Archive for the ‘Civil Rights’ Tag

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/

Week of Proper 8: Tuesday, Year 2   1 comment

Above:  President Lyndon Baines Johnson with the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.

Societal Righteousness

JUNE 30, 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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Amos 3:1-4, 13 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Hear this word, O people of Israel,

That the LORD has has spoken concerning you;

Concerning the whole family that I brought up from the land of Egypt;

You alone have I singled out

Of all the families of the earth–

That is why I call you to account

For all your iniquities.

Can two walk together

Without having met?

Does a lion roar in the forest

When he has no prey?

Does a great beast let out a cry from its den

Without having made a capture?

Hear [this], and warn the House of Jacob

–says my Lord GOD, the God of Hosts–

Psalm 5 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Give ear to my words, O LORD;

consider my meditation.

2  Hearken to my cry for help, my King and my God,

for I will make my prayer to you.

3  In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice;

early in the morning I make my appeal and watch for you.

4  For you are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness,

and evil cannot dwell with you.

5  Braggarts cannot stand in your sight;

you hate all those who work wickedness.

6  You destroy those who speak lies;

the bloodthirsty and deceitful, O LORD, you abhor.

7  But as for me, through the greatness of your mercy I will go into your house;

I will bow down toward your holy temple in awe of you.

8  Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness,

because of those who lie in wait for me;

make your way straight before me.

9  For there is no truth in their mouth;

there is destruction in their heart;

10  Their throat is an open grave;

they flatter with their tongue.

11  Declare them guilty, O God;

let them fall, because of their schemes,

12  Because of their many transgressions cast them out,

for they have rebelled against you.

13  But all who take refuge in you will be glad;

they will sing out their joy for ever.

14  You will shelter them,

so that those who love your Name may exult in you.

15  For you, O LORD, will bless the righteous;

you will defend them with your favor as with a shield.

Matthew 8:23-27 (An American Translation):

And he [Jesus] got into the boat, and his disciples with him.  And suddenly a terrific storm came up on the sea, so that the waves broke over the boat, but he remained asleep.  And they woke him, saying,

Save us, sir!  We are lost!

And he said to them,

Why are you afraid?  You have so little faith!

Then he got up and reproved the wind and the sea, and there was a great calm.  And the men were amazed and said,

What kind of man is this?  For the very winds and sea obey him!

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:  Grant to us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; 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 8:  Tuesday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/week-of-proper-8-tuesday-year-1/

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The book of Amos has provided inspiration for those who have pursued social justice out of their faith.  Modern examples include labor activists, civil rights workers, and adherents of Liberation Theology.

Abraham Heschel writes (on page 34 of The Prophets, Volume 1, 1962) that, in Amos,

God’s supreme concern is righteousness and that His essential demand of man is to establish justice.

This is justice, which, for Amos, can exist only in the context of God, who seeks intimacy with human beings.  This reminds me of the Baptismal Covenant in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, which includes a promise to respect the dignity of every human being–In other words, to love one’s neighbor as one loves one’s self.

An individual can pursue this goal, which one ought to do.  And, by grace, he or she can succeed more in time.  But what about pursuing this good on a societal level?  Theocracy is not the answer, for (A) it leads to abuses of alleged heretics, and such deeds are inherent violations of the Golden Rule, and (B) there is no way to coerce goodness, which must be voluntary.  In 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. advocated a moral revolution, one in which U.S. society would come to value people more than things.  His vision has yet to become reality, unfortunately.

We–you and I–are parts of society.  If we do not like certain aspects of society, we need not resign ourselves and curse the darkness.  No, we can light a candle.  We can shed light in the darkness.  And we need to do so positively.  We might also succeed.  Social mores can change; they have changed; they are changing.  People change them.  May we change them toward economic justice, toward loving our neighbors more generally, and away from coercion.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/08/24/reading-and-pondering-amos-part-two/