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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

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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 the Feast of the Holy Cross, Years A, B, C, and D (Humes)   1 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

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2020

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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.

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.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 57

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Numbers 21:4b-9

Psalm 98:1-5 or 78:1-2, 34-38

1 Corinthians 1:18-24

John 3:13-17

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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.  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.

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 27, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS GALLAUDET AND HENRY WINTER SYLE, EPISCOPAL PRIESTS AND EDUCATORS OF THE DEAF

THE FEAST OF SAINT AMADEUS OF CLERMONT, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK; AND HIS SON, SAINT AMADEUS OF LAUSANNE, FRENCH-SWISS ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC BARBERI, ROMAN CATHOLIC APOSTLE TO ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF HENRIETTE LUISE VAN HAYN, GERMAN MORAVIAN HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/08/27/the-exaltation-of-the-holy-cross-part-ii/

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Devotion for Proper 9, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Isaac Upon Esau’s Return, by Giotto di Bondone

Image in the Public Domain

The Scandal of Grace

JULY 7, 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 27:1-42 or Isaiah 2:11-22

Psalm 12

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

Matthew 8:1-17

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The scandal of grace is especially notorious.  Yes, practicing deceit does have consequences for people–not just the deceitful ones.  Nevertheless, God can use deceit to spread grace.  One can be a vehicle of grace despite oneself.  Divine grace is all around us, but we miss much of it because we are not looking for it from the sources it approaches us.

To sit in judgment on those religious authorities who rejected Jesus is easy in 2018.  Yet one should be cautious when doing so, for one might proceed from a standard according to which one, if intellectually honest, must condemn oneself.  We churchy people of 2018 are heirs to an ancient tradition, just as the religious authorities with whom Jesus tangled were.  If we are honest, we might have to admit that the characters most like us in many of the stories of Jesus worked in the Temple and fussed whenever Jesus healed on the Sabbath.  We are defenders of what we understand to be orthodoxy, just as the Pharisees and Sadducees were defenders of orthodoxy, as they understood it.

Getting into heaven is mostly about grace, so may we, while seeking to respond faithfully to God, refrain from the heresy of works-based righteousness.  Our doctrine is important, but admission to heaven does not depend on passing a canonical examination.  If were like a canonical examination, admission to Heaven would depend on the work of believing the proper doctrines.  Affirming correct doctrine is positive, of course, but it is not a saving work.

May we, by grace, receive and retain salvation–not just for ourselves and our selfish reasons, but for the benefit of other people and the glory of God.  And may we, by grace, recognize grace, rejoice in it, and never find it scandalous or offensive.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 23, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIDGET OF SWEDEN, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HOLY SAVIOR; AND HER DAUGHTER, SAINT CATHERINE OF SWEDEN, SUPERIOR OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HOLY SAVIOR

THE FEAST OF ADELAIDE TEAGUE CASE, PROFESSOR OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP EVANS AND JOHN LLOYD, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF THEODOR LILEY CLEMENS, ENGLISH MORAVIAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, AND COMPOSER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/07/23/the-scandal-of-grace/

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Devotion for Proper 8, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Esau Selling His Birthright, by Hendrick ter Brugghen

Image in the Public Domain

Vehicles of Grace

JUNE 30, 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 25:17-34 or Isaiah 1:1-20 (portions)

Psalm 11

1 Corinthians 1:1-18

Matthew 7:15-29

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Waiting on and trusting in God can be very difficult, but it is the thematic thread uniting these readings.  Nevertheless, some of the figures from certain readings for today seem like unlikely exemplars of waiting on and trusting in God.

The narrative about Jacob portrays Israel in its earthiest and most scandalous appearance in Genesis.  The narrative is not edifying in any conventional religious or moral sense.  Indeed, if one comes to the narrative with such an agenda, the narrative is offensive.  But for that very reason, the Jacob narrative is most lifelike.  It presents Jacob in the crude mixture of motives.  The grandson of the promise is a rascal compared to his faithful grandfather Abraham or his successful father Isaac.  The affirmations of faith in this narrative are especially robust.  The narrator knows that the purposes of God are tangled in a web of self-interest and self-seeking.

–Walter Brueggemann, Genesis (1982), page 204

Saul of Tarsus thought he was obeying God while oppressing Christians.  After realizing his error, he became St. Paul the Apostle, a vital figure in the mission to the Gentiles.

Each of us is imperfect.  All of us can do better.  Each of us can be a vehicle of grace, by grace.  Seeking to obey God is laudable, but how can we succeed?  The judgments of our culture are not always helpful in this matter.  Furthermore, if we think we are listening to God, we might be, but we might also be conducting on internal dialogue instead.  As much as one might try to wait on and trust in God, one might miss the channel, so to speak.

I offer no easy answers because I have none.  Besides, an easy answer to a difficult question is a wrong answer.  I suggest, however, that one is less likely to go wrong by seeking the good of other people rather than by living selfishly.  One might sin in how one seeks to build up others, but at least on is pointing in the right direction.  Yet good intentions are the pavement stones in road to Hell, so one needs grace to make wise decisions daily.  Good intentions are at least good, but they are insufficient.

Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.

That truth is a quote from the Westminster Larger Catechism.  The sentence is a fine general statement of principle.  The particulars vary according to the circumstances of life–who, where, and when one is.  May we, by grace, bear good fruit for God, and therefore glorify him, and enjoy him fully forever.

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/vehicles-of-grace/

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Devotion for the Feast of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, Years A, B, C, and D (May 31) (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Embrace of Elizabeth and the Virgin Mary

Image in the Public Domain

Humility and Arrogance

MAY 31, 2021

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The Collect:

Almighty God, in choosing the virgin Mary to be the mother of your Son,

you made known your gracious regard for the poor and the lowly and the despised.

Grant us grace to receive your Word in humility, and so made one with your Son,

Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you

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

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 33

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 2:1-10

Psalm 113

Romans 12:9-16b

Luke 1:39-57

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Depending on the date of Easter, and therefore of Pentecost, the Feast of the Visitation can fall in either the season of Easter or the Season after Pentecost.

The history of the Feast of the Visitation has been a varied one.  The feast, absent in Eastern Orthodoxy, began in 1263, when St. Bonaventure introduced it to the Order of Friars Minor (the Franciscans), which he led.  Originally the date was July 2, after the octave of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 24).  Pope Urban VI approved the feast in 1389, the Council of Basel authorized it in 1441, propers debuted in the Sarum breviary of 1494, and Pope Pius V added the feast to the general calendar in 1561.  In 1969, during the pontificate of Paul VI, Holy Mother Church moved the Feast of the Visitation to May 31, in lieu of the Feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which Pope Pius XII had instituted in 1954.  The Episcopal Church added the Feast of the Visitation to its calendar in The Book of Common Prayer (1979).  The feast had long been July 2 in The Church of England and much of Lutheranism prior to 1969.  Subsequent liturgical revision led to the transfer of the feast to May 31 in those traditions.

The corresponding Eastern Orthodox feast on July 2 commemorates the placing of the Holy Robe of the Mother of God in the church at Blachernae, a suburb of Constantinople.

The theme of humility is prominent in the assigned readings and in the Lutheran collect I have quoted.  A definition of that word might therefore prove helpful.  The unabridged Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language (1951), a tome, defines humility as

Freedom from pride and arrogance; humbleness of mind; a modest estimate of one’s own worth; also, self-abasement, penitence for sin.

Humility refers to lowliness and, in the Latin root, of being close to the ground.  God raising up the lowly is a Lukan theme, as is God overthrowing the arrogant.  After all, the woes (Luke 6:24-26) follow the Beatitudes (6:20-25), where Jesus says,

Blessed are you who are poor,

not

Blessed are you who are poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3).

The first will be last and the last will be first, after all.

Wherever you are, O reader, you probably live in a society that celebrates the boastful, the arrogant.  The assigned readings for this day contradict that exultation of the proud, however.  They are consistent with the ethic of Jeremiah 9:22-23:

Yahweh says this,

“Let the sage not boast of wisdom,

nor the valiant of valour,

nor the wealthy of riches!

But let anyone who wants to boast, boast of this:

of understanding and knowing me.

For I am Yahweh, who acts with faithful love,

justice, and uprightness on earth;

yes, these are what please me,”

Yahweh declares.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

St. Paul the Apostle channeled that ethic in 1 Corinthians 1:31 and 2 Corinthians 10:17, among other passages.

That which he understood well and internalized, not without some struggle, remains relevant and timeless.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, CHRISTIAN APOLOGIST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA, BIBLE SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL STENNETT, ENGLISH SEVENTH-DAY BAPTIST MINISTER AND HYMN-WRITER; AND JOHN HOWARD, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/06/01/devotion-for-the-feast-of-the-visitation-of-mary-to-elizabeth-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 7, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Job Speaks with His Friends Dore

Above:  Job Speaks With His Friends, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

“Received Wisdom”

JUNE 24, 2019, and JUNE 25, 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:

Job 18:1-21 (Monday)

Job 19:1-22 (Tuesday)

Psalm 64 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 1:18-31 (Monday)

Ephesians 2:11-22 (Tuesday)

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They sharpen their tongues like a sword,

aim their arrows of poisonous abuse,

shoot at the innocent from cover,

shoot suddenly, with nothing to fear.

–Psalm 64:3-4, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Blaming victims is among the oldest of human practices.  Consider the Book of Job, O reader.  Chapters 1 and 2 explain why the eponymous character suffers; God allows it.  Job is upright; he suffers not because of any sins he has committed but because he has become a pawn in a heavenly wager.  Job protests repeatedly that he is innocent.  Bildad the Shuhite, however, will hear nothing of it.  The righteous flourish and the wicked suffer, according to Bildad.  This does not lift Job’s spirits, of course.

Sometimes “received wisdom” is actually foolishness.  The example of Jesus of Nazareth belies the theology of Bildad the Shuhite, a system of thought which has staying power, unfortunately.  Sometimes innocent and righteous people suffer, even die unjustly.  Jesus was not only innocent but the most righteous person ever, and he died unjustly.

I wonder how much “received wisdom” we assume to be valid and true is actually invalid and false.  I also wonder how often we, acting on that erroneous assumption, harm others when we should help them.  May God show us the errors of our ways and forgive us for them.  And may we, by grace, succeed in changing them so that we will become agents of divine healing, comfort, and reconciliation for all who need them and whose paths cross ours.

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/received-wisdom/

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Devotion for August 8 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Saul and David, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

1 Samuel and 1 Corinthians, Part II:  God’s Choices

SATURDAY, AUGUST 8, 2020

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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:

1 Samuel 24:1-22

Psalm 116 (Morning)

Psalms 26 and 130 (Evening)

1 Corinthians 1:26-2:16

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The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod Daily Lectionary from the Lutheran Service Book (2006) skips over part of 1 Samuel.  A summary of that portion follows:  David, a fugitive from King Saul, becomes a rebel leader.  Saul, who knows that David will succeed him as monarch, kills some of those (excluding others, including Jonathan) who aid David.  Chapter 24 contains the famous story of David sparing the life of the monarch (his former father-in-law) who had tried more than once to kill him.

That content fits well with a part of 1 Corinthians 1:

No. God chose those who by human standards are fools to shame the wise; he chose those who by human standards are common and contemptible–indeed those who count for nothing–to reduce to nothing all those that do count for something, so that no human being might feel boastful before God.

–Verses 27-29, The New Jerusalem Bible

Saul was of less than “noble” origin.  His activity while chosen king as chasing runaway donkeys, after all.  But Saul was tall and handsome by the standards of the day.  And he was powerful relative to young David, who, in contrast, was the son his father left tending the sheep when Samuel met the other brothers.  The choice of David was an unlikely one by human standards.

Many of God’s choices will surprise us.  First we need to be sure that we have perceived correctly that x is God’s choice.  (This can be difficult.)  But, assuming that x is God’s choice, it might violate our sense of what ought to be.  Saul preferred to be the founder of a dynasty and for Jonathan to succeed him immediately.  Yet that was not what happened.  How will we respond to God’s choices?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN EDUCATORS AND INTELLECTUALS

THE FEAST OF ROBERT HERRICK, POET

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA OF AVILA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/1-samuel-and-1-corinthians-part-ii-gods-choices/

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Devotion for August 7 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Ancient Corinth

Image Source = Library of Congress

1 Samuel and 1 Corinthians, Part I:  Words

FRIDAY, AUGUST 7, 2020

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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:

1 Samuel 20:24-42

Psalm 96 (Morning)

Psalms 132 and 134 (Evening)

1 Corinthians 1:1-25

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Saul flew into a rage against Jonathan.  “You son of a perverse, rebellious woman!” he shouted.

–1 Samuel 20:30a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Saul boiled with rage.  “You son of a bitch!” he yelled at him.

–1 Samuel 20:30a, The Living Bible

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Sing a new song to Yahweh!

Sing to Yahweh, all the earth!

Sing to Yahweh, bless his name!

Proclaim his salvation day after day,

declare his glory among the nations,

his marvels to every people!

–Psalm 96:1-3, The New Jerusalem Bible

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After all, Christ me not to baptise, but to preach the gospel, and not by means of wisdom of language, wise words which would make the cross of Christ pointless.  The message of the cross is folly for those who are on the way to ruin, but for those of us who are on the road to salvation it is the power of God.

–1 Corinthians 1;17-18, The New Jerusalem Bible

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Words matter.  Psalm 96 exhorts people to use words to proclaim divine glory and the message of salvation.  And we read of King Saul cursing out his son Jonathan in 1 Samuel 20:30.  The Living Bible, usually a substandard version, gets Saul’s tone right and places it in a familiar, modern idiom.  (Aside:  Later printings of The Living Bible replaced “son of a bitch” with “fool,” which has less of an impact.)  So words can humiliate or encourage, tear down or build up.

And sometimes words prove to be irrelevant.  The message of the cross contradicts conventional wisdom regarding who died that way and why, so of course one cannot cite conventional wisdom on the topic to explain the crucifixion, much less the subsequent resurrection, properly.  But words did play a vital part in Paul’s message; witness his epistles, O reader.  And he had to use words to preach the good news of Jesus.

Words have power.  According to myth, God spoke and thereby transformed chaos into order in Genesis 1.  Much of the time, however, we mere mortals speak and thereby convert order into chaos.  We speak and thereby either build up or tear down.  May we use our words for positive purposes, glorifying God and building up others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 14, 2012 COMMON ERA

PROPER 23:  THE TWENTIETH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN MISSIONARIES

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL ISAAC JOSEPH SCHERESCHEWSKY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF SHANGHAI

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/1-samuel-and-1-corinthians-part-i-words/

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Week of Proper 16: Saturday, Year 2   5 comments


Above:  Parable of the Talents Woodcut, 1712

The Imperative of Responsible Action

AUGUST 29, 2020

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Take  yourselves for instance, brothers, at the time when you were called:  how many of you were wise in the ordinary sense of the word, how many were influential people, or came from noble families?  No, it was to shame the wise that God chose what is foolish by human reckoning, and to shame what is strong that he chose what is weak by human reckoning; those whom the world thinks common and contemptible are the ones that God has chosen–those who are nothing at all to show up those who are everything.  The human race has nothing to boast about to God, but you, God has made members of Christ Jesus and by God’s doing he has become our wisdom, and our virtue, and our holiness, and our freedom.  As scripture says:

if anyone wants to boast, let him boast about the Lord.

Psalm 33:12-22 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

12 Happy is the nation whose God is the LORD!

happy the people he has chosen to be his own!

13 The LORD looks down from heaven,

and beholds all the people in the world.

14 From where he sits enthroned he turns his gaze

on all who dwell on the earth.

15 He fashions all the hearts of them

and understands all their works.

16 There is no king that can be saved by a mighty army;

a strong man is not delivered by his great strength.

17 The horse is a vain hope for deliverance;

for all its strength it cannot save.

18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon those who fear him,

on those who wait upon his love,

19 To pluck their lives from death,

and to feed them in time of famine.

20 Our soul waits for the LORD;

he is our help and our shield.

21 Indeed, our heart rejoices in him,

for in his holy name we put our trust.

22 Let your loving-kindness, O LORD, be upon us,

as we have put our trust in you.

Matthew 25:14-30 (The Jerusalem Bible):

It [the kingdom of heaven] is like a man on his way abroad who summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them.  To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to a third one; each in proportion to his ability.  Then he set out.  The man who had received five talents promptly went and traded with them and made five more.  The man who had received two made two more in the same way.  But the man who had received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.  Now a long time after, the master of those servants came back and went through his accounts with them.  The man who had received five talents came forward bringing five more.

Sir,

he said,

you entrusted me with five talents; here are five more I have made.

His master said to him,

Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown that you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.

Next the man with two talents came forward.

Sir,

he said,

you entrusted me with two talents; here are two more that I have made.

His master said to him,

Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.

Last came forward the man who had the one talent.

Sir,

said he,

I had heard that you were a hard man, reaping where you had not sown and gathering where you had not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground.  Here it is; it was yours, you have it back.

But his master answered him,

You wicked and lazy servant!  So you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered?  Well then, you should deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have recovered my capital with interest.  So now, take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the five talents.  For to everyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  As for this good-for-nothing servant, throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.

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The Collect:

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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I have covered the Parable of the Talents in the Year 1 counterpart to this post.  What follows will duplicate much of that content, but I refer you, O reader, to that post, for my full comments on that parable.

The New Interpreter’s Bible, in Volume VIII, on page 453, places the Parable of the Talents in the context not only of Chapter 25 but within the whole of the Gospel of Matthew.  (For the full analysis, consult that page in Volume VIII.)  Said commentary ends on this note:  It speaks of

the reality of judgment and the necessity of decisions and responsible action.

The rich man in the parable was quite wealthy.  A talent was the equivalent of fifteen years of wages for a day laborer.  So the servant who received just one talent was relatively wealthy, at least for a time.  He was an honest man, for he returned the money, down the last denarius, to his master.  Yet the two servants who showed initiative and doubled the money won praise; the overly cautious man received condemnation.  And one of the dutiful servants received more responsibility, based on his track record.

Grace begins with God and requires to act upon it.  Thus grace is free, not cheap.  This brings me to the reading from 1 Corinthians.  There God is the original actor, and

no human may glory before God.  (verse 29, The Anchor Bible)

Each servant in the Parable of the Talents had reason to glory in the trust of his master, and two of them behaved commendably.  Here, as in many other places in the Bible, money and judgment coexist.

If we take an inventory of our talents (not the monetary measure), we will recognize how much we have on trust from God.  Will we even try to make the most of them?  True, other people can help or hinder our efforts; they are responsible for their deeds.  And we are are accountable for ours.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/the-imperative-of-responsible-action/

Week of Proper 16: Friday, Year 2   3 comments

Above:  Victory of the Resurrection

Foolishness or Wisdom?

AUGUST 28, 2020

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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1 Corinthians 1:17-25 (The Jerusalem Bible):

For Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the Good News, and not to preach that in the terms of philosophy in which the crucifixion of Christ cannot be expressed.  The language of the cross may be illogical to those who are not on the way to salvation, but those of us who are on the way see it as God’s power to save.  As scripture says:

I shall destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to nothing all the learning of the learned.  Where are the philosophers now?  Where are the scribes?

Where are any of our thinkers today?  Do you see now how God has shown up the foolishness of human wisdom?  It was God’s wisdom that human wisdom should not know God, it was because God wanted to save those who have faith through the foolishness of the message that we preach.  And so, while the Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom, here are we preaching a crucified Christ; to the Jews an obstacle that they cannot get over, to the pagans madness, but to those who have been called, whether they are Jews or Greeks, a Christ who is the power and the wisdom of God.  For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

Psalm 33:1-11 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous;

it is good for the just to sing praises.

2 Praise the LORD with the harp;

play to him upon the psaltery and lyre.

3 sing for him a new song;

sound a fanfare with all your skill upon the trumpet.

4 For the word of the LORD is right,

and all of his works are sure.

5 He loves righteousness and justice;

the loving-kindness of the LORD fills the whole earth.

By the word of the LORD were the heavens made,

by the breath of his mouth all the heavenly hosts.

7 He gathers up the waters of the ocean as in a water-skin

and stores up the depths of the sea.

8 Let all the earth fear the LORD;

let all who dwell in the world stand in awe of him.

9 For he spoke, and it came to pass;

he commanded, and it stood fast.

10 The LORD brings the will of the nations to naught;

he thwarts the designs of the peoples.

11 But the LORD’s will stands fast for ever,

and the designs of his heart from age to age.

Matthew 25:1-13 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this:  Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.  Five of them were foolish and five sensible:  the foolish ones did take their lamps, but they brought no oil, whereas the sensible ones took flasks of oil as well as their lamps.  The bridegroom was late, and they all grew drowsy and fell asleep.  But at midnight there was a cry.  ’The bridegroom is here!  Go out and meet him.’  At this, all those bridesmaids woke up and trimmed their lamps, and the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, ‘Give us some of your oil:  our lamps are going out.’  But they replied, ‘There may not be enough for us and for you; you had better go to those who sell it and buy some for yourselves.’  They had gone off to buy it when the bridegroom arrived.  Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding hall and the door was closed.  The other bridesmaids arrived later.  ’Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us.’  But he replied, ‘I tell you solemnly, I do not know you.’  So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour.

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The Collect:

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The late Lesslie Newbigin, a Presbyterian minister and missionary, later a bishop in the Church of South India, and, at the end of his life, a minister in The United Reformed Church (in Great Britain), disapproved of Christian apologetics which attempted to make Christianity seem reasonable to conventional standards.  For Newbigin, the basis of proper Christian confidence is the person of Jesus himself, not any external, culturally accepted wisdom or an allegedly infallible book.  Newbigin, hardly a Fundamentalist, wrote a small volume entitled Proper Confidence:  Faith, Doubt, and Certainty in Christian Discipleship (Eerdmans, 1995).    In it he quoted this day’s passage from 1 Corinthians.  And he concluded the book with this paragraph:

The confidence proper to a Christian is not the confidence of one who claims possession of demonstrable and indubitable knowledge.  It is the confidence of one who had heard and answered the call that comes from God through whom and for whom all things were made:  “Follow me.”–page 105

I have read and reread Proper Confidence carefully.  Many of Newbigin’s points make sense to me, but I struggle with others.  I am, to a great extent, a product of the Enlightenment–most a positive time, I remain convinced.  I do like freedom of press, conscience, and religion–all Enlightenment ideals.  I appreciate Newbigin’s critique of Fundamentalism and repudiation of biblical literalism.  Yet his critique of Cartesian Rationalism hits too close to home for me.  Nevertheless, I keep the book and consult it from time to time.  And my opinion of it has changed since the first time I read it.

All that said, I agree with Newbigin’s core argument, which he took from Paul:  God defies human wisdom.  I call myself a Christian.  So, if I am intellectually honest and not hypocritical, I must follow Jesus, whose crucifixion is a historical fact but whose resurrection defies reason.  Yet that resurrection is essential to the truth of Christianity; without the resurrection, we have a dead Jesus.

So, for those of “us who are being saved” (1 Corinthians 1:18, New Revised Standard Version), or, as The Jerusalem Bible renders the same text, “those of us who are on the way [to salvation]”–the message of the cross is that of God’s saving power.  We stand in the presence of God, to whom our standards of wisdom and truth are irrelevant.  No wonder so many find Jesus baffling, even scandalous!  Yet God is what God is, has done what God has done, does what God does, and will do what God will do.  May we seek and succeed in following God.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/11/foolishness-or-wisdom/