Archive for the ‘Civil Rights’ Tag

Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 22, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Brooms

Above:  Brooms and Charcoal for Sale, Jeanerette, Louisiana, October 1938

Photographer = Lee Russell

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USF33-011853-M3

Mutuality in God and Human Dignity

OCTOBER 4 and 5, 2021

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The Collect:

Sovereign God, you have created us to live

in loving community with one another.

Form us for life that is faithful and steadfast,

and teach us to trust like little children,

that we may reflect the image of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 22:13-30 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 24:1-5 (Tuesday)

Psalm 112 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 7:1-9 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 7:10-16 (Tuesday)

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Alleluia.

Blessed are those who fear the Lord

and have great delight in his commandments.

–Psalm 112:1, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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I make no excuses for much of the content from Deuteronomy.  Consider, for example, O reader, the following passage regarding an allegation that a young woman has lost her virginity prior to her marriage:

But if the charge proves true, the girl was found not to have been a virgin, then the girl shall be brought out of the entrance of her father’s house, and the men of her town shall stone her to death; for she did a shameful thing in Israel, committing fornication while under her father’s authority.  Thus you will sweep away evil from your midst.

–22:20-21, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

As we continue to read, we learn that a man a married woman caught committing adultery, an engaged virgin and another man who have had sex, and a man who rapes an engaged young woman are to die.  Furthermore, an engaged young woman who has become a victim of rape incurs no legal penalty, but a man who rapes a virgin not yet engaged must pay a bride price and marry his victim.  (But what about the young woman’s wishes?)

Thus you will sweep away evil from your midst

repeats throughout Deuteronomy 22, echoing after each death sentence.

The readings from Deuteronomy exist in the context of responsibility to the community and to God.  Deuteronomy 24:5 makes plain the responsibility of the married people to each other.  All of these ethics exist also in 1 Corinthians 7.

The ethics of responsibility to God, the community, and each other apply well in other circumstances.  A healthy society avoids the tyranny of the majority or a powerful minority.  The historical record tells that sometimes (if not often) powerful groups will, given the opportunity, deny civil rights and liberties to members of other groups, thereby denying human dignity.  One might think of race-based slavery, civil rights struggles in many nations, struggles for equal rights for men and women, the oppression of the Gypsies, and the experience of Apartheid in South Africa.  Sadly, not all of those examples exist in the past tense.  Often people oppress each other in the name of God, whose image both the oppressed and the oppressors bear.  However, a proper ethic of responsibility to the community contains a sense of mutuality, which denies anyone the right to oppress or exploit anyone else.

May mutuality in God, informed by a sense of dignity inherent in the image of God, inspire proper treatment of each other.  That means, among other things, refraining from executing young women for not being virgins or forcing any woman to marry the man who raped her.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 2, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WALTER RAUSCHENBUSCH, WASHINGTON GLADDEN, AND JACOB RIIS, ADVOCATES OF THE SOCIAL GOSPEL

THE FEAST OF CHARLES ALBERT DICKINSON, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE DUFFIELD, JR., AND HIS SON, SAMUEL DUFFIELD, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTERS

THE FEAST OF HENRY MONTAGU BUTLER, EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/07/02/mutuality-in-god-and-human-dignity/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 27, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Candle

Above:  A Candle

Image Source = Martin Geisler

A Light to the Nations

NOVEMBER 9-11, 2020

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The Collect:

O God of justice and love,

you illumine our way through life with the words of your Son.

Give us the light we need, and awaken us to the needs of others,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 8:7-14 (Monday)

Joel 1:1-14 (Tuesday)

Joel 3:9-21 (Wednesday)

Psalm 63 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 14:20-25 (Monday)

1 Thessalonians 3:6-13 (Tuesday)

Matthew 24:29-35 (Wednesday)

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The hit parade of judgment comes in these days’ readings.  Among the themes therein is the final judgment, which a glorious future for God’s people will follow.  First, however, one must survive the judgment, if one can.

A theme from the New Testament informs the Old Testament lessons nicely.  Faith–by which I mean active faith, in the Pauline sense of the word, not in sense of purely intellectual faith one reads about in the Letter of James–is not just for one’s benefit and that of one’s faith community.  No, faith is for the good of those whom one draws to God and otherwise encourages spiritually.  The people of God have the assignment to function as a light to the nations.  That was the mission in which many Hebrews failed in the days of the Old Testament.  They became so similar to other nations that they could not serve as a light to those nations.  The same holds true for much of Christianity, whether liberal, moderate, or conservative, for organized religion has a knack for affirming certain prejudices while confronting others.  Some denominations, especially in then U.S. South, formed in defense of race-based slavery.  Others, especially in the U.S. North, formed in opposition to that Peculiar Institution of the South.  Many nineteenth-century and twentieth-century U.S. Protestants recycled pro-slavery arguments to defend Jim Crow laws, and one can still identify bastions of unrepentant racism in churches.  Also, mysogyny and homophobia remain entrenched in much of organized Christianity.

To separate divine commandments from learned attitudes and behaviors can prove difficult.  It is, however, essential if one is to follow God faithfully and to function as a light to others.  May those others join us in praying, in the words of Psalm 63:8:

My soul clings to you;

your right hand holds me fast.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 7, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 18:  THE THIRTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF THE PACIFIC

THE FEAST OF ELIE NAUD, HUGUENOT WITNESS TO THE FAITH

THE FEAST OF JANE LAURIE BORTHWICK, TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER, POET

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/a-light-to-the-nations/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 18, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

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Above:  A Visual Protest Against Police Brutality and Corruption, June 11, 1887

Artist = Eugene Zimmerman (1862-1935)

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZC4-4792

Good Trees for God

SEPTEMBER 7-9, 2020

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The Collect:

O Lord God, enliven and preserve your church with your perpetual mercy.

Without your help, we mortals will fail;

remove far from us everything that is harmful,

and lead us toward all that gives life and salvation,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 4:27-31; 5:14-16 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 17:2-13 (Tuesday)

Leviticus 16:1-5, 20-28 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:65-72 (All Days)

1 Peter 2:11-17 (Monday)

Romans 13:1-7 (Tuesday)

Matthew 21:18-22 (Wednesday)

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These readings present us with some difficult material.  In the Torah an animal sacrifice atoned for unintentional sins, offering an unauthorized sacrifice led to death, and idolatry carried the death penalty.

So you shall purge evil from your midst.

–Deuteronomy 17:7b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Also, in the readings from Romans and 1 Peter, resisting authority is a sin, regardless of the nature of that government.    I will address these matters in order.

I.

One was supposed to keep a distance from the holy and approach God in a certain way in the Law of Moses.  Thus one had instructions to offer sacrifices just so, for example.  And touching the Ark of the Covenant was deadly.  In contrast, Jesus, God incarnate, ate with people, many of whom had dubious moral histories and bad reputations.  I side with Jesus in this matter.

II.

One ought to be very careful regarding instructions to kill the (alleged) infidels.  Also, one should recognize such troublesome passages in one’s own scriptures as well as in those of others, lest one fall into hypocrisy regarding this issue.  Certainly those Puritans in New England who executed Quakers in the 1600s thought that they were purging evil from their midst.  Also, shall we ponder the Salem Witch Trials, in which paranoid Puritans trapped inside their superstitions and experiencing LSD trips courtesy of a bread mold, caused innocent people to die?  And, not that I am equating Puritans with militant Islamists, I have no doubt that those militant Islamists who execute Christians and adherents to other religions think of themselves as people who purge evil from their midst.  Violence in the name of God makes me cringe.

When does one, in the name of purging evil from one’s midst, become that evil?

III.

Speaking of removing evil from our midst (or at least trying to do so), I note that Dietrich Bonhoeffer, after struggling with his conscience, participated in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.  I let that pass, for if one cannot kill (or at least plan to kill) a genocidal dictator in the name of morality….Sometimes life presents us with bad decisions and worse ones.  Choose the bad in very such circumstance, I say.  In the Hitler case, how many lives might have continued had he died sooner?

IV.

Christianity contains a noble and well-reasoned argument for civil disobedience.  This tradition reaches back to the Early Church, when many Christians (some of whom became martyrs) practiced conscientious objection to service in the Roman Army.  The tradition includes more recent figures, such as many heroes of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.  Many of those activists suffered and/or died too.  And, in the late 1800s, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, hardly a bastion of liberalism at any point in its history, declared that the Ottoman imperial government, which had committed violence against the Armenian minority group, had no more moral legitimacy or right to rule.  Yet I read in the October 30, 1974, issue of The Presbyterian Journal, the midwife for the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) in 1973, that:

When a Herod or a Hitler comes into power, we must thereby assume this is the Lord’s plan; He will use even such as these to put His total plan into effect for the good of His people here on earth.

–page 11

That was an extreme law-and-order position the editor affirmed in the context of reacting against demonstrations of the 1960s and early 1970s.  A few years later, however, the PCA General Assembly approved of civil disobedience as part of protests against abortions.

V.

If one assumes, as St. Paul the Apostle and much of the earliest Church did, that Jesus would return quite soon and destroy the sinful world order, preparation for Christ’s return might take priority and social reform might move off the list of important things to accomplish.  But I am writing in 2014, so much time has passed without the Second Coming having occurred.  Love of one’s neighbors requires us to act and even to change society and/or rebel against human authority sometimes.

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The barren fig tree in Matthew 21:18-22 was a symbol of faithless and fruitless people.  If we know a tree by its fruits and we are trees, what kind of trees are we?  May we bear the fruits of love, compassion,and mere decency.  May our fruits be the best they can be, albeit imperfect.  May we be the kind of trees that pray, in the words of Psalm 119:68 (The Book of Common Prayer, 1979):

You are good and you bring forth good;

instruct me in your statutes.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 15, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY OF NAZARETH, MOTHER OF GOD

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Bloga Theologica version

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 17, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

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Above:  Civil Rights Memorial, Montgomery, Alabama

Photographer = Carol M. Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-05791

Christian Liberty to Love Our Neighbors

AUGUST 27-29, 2020

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The Collect:

O God, we thank you for your Son,

who chose the path of suffering for the sake of the world.

Humble us by his example,

point us to the path of obedience,

and give us strength to follow your commands,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 14:13-18 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 15:1-9 (Friday)

Jeremiah 15:10-14 (Saturday)

Psalm 26:1-8 (All Days)

Ephesians 5:1-6 (Thursday)

2 Thessalonians 2:7-12 (Friday)

Matthew 8:14-17 (Saturday)

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I will wash my hands in innocence, O Lord,

that I may go about your altar,

To make heard the voice of thanksgiving

and tell of all your wonderful deeds.

Lord, I love the house of your habitation

and the place where your glory abides.

–Psalm 26:6-8, Common Worship (2000)

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Christian liberty is the freedom to follow Christ without the shackles of legalism.  All the Law of Moses and the Prophets point to the love of God and one’s fellow human beings, our Lord and Savior said.  Rabbi Hillel, dead for about two decades at the time, would have continued that teaching with

Everything else is commentary.  Go and learn it.

Many of those laws contained concrete examples of timeless principles.  A host of these examples ceased to apply to daily lives for the majority of people a long time ago, so the avoidance of legalism and the embrace of serious study of the Law of Moses in historical and cultural contexts behooves one.  St. Paul the Apostle, always a Jew, resisted legalism regarding male circumcision. In my time I hear certain Protestants, who make a point of Christian liberty from the Law of Moses most of the time, invoke that code selectively for their own purposes.  I am still waiting for them to be consistent –to recognize the hypocrisy of such an approach, and to cease from quoting the Law of Moses regarding issues such as homosexuality while ignoring its implications for wearing polyester.  I will wait for a long time, I suppose.

My first thought after finishing the readings from Jeremiah was, “God was mad!”  At least that was the impression which the prophet and his scribe, Baruch, who actually wrote the book, left us.  In that narrative the people (note the plural form, O reader) had abandoned God and refused repeatedly to repent–to change their minds and to turn around.  Destruction would be their lot and only a small remnant would survive, the text said.  Not keeping the Law of Moses was the offense in that case.

The crux of the issue I address in this post is how to follow God without falling into legalism.  Whether one wears a polyester garment does not matter morally, but how one treats others does.  The Law of Moses, when not condemning people to death for a host of offenses from working on the Sabbath to engaging in premarital sexual relations to insulting one’s parents (the latter being a crucial point the Parable of the Prodigal Son/Elder Brother/Father), drives home in a plethora of concrete examples the principles of interdependence, mutual responsibility, and complete dependence on God.  These belie and condemn much of modern economic theory and many corporate policies, do they not?  Many business practices exist to hold certain people back from advancement, to keep them in their “places.”  I, without becoming lost in legalistic details, note these underlying principles and recognize them as being of God.  There is a project worth undertaking in the name and love of God.  The working conditions of those who, for example, manufacture and sell our polyester garments are part of a legitimate social concern.

Abstract standards of morality do not move me, except occasionally to frustration.  Our Lord and Savior gave us a concrete standard of morality–how our actions and inactions affect others.  This is a paraphrase of the rule to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself.  I made this argument in a long and thoroughly documented paper I published online.  In that case I focused on the traditional Southern Presbyterian rule of the Spirituality of the Church, the idea that certain issues are political,  not theological, so the denomination should avoid “political” entanglements.  In 1861 the founders of the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America (the Presbyterian Church in the United States from 1865 to 1983) invoked the Spirituality of the Church to avoid condemning slavery, an institution they defended while quoting the Bible.  By the 1950s the leadership of the PCUS had liberalized to the point of endorsing civil rights for African Americans, a fact which vexed the openly segregationist part of the Church’s right wing.  From that corner of the denomination sprang the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) in 1973.  This fact has proven embarrassing to many members of the PCA over the years, as it should.  The PCA, to its credit, has issued a pastoral letter condemning racism.  On the other hand, it did so without acknowledging the racist content in the documents of the committee which formed the denomination.

May we, invoking our Christian liberty, seek to love all the neighbors possible as we love ourselves.  We can succeed only by grace, but our willingness constitutes a vital part of the effort.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 19, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT POEMAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINTS JOHN THE DWARF AND ARSENIUS THE GREAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

THE FEAST OF SAINT AMBROSE AUTPERT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN PLESSINGTON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACRINA THE YOUNGER, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/07/20/christian-liberty-to-love-our-neighbors/

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Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 9, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

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Above:  Slave Galleries, St. John’s Church, Providence, Rhode Island, 1937

Historic American Buildings Survey

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = HABS RI,4-PROV, 104–3

Clinging Only to God

JULY 8, 2020

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The Collect:

You are great, O God, and greatly to be praised.

You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

Grant that we may believe in you, call upon you, know you, and serve you,

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 13:1-11

Psalm 131

John 13:1-17

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O Israel, wait upon the LORD,

from this time forth for evermore.

–Psalm 131:4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Scene #1:  In a symbolic act the prophet Jeremiah makes a statement that the people of the Kingdom of Judah should have clung only to God.

Scene #2:  In another symbolic act Jesus, not standing on ceremony, acts as a servant.  Thus he sets a powerful example of mutuality consistent with the spirit of the best of the Law of  Moses:  we are all responsible to and for each other.

How often have we–you and I, O reader, clung not to God or only to God–perhaps to ego instead–and thought ourselves better than other people?  We are not all equal in abilities, of course, but the wide range of abilities allows for the meeting of many needs, so why should anyone object?  And how often have we clung to false ideas?  It is not wonder that we have missed the mark, sinned!

Jesus said and demonstrated that the greatest one in the Kingdom of God is the servant of all.  Biblical prophets condemned economic and judicial exploitation of people.  The underlying ethic of much of the Law of Moses was mutuality, which precluded exploitation.  Yet how often have people and corporations sought to improve their conditions by harming those of others?  And how often have other institutions, some of them religious, been complicit in exploiting vulnerable and powerless people?  How often, also, have religious institutions aided and abetted social injustices, such as racism and slavery?

But they would not listen.

–Jeremiah 13:11, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

May God have mercy on us all.

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/clinging-only-to-god/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 6, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

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Above:  March on Washington, August 28, 1963

Photographer = Warren K. Leffler

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmcsa-03128

A Good Society

THURSDAY-SATURDAY, JUNE 11-13, 2020

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The Collect:

God of compassion, you have opened the way for us and brought us to yourself.

Pour your love into our hearts, that, overflowing with joy,

we may freely share the blessings of your realm and faithfully proclaim

the good news of your Son, Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 39

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 4:18-23 (Thursday)

Exodus 4:27-31 (Friday)

Exodus 6:28-7:13 (Saturday)

Psalm 100 (All Days)

Hebrews 3:1-6 (Thursday)

Acts 7:35-43 (Friday)

Mark 7:1-13 (Saturday)

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Know that the Lord is God;

it is he that has made us and we are his;

we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.

–Psalm 100:2, Common Worship (2000)

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Moses was a great man. His brother Aaron, a better speaker, joined Moses on a mission from God. Alas, the forces of the Egyptian Empire were not the only foes Moses faced, for he had to contend with his own people also. The miracle of the Exodus was that God freed the Hebrews. The text attempted a scientific explanation of the parting of the waters. Indeed, one can probably explain the plagues and the parting of the waters of the Sea of Reeds scientifically; I have heard attempts to do so. Assuming that these are accurate, they do not address the main point of the story: God freed the people.

Then the people rebelled. And they continued to do so, even creating a powerful monarchy which featured economic exploitation. In the time of our Lord and Savior religious authorities even accepted gifts which they knew placed the donor’s relatives at a financial disadvantage. How was that for complicity in dishonoring one’s parents?

As for ritual washing, I am somewhat sympathetic in attitude. Study of the past informs me that Medieval European Jews, who washed ritually, were cleaner than their Gentile fellow nationals. Such cleanliness contributed to a lower rate of transmission of the Bubonic Plague among Jews during the Black Death in the 1300s. This, ironically, became an excuse for anti-Semitic Gentiles to blame, attack, and kill Jews, some of whom confessed to false stories of poisoning wells to make the torture stop.

I embrace public cleanliness and health. Those are not the issues in Mark 7:1-13, however. No, the main issue there is persnickiness in minor matters and disregard for major ones. Contenting ourselves with low-hanging fruit and not addressing issues which challenge us where it hurts—as in money and status—is not a formula for true piety. Yet I read in history of people blaming women for the sin of prostitution when (A) these women had to choose between that and starvation, and (B) these critics did nothing to address the social structures of gender inequality which created the problem. We are reluctant to challenge a system which benefits us. We might even live in blindness to our sin of complicity due to our socialization.

Moses tried to create a society in which everyone was interdependent and mutually responsible. He attempted to forge a society which did not allow for exploitation. But the society, being people, became what the majority of its members preferred.

Society in my nation-state, the United States of America, has changed, as in the case of civil rights. It is changing—for both better and for worse. It is an ever-changing thing. May it change in the direction of mutuality, interdependence, and the rejection of exploitation.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 14, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS MAKEMIE, FATHER OF U.S. PRESBYTERIANISM

THE FEAST OF EDWARD HENRY BICKERSTETH, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF EXETER

THE FEAST OF JOHN ROBERTS/IEUAN GWYLLT, FOUNDER OF WELSH SINGING FESTIVALS

THE FEAST OF NGAKUKU, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/a-good-society/

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Devotion for August 16 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Nazis and the Ark of the Covenant, from Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

(A Screen Capture)

2 Samuel and 1 Corinthians, Part III:  God, Undomesticated

SUNDAY, AUGUST 16, 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:

2 Samuel 6:1-19

Psalm 51 (Morning)

Psalms 142 and 65 (Evening)

1 Corinthians 9:1-23

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Sometimes I argue with Bible stories.  The Bible, which people wrote, comes from antiquity, a time which predates many of the events which have shaped my world view.  I am, for example, a product of the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment, and I have access to more knowledge than those who wrote the Bible could ever know about certain topics.  So I reject the idea that demon possession causes epilepsy, for example.

Yet other influences on my thought which cause me to argue with certain Bible stories come from the Bible itself.  God, depending on the part of the Old Testament one reads, is either approachable (as in the case of Abram/Abraham) or fearsome to be near (as in death for touching the Ark of the Covenant).  But God was most approachable in the person of Jesus of Nazareth; people not only touched him but had him over for dinner.

The stories of the power and menace of the Ark of the Covenant speak of God as an undomesticated force.  Jesus died for several reasons, among them the fact that he challenged domesticated views of God.  The study of the past uncovers examples of people who faced violence (often fatal) because they challenged beloved organizing ideas in society.  They include Jesus of Nazareth, Paul of Tarsus, Mohandas Gandhi, and numerous civil rights martyrs in the United States.  Violence, part of the darkness of human nature, rears its ugly head in defense of the indefensible and the merely traditional alike.  But one fact remains unchanged:  We cannot domesticate God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 29, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PAUL MANZ, DEAN OF LUTHERAN CHURCH MUSIC

THE FEAST OF CLARENCE JORDAN, RENEWER OF SOCIETY

THE FEAST OF JAMES HANNINGTON AND HIS COMPANIONS, ANGLICAN MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF JOHN BUCKMAN WALTHOUR, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/2-samuel-and-1-corinthians-part-iii-god-undomesticated/

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Proper 14, Year C   12 comments

Above:  The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., 1964

Photograph by Dick DeMarsico, World Telegraph and Sun

Image Source = Library of Congress

Active, Abrahamic Faith

The Sunday Closest to August 10

Ninth Sunday After Pentecost

AUGUST 11, 2019

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20 and Psalm 50:1-8, 23-24

or 

Genesis 15:1-6 and Psalm 33:12-22

then 

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

Luke 12:32-40

The Collect:

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; 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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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-twelfth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/prayer-of-confession-for-the-twelfth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-twelfth-sunday-after-pentecost/

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We human beings use the same word in different ways, with a variety of meanings.  Consider, O reader, the word “day,” for example.  People say,

In my day…

and

Back in the day…,

as well as

There is a new day coming.

Or “day” might apply literally, as in when today separates yesterday from tomorrow.

The same principle applies to “faith” in the New Testament.  The Apostle Paul, in Romans, used it to mean something inherently active, which leads to works.  A Pauline formula is that as a person thinks, so he or she is.  The Letter of James contains a different definition, that of intellectual assent to a proposition or set of propositions.  So, according to that definition, faith without works is dead.  Both epistles agree on the imperative of active faith, so one need not imagine a discrepancy between their conclusions.

And there is the definition of faith from Hebrews 11:1-3:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  Indeed, by faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is was made from things that are not visible.

New Revised Standard Version

In other words, faith applies in circumstances in which one can neither prove nor disprove a proposition according to scientific methods or documentary evidence.  That is an anachronistic definition, I know, but it works well.  Science can tell us much; I respect it and reject all anti-scientific sentiments and statements.  God gave us brains; may we use them as fully and critically as possible.  And documents form the basis of the study of history as I practice it.  Objective historical accuracy and the best scientific data available ought to override dogma, superstition, and bad theology.  So, no matter what the Gospels say, demon possession does not cause epilepsy, for example.  Yet there does exist truth which these twin standards of modernism (as opposed to postmodernism) cannot measure.  Such truth is good theology, which one can grasp by faith.

We read in Hebrews of the faithful example of Abram/Abraham (and by implication, of Sarai/Sarah), which harkens back to Genesis.  Theirs is a fantastical story, one which challenges understandings of biology.  But that is not the point.  The point is that God does unexpected things, and that the people of God should accept this reality.  And whether a certain unexpected thing is good news or bad news depends upon one’s spiritual state, as in Luke 12.

The reading from Isaiah 1 caught and held my attention most of all.  I, as an observant Episcopalian, am an unrepentant ritualist.  The text does not condemn ritualism itself.  No, the text damns insincere ritualism mixed with the neglect of vulnerable members of society:

Wash yourselves clean;

Put your evil things

Away from my sight.

Cease to do evil;

Learn to do good.

Devote yourselves to justice;

Aid the wronged.

Uphold the rights of the orphan;

Defend the cause of the widow.

–Isaiah 1:16-17, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Do it or else, the text says.  This is a call to society; Enlightenment notions of individualism do not apply here.  The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, called for

…a true revolution of values

from a society focused on things to one which places the priority on people.  In the same speech, the one in which he opposed the Vietnam War without equivocation, he said:

A nation that continues to spend year after year more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

A Testament of Hope:  The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.  (Edited by James M. Washington, 1986), page 241

The Prophet Isaiah would  have agreed.

Eternal God, heavenly Father,

you have graciously accepted us as living members

of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ,

and you have fed us with spiritual food

in the sacrament of his Body and Blood.

Send us now into the world in peace,

and grant us strength and courage

to love and serve you

with gladness and singleness of heart;

through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 365

Do we have the Abrahamic faith to do that?  And how much better will our societies be for all their members if we do?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 16, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS

THE FEAST OF HUGH LATIMER, NICHOLAS RIDLEY, AND THOMAS CRANMER, ANGLICAN MARTYRS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/active-abrahamic-faith/

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Week of Proper 28: Tuesday, Year 2   3 comments

Above:  Fire

Tested in the Fire

NOVEMBER 17, 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 3:1-6, 14-22 (Revised English Bible):

To the angel of the church at Sardis write:

These are the words of the One who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars:  I know what you are doing; people say you are alive, but in fact you are dead.  Wake up, and put some strength into what you still have, because otherwise it must die!  For I have not found any work of yours brought to completion in the sight of my God.  Remember therefore the teaching you received; observe it, and repent.  If you do not wake up, I will come upon you like a thief, and you will not know the moment of my coming.  Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not polluted their clothing, and they will walk with me in white, for so they deserve.  Anyone who is victorious will be robed in white like them, and I shall never strike his name off the roll of the living; in the presence of my Father and his angels I shall acknowledge him as mine.  You have ears, so hear what the Spirit says to the churches!

To the angel of the church at Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful of God’s creation:  I know what you are doing; you are neither cold nor hot.  How I wish you were either cold or hot!  Because you are neither one nor the other, but just lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth.  You say, “How rich I am!  What a fortune I have made!  I have everything I want.”  In fact, though you do not realize it, you are a pitiful wretch, poor, blind, and naked.  I advise you to buy from me gold refined in the fire to make you truly rich, and white robes to put on to hide the shame of your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so that you may see.  All whom I love I reprove and discipline.  Be wholehearted therefore in your repentance.  Here I stand knocking at the door; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and he and I will eat together.  To anyone who is victorious I will grant a place beside me on my throne, as I myself was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.  You have ears, so hear what the Spirit says to the churches!

Psalm 15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 LORD, who may dwell in your tabernacle?

who may abide upon your holy hill?

Whoever leads a blameless life and does what is right,

who speaks the truth from his heart.

3 There is no guile upon his tongue;

he does no evil to his friend;

he does not heap contempt upon his neighbor.

In his sight the wicked is rejected,

but he honors those who fear the LORD.

5 He has sworn to do no wrong

and does not take back his word.

6 He does not give his money in hope of gain,

nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things

shall never be overthrown.

Luke 19:1-10 (Revised English Bible):

Entering Jericho Jesus made his way through the city.  There was a man there named Zacchaeus; he was superintendent of taxes and very rich.  He was eager to see what Jesus looked like; but, being  a little man, he could not see him for the crowd.  So he ran on ahead and climbed a sycomore tree in order to see him, for he was to pass that way.  When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said,

Zacchaeus, be quick to come down, for I must stay at your house today.

He climbed down as quickly as he could and welcomed him gladly.  At this time there was a general murmur of disapproval.

He has gone in to be the guest of a sinner,

they said.  But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord,

Here and now, sir, I give half my possessions to charity; and if I have defrauded anyone, I will repay him four times over.

Jesus said to him,

Today  salvation has come to this house–for this man too is a son of Abraham.  The Son of Man has come to seek and to save what is lost.

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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 Posts:

Week of Proper 28:  Tuesday, Year 1 (More About Zacchaeus):

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/26/week-of-proper-28-tuesday-year-1/

Lord, Help Us Walk Your Servant Way:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/lord-help-us-walk-your-servant-way/

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My Son, if you aspire to be a servant of the LORD,

prepare yourself for testing….

Bear every hardship that is sent you,

and whenever humiliation comes, be patient;

for gold is assayed in the fire,

and the chosen ones in the furnace of humiliation.

–Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 2:1, 4-5, Revised English Bible

The church at Laodicea  was lukewarm and overconfident in its wealth.  It was really nothing but a chapel of complacency.  But the church is not supposed to function as a chapel for the complacent.  At least the church at Sardis tried to so something.  Unfortunately, it did not finish anything.  Zacchaeus, in contrast, committed to a course of action, one which exceeded the minimum qualifications under the Law of Moses.

There is frequently a cross-fertilization between religion and culture.  Sometimes culture dilutes excellent religious principles.  Consider racism, for example.  One of the classics is H. Shelton Smith’s In His Image, But…, a book about racism in Southern U.S. religion.  That title summarizes the hypocrisy of racism in religion, does it not?  And Philip Yancey, in Soul Survivor:  How My Faith Survived the Church (2001), beginning on page, 11, writes about recovering from the racism he learned in church and culture in the Deep South of the 1950s and 1960s.  He writes:

As a child I did not question the system we lived under because no one around me questioned it.  (page 13)

Bigotry of any form has no legitimate place in Christianity.  It might be acceptable within one’s culture or subculture, but ought never find approval within the church.  When religion soaks up the worst of culture, religion has ceased to be salt in the world.

So, embracing love for our fellow human beings and devotion to Jesus, may we follow him.  We will stick out when we do this, and may we do so positively.  And may we complete what we have begun, regardless of the humiliation and other hardship we may face because of our actions for God.  Then we will be true to the crucified one.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/tested-in-the-fire/

Week of Proper 9: Saturday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  Isaiah’s Vision

Image Source = Cadetgray

Tough Rooms

JULY 11, 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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Isaiah 6:1-13 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

In the year that King Uzziah died, I beheld my Lord seated on a high and lofty throne; and the skirts of His robe filled the Temple.  Seraphs stood in attendance on Him.  Each of them had six wings:  with two he covered his face, with two he covered his legs, and with two he would fly.

And one would call to the other,

Holy, holy, holy!

The LORD of Hosts!

His presence fills all the earth!

The doorposts would shake at the sound of the one who called, and the House kept filling with smoke.  I cried,

Woe is me; I am lost!

For I am a man of unclean lips

And I live among a people

Of unclean lips;

Yet my own eyes have beheld

The King LORD of Hosts.

Then one of the seraphs flew over to me with a live coal, which he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs.  He touched it to my lips and declared,

Now that this has touched your lips,

Your guilt shall depart

And your sin be purged away.

Then I heard the voice of my Lord saying,

Whom shall I send?  Who will go for us?

And I said,

Here am I; send me.

And He said,

Go, say to that people:

“Hear, indeed, but do not understand;

See, indeed, but do not grasp.”

Dull that people’s mind,

Stop its ears,

And seal its eyes–

Lest, seeing with its eyes

And hearing with its ears,

It also grasp with its mind,

And repent and save itself.

I asked,

How long, my Lord?

And He replied:

Till towns lie waste without inhabitants

And houses without people,

And the ground lies waste and desolate–

For the LORD will banish the population–

And deserted sites are many

In the midst of the land.

But while a tenth part yet remains in it, it shall repent.  It shall be ravaged like the terebinth and the oak, of which stumps are left even when they are felled; its stump shall be a holy seed.

Psalm 93 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

The LORD is King;

he has put on splendid apparel;

the LORD has put on his apparel

and girded himself with strength.

He has made the whole world so sure

that it cannot be moved;

Ever since the world began, your throne has been estabished;

you are from everlasting.

4 The waters have lifted up, O LORD,

the waters have lifted up their voice;

the waters have lifted up their pounding waves.

Mightier than the sound of many waters,

mightier than the breakers of the sea,

mightier is the LORD who dwells on high.

Your testimonies are very sure,

and holiness adorns your house, O LORD,

for ever and for evermore.

Matthew 10:24-33 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued instructing his disciples,]

A pupil is not better than his teacher, nor a slave better than his master.  A pupil should be satisfied to come to be like his teacher, or a slave, to come to be like his master.  If men have called the head of the house Beelzebub, how much worse names will they give to the members of his household!  So do not be afraid of them.  For there is nothing covered up that is not going to be uncovered, nor secret that is going to be known.  What I tell you in the dark you must say in the light, and what you hear whispered in your ear, you must proclaim from the housetops.  Have no fear of those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul.  You had better be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in the pit.  Do not sparrows sell two for a cent?  And yet not one of them can fall to the ground against your Father’s will!  But the very hairs of your heads are all counted.  You must not be afraid; you are worth more than a great many sparrows!  Therefore everyone who will acknowledge me before men I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven, but anyone who disowns me before men, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

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The Collect:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; 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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A Related Post:

Week of Proper 9:  Saturday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/24/week-of-proper-9-saturday-year-1/

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Stand-up comedians speak of “tough rooms,” or audiences which do not laugh at their jokes.  That seems like an apt analogy for what Isaiah faced, only he was not telling jokes.  He experienced a majestic vision of God with the divine retinue, during which he perceived a commission.  Whether his mission was supposed to result in the hardening of hearts or that was merely the unintended consequence is a knot which Jewish and Christian scholars have been trying to untangle for a very long time.  This post will not settle that argument, nor do I attempt to do so with it.  What is beyond dispute, however, is that the result was far from mass bewailing of sins, repentance, and conversion from idolatry.

Meanwhile, in Matthew 10, Jesus told his Apostles that they would face great opposition and perhaps even martyrdom.  Most of them, according to ecclesiastical tradition, did die for the faith.  Yet, as we read, in 10:28a,

Never be afraid of those who can kill the body but are powerless to kill the soul!  (J. B. Phillips, 1972)

It can be difficult to stand seemingly alone or with little company for the sake of righteousness.  Often those who stand for what is moral are unpopular.  Abolitionists, for example, never gained enough support to end the slavery before the U.S. Civil War.  This was not due to their lack of effort.  Today, nearly universally, even in the South, where slavery was concentrated, modern Americans agree that the Abolitionists were correct.  Yet, in their day, many white Southern Evangelicals regarded the Abolitionists as heretics for opposing slavery, an institution which, according to white Southern Evangelical orthodoxy of much of the 1800s, the Bible supported and even mandated.

Attitudes can change slowly, especially when they are ingrained deeply in society and culture.  Those who tell us that we have gotten something terribly wrong might seem less than reliable, even when they are correct.  Yet, as Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, God calls us to be faithful, not successful.  The victory, when it comes, will be God’s.  May our labors contribute to, not resist that triumph.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/tough-rooms/