Archive for the ‘1 Corinthians 13’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 25, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Feast of Esther, by Jan Lievens

Image in the Public Domain

Hesed

OCTOBER 27, 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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Esther 7:1-10; 9:20-22 or Isaiah 61:10-62:3

Psalm 35:1-3, 9-18

1 Corinthians 13

Matthew 22:34-46

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Today’s readings from the Hebrew Bible reflect danger and divine deliverance.  In Esther and Isaiah the agents of divine deliverance are human beings.

The appeal for divine deliverance is the request for hesed, or loving kindness, steadfast love, keeping of faith.  That is a form of love that is covenantal and beyond sentimentality.  That is the human love in 1 Corinthians 13.  That is the love for God and neighbor in Matthew 22:34-40, quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, and sounding much like the then-fairly recently deceased Rabbi Hillel.

Two words I often hear misused are “love” and “friend.”  I like chocolate, not love it.  In the age of social media “friend” has taken on superficial and shallow connotations.  Regardless of how many “friends” one has on any given social media website, one is fortunate if one has a few friends face-to-face–people who will proverbially go through hell for one.  I mean no disrespect to Joseph Scriven (1820-1886), author of the hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”  Yet the passage,

Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?

Take it to the Lord in prayer!

is inaccurate.  If we define a friend as an individual who behaves as a friend, those alleged friends in the hymn are actually enemies.  If one has “friends” such as those, one joins the company of Job, afflicted by four enemies by the time the final author of that book wrote.

May we be agents of hesed to one another.  May we have hesed for God.  After all, God has hesed for all of us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUTTA OF DISIBODENBERG, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; AND HER STUDENT, SAINT HILDEGARD OF BINGEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF GERARD MOULTRIE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZYGMUNT SZCESNY FELINSKI, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF WARSAW, TITULAR BISHOP OF TARSUS, AND FOUNDER OF RECOVERY FOR THE POOR AND THE CONGREGATION OF THE FRANCISCAN SISTERS OF THE FAMILY OF MARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZYGMUNT SAJNA, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1940

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/09/17/hesed-part-iii/

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Devotion for Proper 14 (Year D)   1 comment

fall-of-the-rebel-angels

Above:  The Fall of the Rebel Angels, by Hieronymus Bosch

Image in the Public Domain

The Apocalyptic Discourse, Part V

AUGUST 9, 2020

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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:

Genesis 6:1-8 or Zechariah 9:1-8 (9-10) 11-17

Psalm 37:(1-2) 12-38 (39-40)

Matthew 24:(36-44) 45-51 or Luke 12:(35-40) 41-48

1 Corinthians 11:2-22 (23-26) 27-34

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Destruction (and the threat thereof) by God for rampant collective sin is prominent in Genesis 6 and Zechariah 9.  Individual sin and divine displeasure over it are prominent in the Gospel readings.  God is full of surprises, we read, and we have an obligation to remain on task spiritually.  God’s timing is not ours, so, if we are on a positive spiritual track, we should be patient.

As for 1 Corinthians 11, the best approach to the material begins with understanding the difference between a timeless principle and a culturally specific example thereof.  For example, do not go to church wearing a hairstyle such as that associated with promiscuous women or pagan priestesses, unless one covers one’s hair, is culturally specific example of a timeless principle regarding decorum in worship.  Furthermore, one should not become intoxicated at the communion meal at the house church.  That is also about decorum in worship, a matter of respect for God and regard for one’s fellow worshipers.

If one respects God, one seeks to obey divine commandments.  The fulfillment of them is love one’s neighbors (Romans 13).  One might also think of love (agape) in 1 Corinthians 13.  Saying “love your neighbors” is easy, of course, but acting on that advice can be challenging.  For example, what does that entail in a given circumstance?  One can be sincerely wrong regarding that point.  May we, by grace, know in each circumstance what one must do to love one’s neighbors as effectively as possible, for their benefit and God’s glory.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIRST DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON, ABOLITIONIST AND FEMINIST; AND MARIA STEWART, ABOLITIONIST, FEMINIST, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB AND DOROTHY BUXTON, FOUNDERS OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF MARY CORNELIA BISHOP GATES, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/12/17/the-apocalyptic-discourse-part-v/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 3, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Corinth

Above:   Washerwomen at Ancient Roman Fountain, Corinth, Greece

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = https://www.loc.gov/item/2003681458/

Acting According to Agape

MAY 23 and 24, 2016

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The Collect:

O God our rock, your word brings life to the whole creation

and salvation from sin and death.

Nourish our faith in your promises, and ground us in your strength,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 38

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 24:1-10 (Monday)

Jeremiah 29:10-19 (Tuesday)

Psalm 1 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 16:1-12 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 16:13-24 (Tuesday)

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How blessed is anyone who rejects the advice of the wicked

and does not stand in the path that sinners tread,

nor a seat in company with cynics,

but who delights in the law of Yahweh

and murmurs his law day and night.

–Psalm 1:1-2, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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That is one side of Psalm 1.  The other is that the way of the wicked is doomed.  The path of the misguided is likewise treacherous, but, if they change course, divine mercy will follow judgment.

One line from the readings for these two days stands out in my mind:

Let all that you do be done in love.

–1 Corinthians 16:14, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

“Love” is agape, meaning selflessness and unconditional love.  It is the form of love in 1 Corinthians 13, the great love chapter.  This is the type of love God has for people.  How we respond to that great love is crucial.  Will we accept that grace and all of its accompanying demands, such as loving our neighbors as we love ourselves?  Will we live the Incarnation of Christ?  When we sin, will we turn to God in remorse and repentance?  None of us can do all of the above perfectly, of course, but all of us can try and can depend on grace as we do so.

Who are our neighbors?  Often many of us prefer a narrow definition of “neighbor.”  Our neighbors in God are all people–near and far away, those we like and those we find intolerable, those who think as we do and those who would argue with us about the weather, those who have much and those who possess little, et cetera.  Our neighbors are a motley crew.  Do we recognize the image of God in them?  Do we seek the common good or our own selfish gain?   The truth is that whatever we do to others, we do to ourselves also, for human societies are webs of interdependency.  To seek the common good, therefore, is to seek one’s best interests.

Do we even seek to do all things out of agape?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 27, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANNE LINE AND ROGER FILCOCK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT BALDOMERUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF GEORGE HERBERT, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICTOR THE HERMIT

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/02/27/acting-according-to-agape/

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

Pentecost Dove May 24, 2015

Above:  Pentecost Dove

Image Source = St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, May 24, 2015

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Listening to the Holy Spirit

JUNE 10 and 11, 2019

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The Collect:

God our creator, the resurrection of your Son offers life to all peoples of the earth.

By your Holy Spirit, kindle in us the fire of your love,

empowering our lives for service and our tongues for praise,

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), page 36

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The Assigned Readings:

Joel 2:18-29 (Monday)

Ezekiel 11:14-25 (Tuesday)

Psalm 48 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 2:1-11 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 2:12-16 (Tuesday)

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We reflect on your faithful love, God,

in your temple!

Both your name and your praise, God,

are over the whole wide world.

–Psalm 48:9-10a, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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I teach a Sunday School class in my parish.  We adults discuss the assigned readings for each Sunday.  I recall that, one day, one of the lections was 1 Corinthians 13, the famous love chapter in which the form of love is agape–selfless and unconditional love.  I mentioned that St. Paul the Apostle addressed that text to a splintered congregation that quarreled within itself and with him.  A member of the class noted that, if it were not for that troubled church, we would not have certain lovely and meaningful passages of scripture today.

That excellent point, in its original form, applies to the lection from 1 Corinthians 2 and, in an altered form, to the readings from Joel and Ezekiel.  A feuding congregation provided the context for a meditation on having a spiritual mindset.  The Babylonian Exile set the stage for a lovely message from God regarding certain people with hearts of stone:

Then they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

–Ezekiel 11:20b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

As for those who refuse to repent–change their minds, turn around–however,

I will bring their deeds upon their own heads, says the Lord GOD.

–Ezekiel 11:21b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

And, in the wake of natural disaster and repentance new grain, wine, and oil will abound in Joel 2.  Divine mercy will follow divine judgment for those who repent.  That reading from Joel 2 leads into one of my favorite passages:

After that,

I will pour out My spirit on all flesh;

Your sons and daughters shall prophesy;

Your old men shall dream dreams,

And your young men shall see visions.

I will even pour out My spirit

Upon male and female slaves in those days.

–Joel 3:1-2, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

This is a devotion for the first two days after the day of Pentecost.  The assigned readings fit the occasions well, for they remind us of the necessity of having a spiritual mindset if we are able to perceive spiritual matters properly then act accordingly.  The Holy Spirit speaks often and in many ways.  Are we listening?  And are we willing to act faithfully?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 25, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE ELDER, NONNA, AND THEIR CHILDREN:  SAINTS GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE YOUNGER, CAESARIUS OF NAZIANZUS, AND GORGONIA OF NAZIANZUS

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FEDDE, LUTHERAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF JOHN ROBERTS, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY TO THE SHOSHONE AND ARAPAHOE

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/02/25/listening-to-the-holy-spirit/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 13, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Manna

Above:  Manna

Image in the Public Domain

Our Insufficiency and God’s Sufficiency

AUGUST 2 and 3, 2021

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The Collect:

O God, eternal goodness, immeasurable love,

you place your gifts before us; we eat and are satisfied.

Fill us and this world in all its need with the life that comes only from you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 11:16-23, 31-32 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 8:1-20 (Tuesday)

Psalm 107:1-3, 33-43 (Both Days)

Ephesians 4:17-24 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 12:27-31 (Tuesday)

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Whoever is wise will ponder these things,

and consider well the mercies of the LORD.

–Psalm 107:43, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Sometimes the Bible harps on a theme, repeating itself.  I notice this most readily while following a well-constructed lectionary and trying to find new ways to make one post in a series based on that lectionary read differently than some of its preceding posts.  This is easier on some occasions than on others.

The repeated theme this time is that we humans depend on God for everything, rely on each other, and are responsible to and for each other.  I have written about this many times, including in the previous post.  We ought not to cling to the idol of self-sufficiency, the assigned readings tell us.  No, we have a responsibility to trust and obey God, who is faithful to divine promises.  God, who fed the former Hebrew slaves in the desert, calls people to lead holy lives marked by the renewing of minds and the building up of the community of faith.  Love–agape–in 1 Corinthians 13, which follows on the heels of the reading from 1 Corinthians 12, is selfless, self-sacrificial love, a virtue greater than faith and hope.

If acceptance of our insufficiency injures our self-esteem, so be it.  Humility is a virtue greater than ego.  Actually, a balanced ego–a realistic sense of oneself–is a virtue which includes humility.  Raging egos and weak egos are problems which lead to the same results–destroyed and missed opportunities, lives of selfishness, and the failure to acknowledge one’s complete dependence on God.  The desire to build up oneself at the expense of others damages not only one but the group(s) to which one belongs and the people around one.

May the love which 1 Corinthians 13 describes define our lives, by grace.  May acceptance of our total dependence upon God, our reliance upon each other, and our responsibilities to and for each other define our lives, by grace.  And may a faithful walk with God, who is trustworthy, define our lives, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 6, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF DANIEL G. C. WU, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MISSIONARY TO CHINESE AMERICANS

THE FEAST OF FREDERIC BARKER, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF SYDNEY

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/04/06/our-insufficiency-and-gods-sufficiency/

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Devotion for Saturday Before Proper 10, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

Love and Forgiveness

JULY 11, 2020

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The Collect:

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

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

live according to it, and grow if faith and love,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 52:1-6

Psalm 65:[1-8], 9-13

John 12:44-50

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Isaiah 52:1-6 speaks of a time, in our past yet in the original audience’s future, when foreigners would no longer hold sway in Jerusalem.  One might imagine faithful Jews saying, in the words of Psalm 65:1,

You are to be praised, O God, in Zion;

to you shall vows be performed in Jerusalem.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

Yet, in John 12, Jerusalem was not only under Roman occupation, but a Roman fortress sat next to and towered over the Temple complex, the seat of a collaborationist and theocratic state.  Jesus, about to die, is in hiding and the Temple rulers have been plotting since John 11:48-50 to scapegoat Jesus, for in the words of High Priest Caiaphas,

…it is better for you to have one man die to have the whole nation destroyed.

–John 11:50b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

That was not the only germane conflict, for the Gospel of John came from marginalized Jewish Christians at the end of the first century C.E.  They had lost the argument in their community.  Certainly this fact influenced how they told the story of Jesus.  I know enough about the retelling and reinterpretation of the past to realize that we humans tell history in the context of our present.  The present tense shapes our understanding of events which belong in the past tense; it can be no other way.

What must it be like to experience great hope mixed with subsequent disappointment–perhaps even resentment–inside which we frame the older hope?  Faithful Jews of our Lord and Savior’s time knew that feeling well when they pondered parts of the Book of Isaiah and other texts.  The Johannine audience knew that feeling well when it considered Jesus.  Perhaps you, O reader, know that feeling well in circumstances only you know well.

And how should one respond?  I propose avoiding vengeance (in the style of Psalm 137) and scapegoating.  Anger might feel good in the short term, but it is a spiritual toxin in the medium and long terms.  No, I point to the love of Jesus, which asked God to forgive those who crucified him and consented to it, for they did not know what they had done and were doing.  And I point to Isaiah 52:3, in which God says:

You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

I point to the agape God extends to us and which is the form of love in 1 Corinthians 13.  Love and forgiveness are infinitely superior to anger, resentment, and scapegoating.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY OF PADUA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF G. K. (GILBERT KEITH) CHESTERTON, AUTHOR

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/love-and-forgiveness/

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Devotion for August 21 and 22 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Fresco of King Solomon, Elmali Kalise, Cappadocia, Turkey, 1935

Image Source = Library of Congress

Agape, Might, and Right

FRIDAY AND SATURDAY, AUGUST 21 AND 22, 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 Kings 1:1-4, 15-35 (August 21)

1 Kings 2:1-27 (August 22)

Psalm 15 (Morning–August 21)

Psalm 36 (Morning–August 22)

Psalms 48 and 4 (Evening–August 21)

Psalms 80 and 27 (Evening–August 22)

1 Corinthians 12:14-31 (August 21)

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (August 22)

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There are many spiritual gifts, Paul wrote, but the greatest of them is love, that is, agape–self-sacrificial, unconditional love.  This is the kind of love which God has for we humans.  I notice a consistent thread running through Chapters 12 and 13:  The purpose of spiritual gifts is to build up the faith community, to which every member is essential.  There is no proper place for self-promotion at the expense of others.

In contrast, Solomon, new to the throne as sole ruler of the Kingdom of Israel, was in a politically weak position.  Adonijah, his older brother and rival for the throne, enjoyed crucial support, which Solomon needed.  And Adonijah did not take Solomon’s accession well.  So Solomon did what many weakened rulers have done:  he conducted a bloody purge.  There was no love in that.

Might does not make right; agape does.  And maintaining power by means of bloodshed makes one morally unfit to govern and corrupts one’s soul.  What can anyone give in exchange for one’s soul?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 25, 2012 COMMON ERA

PROPER 29–THE LAST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST–CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SQUANTO, COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEING

THE FEAST OF JAMES OTIS SARGENT HUNTINGTON, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE HOLY CROSS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/agape-might-and-right/

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Week of Proper 28: Monday, Year 2   9 comments

Above:  Christ Healing the Blind Man, by Eustache Le Sueur

The Imperative of Active Love

NOVEMBER 16, 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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Revelation 1:1-3; 2:1-5 (Revised English Bible):

This is the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him so that he might show his servants what must soon take place.  He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who in telling all that he saw has borne witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Happy is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and happy those who listen if they take to heart what is here written; for the time of fulfillment is near.

To the angel of the church at Ephesus write:

These are the words of the One who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven gold lamps:  I know what you are doing, how you toil and endure.  I know you cannot abide wicked people; you have put to the test those who claim to be apostles but are not, and you have found them to be false.  Endurance you have; you have borne up in my cause and have never become weary.  However, I have this against you:  the love you felt at first you have now lost.  Think from what a height you have fallen; repent, and do as once you did.  If you do not, I will come to you remove your lamp from its place.

Psalm 1 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked,

nor lingered in the way of sinners,

nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

2 Their delight is in the law of the LORD,

and the meditate on his law day and night.

They are like trees planted by streams of water,

bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither,

everything they do shall prosper.

4 It is not so with the wicked;

they are like the chaff which the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when judgment comes,

nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.

For the LORD knows the ways of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked is doomed.

Luke 18:35-43 (Revised English Bible):

As Jesus approached Jericho a blind man sat at the roadside begging.  Hearing a crowd going past, he asked what was happening, and was told that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by.  Then he called out,

Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.

The people in front told him to hold his tongue; but he shouted all the more,

Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.

Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him.  When he came up Jesus asked him,

What do you want me to do for you?

He answered,

Sir, I want my sight back.

Jesus said to him,

Have back your sight; your faith has healed you.

He recovered his sight instantly and followed Jesus, praising God.  And all the people gave praise to God for what they had seen.

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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 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.

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Some Related Links:

Week of Proper 28:  Monday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/24/week-of-proper-28-monday-year-1/

A Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/11/911-a-prayer-of-st-francis-of-assisi/

A Franciscan Blessing:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/a-franciscan-blessing/

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Procedural Comments on the Monday-Saturday Posts for the Weeks of Propers 28 and 29:

The Canadian Anglican lectionary I am following leads me through Revelation for the last two weeks of the church year every other year.  This being the first post of that series, I make some procedural comments here and now.

Religious imagination is important, for the most effective way to communicate some religious truths is imaginatively, as in poetry and other symbolic language.  Word pictures can be more vivid than dry explanations.  I recognize and embrace this fact.  You, O reader, also need to know that I am not an avid consumer of prophesy-themed content, much of which is full of bologna (to use a polite term) anyway.  My training is in history and the analysis of texts.  So, when I approach a part of the Bible, I want to know, in context, what the message was or the messages were to the original audience.  Then I extrapolate to today.

That said, here is some of what we know:

  1. The author was one John of Patmos, an exile who did not write the Gospel of John.  He probably composed the Revelation, or Apocalypse, of John in the 90s C.E., a time of sporadic persecutions throughout the Roman Empire.
  2. The main purposes of the book were to encourage persecuted Christians and Christians who might face persecution, and to remind them of the contrast between Christianity and the dominant Greco-Roman culture.
  3. The Apocalypse’s language is symbolic.  Fortunately, we can decode it.  “Babylon,” for example, is the Roman Empire.  And sometimes the text decodes language, as in 1:20.
  4. Revelation is an essentially positive book, one which tells us that God will win and evil will face destruction.
  5. Protestant Reformers Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli detested Revelation.  They would have removed it from the New Testament, had that been possible.

Now I proceed to my comments specific to this day’s assigned readings.

KRT

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The blind man in Luke 18:35-43 called out for Jesus as people told him to be quiet.  But the man refused to obey them.  His persistence paid off, for the got our Lord’s attention and regained his sight.  Those who told the man to be quiet–to cease to be inconvenient and annoying–did not act out of love for him.

Active love is of the essence in today’s post.  The message to the church at Ephesus commended it for holding to orthodoxy during persecution yet condemned it for waning in either devotion to Christ or care for each other or both.  The church did, however, have an opportunity to repair its ways, thereby avoiding dispossession by Jesus.  This message reminds me of Matthew 25:31-46, in which the test of devotion is active love.

The lesson remains as germane for us today as it was for ancient Christians.  None of us can do everything, but each of us can do something, at least some of the time.  The challenge is to do what we can as opportunities present themselves.  Fortunately, helping others can assume many forms.  Some women grow their hair long then sell it for use in wigs for women who have lost their hair because of chemotherapy.  And certain professions are inherently human service-oriented.  I have heard of medical professionals who prefer to work in an Emergency Room setting out of a religious obligation.  Furthermore, volunteer opportunities abound, providing opportunities outside time on the clock.  And comedy can help people through difficult times; sometimes we need to laugh.

Purely intellectualized orthodoxy is not helpful; it must find compassionate expression.  Likewise, good deeds themselves are inadequate; love must animate them for the maximum effect.  (See 1 Corinthians 13.)  If I, for example, affirm that each person bears the image of God, I make an orthodox doctrinal statement rooted in Genesis 1:27.  (I do affirm it, by the way.)  But, if I do not act on that proposition, it is useless.  How ought that item of orthodox doctrine inform my life?  I cannot, in good conscience, approve of racism if I really believe that each person bears the image of God.  (I have an interest in civil rights.)

May our love for God and our fellow human beings deepen and become more active as time passes.  I wonder how much the world will improve as that happens.  By grace, may we and those who succeed us on this planet learn the answer.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/the-imperative-of-active-love/

Week of Proper 19: Wednesday, Year 2   5 comments

Above:  An Icon of Jesus

“For Every Action….”

SEPTEMBER 16, 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 12:31-13:13 (New American Bible):

But I shall show you a still more excellent way.

If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.  And if I have the gift of prophecy, and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind.   It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.  If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.  For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.  When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.  At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face.  At present, I know partially; then I shall know fully as I am known.  So faith, hope, and love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Psalm 33:1-12, 22 (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 the lyre.

3 Sing for him a new song;

sound a fanfare with all your skill upon the trumpet.

For the word of the LORD is right,

and all his works are sure.

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.

12 Happy is the nation whose God is the LORD!

happy the people he has chosen to be his own!

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

as we have put our trust in you.

Luke 7:31-35 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

What description, then, can I find for the men of this generation?  What are they like?  They are like children shouting to one another while they sit in the market place:

“We played the pipes for you,

and you wouldn’t dance;

we sang dirges,

and you wouldn’t cry.”

For John the Baptist comes, not eating bread, not drinking wine, and you say, “He is possessed.”  The Son of Man comes, eating and drinking, and you say, “Look a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.”  Yet Wisdom has been proved right by all her children.

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The Collect:

O God, because without you we are not able to please you mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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There is a joke about an Episcopal congregation that had just received its first female priest.  The Senior Warden and the Junior Warden, although skeptical about their new pastor, took her on a fishing trip.  So the three of them got into a fishing boat and headed away from the shore.  Then the priest realized that she had left her fishing gear on the shore.  Therefore she apologized, excused herself, and walked across the water to retrieve it.  One warden turned to the other and said,

See, she can’t even swim.

As a sign says,

FOR EVERY ACTION THERE IS AN EQUAL AND OPPOSITE CRITICISM.

I know from my study of history, especially that of U.S. politics, that more than one leading political figure (such as Thomas Jefferson) has criticized the ruling party from the perspective of a member of the opposition.  Yet these individuals (such as Jefferson) have changed their minds after coming to power.  Then they have faced criticism from their opposition, members of the former ruling party, for doing what members of the former ruling party advocated doing while in power.  Principles and politics diverge much of the time, but this is not always bad.  Had Jefferson stuck to his Strict Constructionist principles, he would not have approved of the Louisiana Purchase.  But he did approve of it, and he doubled the territorial size of the United States and did something great for his nation.

Perhaps you know or have known (or at least known of) someone impossible to please.  Nothing is ever good enough for that person.  Or maybe it was just true that you could never do anything to this individual’s satisfaction.  It was a frustrating experience, was it not?  I have had this experience.  I was glad when my path of life took me away from that person.

It was impossible for John the Baptist or Jesus to please many professional religious people in First Century C.E. Judea.  John and Jesus were revolutionaries who threatened the order in which the Sadducees, scribes, and Pharisees thrived.  So these religious elites grasped at any straw to criticize, and consistency was absent.  John was allegedly too ascetic, but Jesus allegedly ate and drank too much.  If he had been an ascetic, they would have criticized him for that.  So, regardless of what he did or did not do, the same people were going to criticize him for something.  This spoke volumes about them, and the sound was negative.

John and Jesus were not what their critics wanted them to be.  Rather, these men were what they were–and needed to be.  Here is the take-home message for this day:  Do you find Jesus threatening or disappointing?  If so, the fault is with you, not him.  He is who he is–and who he needs to be.

KRT

Week of Proper 11: Saturday, Year 1   12 comments

Above:  Mixed Bag

Image Source = http://www.cpsu.org.au/campaigns/news/13207.html

The Good and the Bad, Mixed Together

JULY 24, 2021

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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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Exodus 24:3-8 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And Moses came and told the people all of YHWH’s words and all the judgments.  And the people answered, one voice, and they said,

We’ll do all the things that YHWH has spoken.

And Moses wrote all of YHWH’s words.  And he got up early in the morning and built an altar below the mountain and twelve pillars for twelve tribes of Israel.  And he sent young men of the children of Israel, and they made peace offerings to YHWH:  bulls.  And Moses took half of the blood and set it in basins and threw half of the blood on the altar.  And he took the scroll of the covenant and read in the people’s ears.  And they said,

We’ll do everything that YHWH has spoken, and we’ll listen.

Psalm 51:11-16 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

11 Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

12 Cast me not away from your presence

and take not your holy Spirit from me.

13 Give me the joy of your saving help again

and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

14 I shall teach your ways to the wicked,

and sinners shall return to you.

15 Deliver me from death, O God,

and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness,

O God of my salvation.

16 Open my lips, O Lord,

and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Matthew 13:24-30 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then he put another parable before them,

The kingdom of Heaven,

he said,

is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.  But while his men were asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.  When the crop came up and began to ripen, the weeds appeared as well.  Then the owner’s servants came up to him and said, “Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field?  Where did all these weeds come from?” “Some enemy of mine has done this,” he replied.  “Do you want us then to go out and pull them all up?” said the servants.  “No” he returned, “if you pull up the weeds now, you would pull up the wheat with them.  Let them both grow together till the harvest.  And at harvest-time I shall tell the reapers, ‘Collect all the weeds first and tie them up in bundles ready to burn, but collect the wheat and store it in my barn.'”

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The Collect:

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Often people treat the Ten Commandments as if no other commandments follow them immediately.  But reading Exodus 21-23 contains a host of pronouncements the Book of Exodus says come from God.  I am dubious about this claim with regard to certain commandments, such as 21:17, which reads,

And anyone who curses his father and his mother shall be put to death.

This is just one of many death penalty offenses in Chapters 21-23.  Other commandments, such as 21:26, acknowledge the existence of slavery without condemning it.

On the other hand, there is 23:9, which reads,

And you shall not oppress an alien–since you know the alien’s soul, because you were aliens in the land of Egypt.

These chapters also contain great compassion.

How shall one distinguish among the good laws and the bad ones?  I propose a simple standard:  Agape.  This is the unconditional love God extends toward us.  Agape is the word for love in 1 Corinthians 13, which I quote from the Revised Standard Version:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude.  Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends; as for prophesy, it will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.  For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away.  When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man , I gave up childish ways.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.  So faith, hope, and love, abide,these three; but the greatest of these is love.

I cannot argue with that.

Love is the law of God.  May we do as God as instructed us; may we love ourselves as God loves us.  Then may we extend this love to all others, seeking the best for them.  By grace, may God’s best for everyone become reality.  And may rejoice in each other’s good fortune and be agents of God in bringing that to fruition, as opportunities to do so present themselves and we are able to participate.

This is the best way I know to differentiate within the mixed bag of commandments.  My guiding principle is to follow Jesus, for I am a Christian.  My history-oriented brain understands that death penalty offenses are numerous in societies with limited resources.  To feed an offender constitutes a drain on scarce supplies.  So I understand the death penalties in the Law of Moses in that context.  But, I ask, what about love and possibility of forgiveness and reform?  Are these not Jewish and Christian virtues?  Of course they are.  So I side with virtue.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/04/19/the-good-and-the-bad-mixed-together/