Archive for the ‘Forgiveness’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 26, Year C (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Avenge Me of Mine Adversary

Image in the Public Domain

Resisting Evil Without Joining Its Ranks

OCTOBER 31, 2021

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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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1 Samuel 26:2-23 or Lamentations 1:1-12

Psalm 112

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 18:1-8

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Never pay back evil for evil….Do not let evil conquer you, but use good to conquer evil.

–Romans 12:17a, 21, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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All of the lesson from Romans 12 explains itself and constitutes timeless advice about how to live in community.  I encourage frequent reading of it, followed by corresponding actions.  Details will differ according to circumstances, such as who, where, and when one is, of course.  The principles remain constant, however.

“Anger” comes from the Old Norse word for “grief.”  Anger flows from grief, literally.  Others may commit evil or some lesser variety of sin, causing us to suffer.  We may be properly sad and angry about that.  Human beings bear the image of God, not the image of doormats, after all.  Resisting evil is a moral imperative.  So is resisting evil in proper ways.  One cannot conquer evil if one joins the ranks of evildoers.

I have struggled with this spiritual issue in contexts much less severe than the fall of the Kingdom of Judah and the time of the Babylonian Exile.  I have known the frustration that results from powerlessness as my life, as I have known it, has ended.  I have learned to read the angry portions of the Book of Psalms and identity with them.  I have also learned of the toxicity of such feelings.  I have learned the wisdom of obeying God and letting go of grudges, even when forgiveness has been more than I could muster.

After all, all people will reap what they sow.  Why not leave vengeance to God?  Why not strive to become the best version of oneself one can be in God?  Why not seek the support of one’s faith community to do so?  Why not support others in one’s faith community in their spiritual growth?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 30, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES MONTGOMERY, ANGLICAN AND MORAVIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF DIET EMAN; HER FIANCÉ, HEIN SIETSMA, MARTYR, 1945; AND HIS BROTHER, HENDRIK “HENK” SIETSMA; RIGHTEOUS AMONG THE NATIONS

THE FEAST OF JAMES RUSSELL MACDUFF AND GEORGE MATHESON, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTERS AND AUTHORS

THE FEAST OF SARAH JOSEPHA BUELL HALE, POET, AUTHOR, EDITOR, AND PROPHETIC WITNESS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2020/04/30/resisting-evil-without-joining-its-ranks-part-v/

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Devotion for Proper 22, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Joseph Reveals His Identity, by Peter von Cornelius

Image in the Public Domain

Inclusion and Exclusion

OCTOBER 6, 2019

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Genesis 45 or Isaiah 56:1-8

Psalm 31:9-18

1 Corinthians 11:17-34

Matthew 18:15-35

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Dealing with people can be difficult for various reasons, not the least of which is that some people are difficult.  Many are toxic, emotionally and spiritually.

Consider the family of Jacob, O reader.  The happy turn of events does not negate the perfidy of previous chapters.  Do you not, O reader, know that eventually Jacob confronted those sons of his who had told him years prior that Joseph was dead?  That is not a conversation recorded in Genesis.

Yet forgiveness carried the day.  And why not?  How often have we prayed to God for forgiveness and not been forgiving, of others or ourselves?  The hyperbolic debt of 10,000 talents (150,000 years’ worth of wages for a laborer) was impossible to repay.  Those who have received forgiveness have always incurred the obligation to forgive.  Forgiving others and self has always been the best policy for another reason also; grudges have always hurt those who have nurtured them.

God, in Isaiah 56:1-8, is quite inclusive, abolishing many barriers.  All those who believe in God and keep the divine commandments may participate in the future messianic salvation.  Foreigners may participate.  Eunuchs (excluded in Deuteronomy 23:2) may participate.

But we human beings tend to like exclusionary categories God rejects, do we not?  Divine grace seeks people like us and dissimilar from us.  It welcomes those who, regardless of any one of a set of factors, we might exclude, but whom God also loves.  The standard is a faithful response.

I have long been a churchy person.  Yet I have felt more spiritual kinship with refugees from organized religion than with certain other churchy people.  Many of the former group have been more receptive to grace than many of the latter group, the ones who made them feel unwelcome in the church.  These refugees from church have included homosexuals and people who have asked too many questions.  I, as a churchy heterosexual who enjoys questions, have sat among them and shown them that many Christians harbor attitudes that welcome them.

Eucharist in the Corinthian Church in the 50s C.E. was apparently not always welcoming.  It was a potluck meal upon which many of the poorer members depended.  Yet some of the more prosperous members ate ahead of time, did not contribute to the common meal, and took the occasion to become intoxicated.  All of these practices were abuses.

From the beginning of Christianity the Church has been rife with abuses.  Human nature has not changed over time, after all.  Ecclesiastical partisanship has not ceased.  Exploitation has not ceased.  However, God has not ceased to bely our ecclesiastical sins either.

May we pay closer attention to that last point.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 15, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA, SEPTEMBER 15, 1963

THE FEAST OF CHARLES EDWARD OAKLEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JAMES CHISHOLM, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIBERT AND AICARDUS OF JUMIEGES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/09/15/inclusion-and-exclusion-part-v/

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Devotion for Proper 23 (Year D)   1 comment

garden-of-gethsemane

Above:  The Garden of Gethsemane

Image in the Public Domain

The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Part V

OCTOBER 11, 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:

Haggai 2:10-19

Psalm 3 or 134

Matthew 26:36-56 or Mark 14:32-52 or Luke 22:39-53 or John 18:1-12

Romans 7:1-14

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The reality of the Temple at the time of Jesus was a far cry from the prediction of what the Temple would become, according to Haggai 2:10-19.  The Second Temple, which Herod the Great had ordered expanded, had become the seat of collaboration with the Romans.  Many Jews attended events at the Temple faithfully, but they did so under the watchful gazes of Roman soldiers at the fortress next door.  In this context the annual commemoration of the Passover–of God’s deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt–occurred.

The law of God is good, but abuses of it are bad.  Among these abuses was the crucifixion of Jesus, the judicial killing of a scapegoat.  That event is still in the future–albeit the near future–in the assigned readings from the Gospels.  Nevertheless, this is not too early to notice the contrast between the forgiving attitude of Jesus and the vengeful author of Psalm 3.  Forgiveness is, of course, the best policy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FOURTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL TAIT, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN BLEW, ENGLISH PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/12/20/the-passion-of-our-lord-jesus-christ-part-v/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 20, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

House of Naaman, Damascus

Above:  House of Naaman, Damascus, 1900-1920

Image Source = Library of Congress

Humility Before God

SEPTEMBER 20 and 21, 2021

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The Collect:

O God, our teacher and guide,

you draw us to yourself and welcome us as beloved children.

Help us to lay aside all envy and selfish ambition,

that we may walk in your ways of wisdom and understanding

as servants of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 5:1-14 (Monday)

2 Kings 11:21-12:16 (Tuesday)

Psalm 139:1-18 (Both Days)

James 4:8-17 (Monday)

James 5:1-6 (Tuesday)

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LORD, you have searched me out and known me;

you know my sitting down and my rising up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

–Psalm 139:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The Temple at Jerusalem was approximately 140 years old.  The Ark of the Covenant was there.  Repairing the structure of the Temple, which, like all buildings, required maintenance, should have been a priority long before King Jehoash made it one.  The lack of upkeep indicated an improper attitude toward God.

The proper attitude toward God includes humility.  God is God; none of us is God.  We depend entirely upon God (and rely upon each other), so any thought to the contrary is mistaken.  Our interdependence and mutual responsibility (to and for each other) leaves no room for sins such as oppression, exploitation, and gossiping.  Our total dependence on God leaves no room for excessive pride.

Naaman learned humility and monotheism.  Unfortunately, the narrative ended with the beginning of his journey back home.  I wonder how the experience at the River Jordan changed him and how that altered reality became manifest in his work and daily life.  I also wonder if that led to any negative consequences for him.

Martin Luther referred to James as an “epistle of straw.”  The letter’s emphasis on works (including justification by them) offended the reformer, who was reacting, not responding, to certain excesses and abuses of the Roman Catholic Church.  The epistle’s emphasis on works was–and remains–necessary, however.  The book’s condemnations of exploitation and hypocrisy have called proper attention to injustices and other sins for millennia.

I am not a wealthy landowner exploiting impoverished workers (James 5:1-6), but part of these days’ composite reading from the epistle speaks to me.  The condemnation of judging others (4:1-11) hits close to home.  My estimate is that judging others is the sin I commit most often.  If I am mistaken, judging others is one of the sins I commit most frequently.  I know better, of course, but like St. Paul the Apostle, I know well the struggle with sin and my total dependence upon God.  Knowing that one has a problem is the first step in the process of resolving it.

Caution against moral perfectionism is in order.  Public statements by relatives of victims of the White supremacist gunman who killed nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston, South Carolina, have been impressive.  The capacity for forgiveness has come quickly to some.  I rejoice that divine grace is so richly evident in their lives.  For some of us (including the author), however, the capacity to forgive those who have committed lesser offenses has arrived later rather than sooner.  For others it remains in transit.  In any circumstance may it arrive in God’s time.  May the rest of us refrain from judging those struggling with that (and other) issues.

The Didache, an essential Christian text from the second century of the Common Era, opens with an explanation of the Way of Life (filling a page and a half in my copy) and the Way of Death (just one paragraph–about one-third of a page).  The accent on the positive aspect of morality is laudable.  The section on the two Ways ends with two sentences:

Take care that nobody tempts you away from the path of this Teaching, for such a man’s tuition can have nothing to do with God.  If you can shoulder the Lord’s yoke in its entirety, then you will be perfect; but if that is too much for you, do as much as you can.

Early Christian Writings:  The Apostolic Fathers (Penguin Books, 1987), p. 193

We, to succeed, even partially, depend on grace.  Even so, I am still trying to do as much as I can, to borrow language from the Didache, for human efforts are not worthless.  I am imperfect; there is much room for improvement.  Much has improved already, by grace.  The potential for spiritual growth excites me.  The only justifiable boast will be in God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 30, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN OLAF WALLIN, ARCHBISHOP OF UPPSALA AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR JAMES MOORE, UNITED METHODIST BISHOP IN GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH LONAS, GERMAN MORAVIAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND LITURGIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/humility-before-god/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 5, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Kings (2009)

Above:  Captain David Shepherd and King Silas Benjamin of Gilboa, from Kings (2009)

A Screen Capture via PowerDVD

Judgment, Mercy, and God

JUNE 7 and 8, 2021

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The Collect:

All-powerful God, in Jesus Christ you turned death into life and defeat into victory.

Increase our faith and trust in him,

that we may triumph over all evil in the strength

of the same Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 39

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 16:14-23 (Monday)

1 Kings 18:17-40 (Tuesday)

Psalm 74 (Both Days)

Revelation 20:1-6 (Monday)

Revelation 20:7-15 (Tuesday)

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Till when, O God, will the foe blaspheme,

will the enemy forever revile Your name?

Why do you hold back Your hand, Your right hand?

Draw it out of Your bosom!

–Psalm 74:10-11, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books.

–Revelation 20:12b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

–James 2:24, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

–Romans 5:1-2, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities,

Lord, who could stand?

But there is forgiveness with you,

so that you may be revered.

–Psalm 130:3-4, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Where does judgment end and mercy begin with God?  I do not know, for (A) the mind of God is above me, and (B) the scriptural witnesses contradict each other.  How could they not do so, given the human authorship of the Bible and the range of human perspectives on the topic of divine judgment and mercy.  I am not a universalist, so I affirm that our works have some influence on the afterlife, but I also rejoice in divine forgiveness.  And, as for works, both James and St. Paul the Apostle affirmed the importance of works while defining faith differently.  Faith was inherently active for Paul yet purely intellectual for James.

What we do matters in this life and the next.  Our deeds (except for accidents) flow from our attitudes, so our thoughts matter.  If we love, we will act lovingly, for example.  Our attitudes and deeds alone are inadequate to deliver us from sin, but they are material with which God can work, like a few loaves and fishes.  What do we bring to God, therefore?  Do we bring the violence of Elijah, who ordered the slaughter of the priests of Baal?  Or do we bring the desire that those who oppose God have the opportunity to repent?  Do we bring the inclination to commit violence in the name of God?  Or do we bring the willingness to leave judgment to God?  And do we turn our back on God or do we seek God?

May we seek God, live the best way we can, by grace, and rely upon divine grace.  May we become the best people we can be in God and let God be God, which God will be anyway.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 18, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LEONIDES OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR; ORIGEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN; DEMETRIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND ALEXANDER OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANSELM II OF LUCCA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAUL OF CYPRUS, EASTERN ORTHODOX MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/03/18/judgment-mercy-and-god/

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Devotion for Wednesday After Pentecost Sunday, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Confessional

Above:  The Confessional Booth, the Church of the Nativity, Menlo Park, California

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = HABS CAL,41-MENPA,2–15

Forgiving and Retaining Sins

MAY 26, 2021

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The Collect:

Mighty God, you breathe life into our bones,

and your Spirit brings truth to the world.

Send us this Spirit,

transform us by your truth,

and give us language to proclaim your gospel,

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:

Ezekiel 37:1-14

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

John 20:19-23

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You send forth your Spirit, and they are created;

and so you renew the face of the earth.

–Psalm 104:31, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Ezekiel 37:1-14, the Vision of the Dry Bones, is an allegory of the restoration of the people Israel.  Subsequent interpretations include a literal reading regarding the physical resurrection of the dead, hence the pairing with John 20:19-23, an account of a post-Resurrection appearance of Jesus to ten of the eleven surviving Apostles.  There our Lord and Savior says:

Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.

–John 20:22b-23, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The use of the passive voice leaves room for ambiguity in that saying.  (The active voice is stronger and more definitive.)

If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them,…

is clear for the sentence identifies “them” as the forgiven party, but

…if you retain the sins of any, they are retained

is vague.  Who retains the unforgiven sins?  One might interpret the passage to mean that, via the Holy Spirit, the Church has the authority to forgive sins and to refuse to do so.  That might be accurate.  If so, the one who committed the sins retains them.  But what if refusing to forgive sins means that the one who refuses to forgive the sins retains them?

Forgiving can be quite difficult; I know this firsthand.  I also know that, according to the Gospels, there is a relationship between one’s willingness to forgive and God’s willingness to forgive one.  (The measure one gives will be the measure one gets.)  I am also aware that a grudge is too heavy a burden to carry.  It might not even lead to any harm of its target(s), but it injures the one who hauls it around like too much luggage.  I have retained the sins of others to my detriment, but letting those sins go has improved my life and been something I should have done much sooner.

According to an old story, two monks (Monk #1 and Monk #2, I call them) were traveling when they came to a river.  Waiting at the river was a prostitute, whom Monk #1 carried on his shoulders as he crossed the river.  On the other side of the river the monks and the prostitute parted company.  The monks continued their journey, during which Monk #2 complained repeatedly about Monk #1 having carried the woman.  Monk #1 replied,

I put her down at the river, but you are still carrying her.

Here ends the lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 13, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PLATO OF SYMBOLEON AND THEODORE STUDITES, EASTERN ORTHODOX ABBOTS; AND SAINT NICEPHORUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT HELDRAD, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINTS RODERIC OF CABRA AND SOLOMON OF CORDOBA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/forgiving-and-retaining-sins-2/

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Devotion for Monday After Proper 3, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Hosea

Above:  Hosea

Image in the Public Domain

Forgiveness and Restoration

MAY 24, 2021

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The Collect:

 Loving God, by tender words and covenant promise

you have joined us to yourself forever,

and you invite us to respond to your love with faithfulness.

By your Spirit may we live with you and with one another

in justice, mercy, and joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37

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The Assigned Readings:

Hosea 3:1-5

Psalm 45:6-17

2 Corinthians 1:23-2:11

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Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever,

a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your reign;

you love righteousness and hate iniquity.

–Psalm 45:6-7a, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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St. Paul the Apostle had visited Corinth and had a difficult experience with the church there–or rather, with certain members of the church there.  Then he wrote a scolding letter (Chapters 10-13 of 2 Corinthians, a book with a non-chronological organization).  Afterward, to avoid causing more pain, the Apostle stayed away.  His absence was, according to some, evidence of the Apostle’s vacillating nature.  (Some people seem to thrive on criticizing others!)  St. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 1 and 2, explaining his rationale for staying away and announcing that he had forgiven the ringleader of the critics.  The Apostle also encouraged his allies to forgive that person.  The dispute had injured the body (to use a Pauline metaphor for the church), so continuing the unhappiness would make a bad situation worse.

Forgiveness is a difficult grace to bestow on the offender and on oneself much of the time.  I know this difficulty firsthand and wonder why letting go of a burden as great as a grudge is frequently so hard.  I have arrived at no satisfactory answer, but I do know that a grudge hurts the person who holds it.

The reading from Hosea is ambiguous regarding the identity of Hosea’s platonic female friend yet the metaphor is clear:  that human relationship is like God’s relationship with Israel.  Difficult times will occur, but restoration will become the new reality.  Israel will

thrill over the LORD and over His bounty in the days to come.

–Hosea 3:5b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The restoration of offenders can be a sensitive subject, for forgiveness seems to deny justice.  Sometimes, I agree, offenders must face the consequences of their actions.  Yet, much of the time, radical forgiveness is the best way into the future for the community, the society, the nation-state, and the individual.  (I think especially of the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the Republic of South Africa.)  Taking an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth might curtail otherwise unrestrained vengeance, but should anyone seek revenge?  Does not the quest for vengeance reveal the seeker’s protestation of righteousness to be a lie?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 1, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF DANIEL MARCH, SR., U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST AND PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, POET, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILLIAN OF TREVESTE, ROMAN CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEOPHANES THE CHRONICLER, DEFENDER OF ICONS

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This is post #650 of ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS.

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/03/02/forgiveness-and-restoration/

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

JMD_7589

Above:  In Memory of Jonathan Myrick Daniels, Who Gave His Life for Another Human Being Near Selma, Alabama, in 1965

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Reconciliation

OCTOBER 5 and 6, 2020

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The Collect:

Beloved God, from you come all things that are good.

Lead us by the inspiration of your Spirit to know those things that are right,

and by your merciful guidance, help us to do them,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 19:10-14 (Monday)

Isaiah 27:1-6 (Tuesday)

Psalm 144 (Both Days)

1 Peter 2:4-10 (Monday)

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (Tuesday)

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May there be no breaching of the walls, no going into exile,

no wailing in the public squares.

Happy are the people of whom this is so!

happy are the people whose God is the LORD!

–Psalm 144:15-16, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The Old Testament readings use the imagery of vineyards to describe the people of God.  In Ezekiel 19 this is the meaning of that metaphor, with the Kingdom of Judah as a vine therein and the ill-fated King Zedekiah as a stem.  Exile came, of course.   And we read in Isaiah 27 that the future vineyard will be a glorious and Godly one, that redemption will come.  Yet the consequences of sin will stay play out.

Redemption via Christ Jesus is the topic in the readings from 1 Peter 2 and 2 Corinthians 5.  Christ reconciles us to God.  Jesus is the innocent Lamb of God, the cornerstone of faith for Christians and a stumbling block for others.  Our spiritual tasks as the redeemed include functioning as agents of divine reconciliation.  Grace is free, but not cheap.  As I consider the honor roll of reconcilers in the name of Jesus I notice the names of many martyrs and other persecuted people. Jesus is there, of course, as is St. Paul the Apostle.  In recent decades martyred reconcilers have included Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador (died in 1980) and Jonathan Myrick Daniels (died in 1965) and the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. (died in 1968), of the United States.  Others, such as Nelson Mandela (died in 2013) spent long terms in prison then did much to heal the wounds of their societies.

Judgment and mercy coexist in the Bible.  The first comes then the second follows; that is a recurring pattern in the Old and New Testaments.  Reconciling, not seeking revenge, is the way to break the cycle of violence and to start the cycle of love and peace.  Relinquishing our bloodlusts can prove difficult, but the price of not doing so is both avoidable and terrible.

May we reconcile with God and, as much as possible, with each other.  The latter will prove impossible sometimes, due to conditions such as the death, inability, or unwillingness of the other party or parties.  In such cases at least one person can surrender the grudge; that is progress, at least.  And grace enables not only that but reconciliation in other cases.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 25, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MICHAEL FARADAY, SCIENTIST

THE FEAST OF BAYARD RUSTIN, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/reconciliation/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 21, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Robinson's Arch

Above:  Robinson’s Arch, Jerusalem, Palestine, Ottoman Empire, Between 1898 and 1914

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-07504

Money, Status, and Ego

SEPTEMBER 24-26, 2020

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The Collect:

God of love, giver of life, you know our frailties and failings.

Give us your grace to overcome them,

keep us from those things that harm us,

and guide us in the way of salvation,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 12:17-28 (Thursday)

Ezekiel 18:5-18 (Friday)

Ezekiel 18:19-24 (Saturday)

Psalm 25:1-9 (All Days)

James 4:11-16 (Thursday)

Acts 13:32-41 (Friday)

Mark 11:27-22 (Saturday)

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Gracious and upright is the LORD;

therefore he teaches sinners in his way.

He guides the humble in doing right

and teaches he way to the lowly.

All the paths of the LORD are love and faithfulness

to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

–Psalm 25:7-9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The readings for these days combine to form a tapestry about sin, righteousness, judgment (both human and divine), and forgiveness.  The lessons also overlap like circles in a Venn Diagram.  This richness of content from various sources explains why I have chosen to write from the Complementary Series of the daily lectionary attached to the (mostly Sunday) Revised Common Lectionary.  There is also a continuous reading track, but this one works better for me.

We humans make decisions every day.  As a poster I heard of years ago declares, “YOU CANNOT NOT DECIDE.”  We decide to take one course of action or another one.  Sometimes we decide to do nothing.  Thus, when we sin, we might do so via commission or omission.  There will be consequences of sins and sometimes even for proper deeds; one cannot evade their arrival forever.  No matter how much God approves or disapproves of certain deeds, some human beings will have a different opinion.  Thus divine judgment might seem to arrive late or not at all in some cases and those innocent of a great offense suffer for the sake of righteousness.

Ezekiel 18 makes clear the point that God evaluates us based on what we do and do not do, not on what any ancestor did (or has done) and did not do (or has not done.)  Yes, as I have mentioned in a recent post at this weblog, parts of the Torah either disagree with that point or seem to do so.  Why should the Bible not contradict itself in places, given the lengthy span on its composition?  To expect consistency on every point is to harbor unrealistic expectations.  This why we also need tradition and reason, not just scripture, when arriving at theological decisions.  Anyhow, Ezekiel 18 tells us God does not evaluate us based on what our grandparents did.  This is good news.  What they did might still affect us negatively and/or positively, however.  I can identity such influences reaching back to some of my great-grandparents, in fact.  But I am responsible for my sins, not theirs.  As James 4:17 (The Revised English Bible, 1989) tells us:

What it comes to is that anyone who knows the right thing to do and does not do it a sinner.

Sometimes we know right from wrong and choose the latter because it is easier than the former.  I think that this summary applies to our Lord’s questioners in Mark 11:27-33.  Jesus, already having entered Jerusalem triumphantly while looking like a victorious king en route to the peace negotiations after battle, had also scared the living daylights out of money changers exploiting the pious poor at the Temple.  Our Lord and Savior was challenging a religious system in league with the Roman Empire.  And he was doing so during the days leading up to the annual celebration of Passover, which was about God’s act of liberating the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt.  The man was not keeping a low profile.  He was doing the right things and his questioners were attempting to entrap him verbally.  I suspect that they knew that he was the genuine article and that they preferred to lie to themselves and to oppose him rather than to follow him.  They had matters of money, status, and ego to consider, after all.

Are they really quite different from many of us?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 21, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGIA HARKNESS, UNITED METHODIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENNETH OF WALES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/08/21/money-status-and-ego/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 19, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Joseph Made Ruler in Egypt Genesis 41:41-43

Above:  Joseph Made Ruler of Egypt

Image in the Public Domain

Forgiveness

SEPTEMBER 10-12, 2020

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The Collect:

O Lord God, merciful judge, you are the inexhaustible fountain of forgiveness.

Replace our hearts of stone with hearts that love and adore you,

that we may delight in doing your will,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 47

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 37:12-36 (Thursday)

Genesis 41:53-42:17 (Friday)

Genesis 45:1-20 (Saturday)

Psalm 103:[1-7] 8-13 (All Days)

1 John 3:11-16 (Thursday)

Acts 7:9-16 (Friday)

Matthew 6:7-15 (Saturday)

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He redeems your life from the grave

and crowns your with mercy and loving-kindness;

He satisfies you with good things,

and your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.

–Psalm 103:4-5, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The lectionary-based romp through the Joseph Epic from Genesis begins here, in this post.  It is an excellent tale–in act, the first portion of scripture I really read, back in the Summer of 1988.  In today’s installments we focus on the transformation of Joseph from annoying twit and boaster to a powerful figure in the Egyptian government who forgives his would-be murderous relatives and showers kindness on his family.  Unfortunately, in Genesis 47, he reduces the Egyptian population to serfdom in exchange for food (which they had grown anyway), but that is another story, one which many people miss.  (I missed it the first few times I read the epic.)

The New Testament lessons speak of forgiving each other and meeting each other’s needs, even (when necessary) dying for each other.  The reading from Matthew 6 makes plain the link between forgiving others and receiving divine forgiveness.  The measure one applies to others, the Sermon on the Mount tells us, is the one God applies to us.  That makes much sense to me.

To forgive can prove quite difficult.  To want to forgive is easier, I have found, but both are possible only by grace.  Through experiences I have no desire to recall in vivid details I have learned that to stop nursing a grudge is the best one can do at some moments.  The rest will follow in time; forgiveness will come.  One day one will realize that much or most or all of the old anger is gone.  The process starts with a prayer for Got to take all the anger away.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 16. 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN DIEFENBAKER AND LESTER PEARSON, PRIME MINISTERS OF CANADA; AND TOMMY DOUGLAS, FEDERAL LEADER OF THE NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY

THE FEAST OF JOHN JONES OF TALYSARN, WELSH CALVINISTIC METHODIST MINISTER AND HYMN TUNE COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF BROTHER ROGER OF TAIZE, FOUNDER OF THE TAIZE COMMUNITY

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY WOMEN OF THE NEW TESTAMENT

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Bloga Theologica version

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