to the example Jesus set.  (I am a professing Christian, literally a “partisan of Christ.”)  He violated many religious customs, some of them from the Law of Moses itself.  He seems to have favored compassion over any other factor when they came into conflict.  And he taught this ethic with his words.  So we have in our Lord the union of words and deeds favoring compassion above all else in guiding our actions toward others.  Compassion trumps all else.

As much as I disagree with those aspects of Christian traditions which deal favorably with tyrants and dictators, justify servitude, and smile upon gender inequality, I find Jesus to be the strong counterpoint to them.  Somewhere–very soon after our Lord’s time on the planet ended–the church began to accommodate itself–frequently in ways inconsistent with Christ–to the Roman Empire.  Jesus was a subversive.  I mean this as a compliment.  I follow the subversive, or at least I try to do so.  If I am to be an honest Christian, this is what I must do.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 3, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN OWEN SMITH, UNITED METHODIST BISHOP IN GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN ASIA

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