Archive for the ‘Homophobia’ Tag

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 4 (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:   The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, by John Martin

Image in the Public Domain

False Teachers

NOT OBSERVED IN 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 19:1-8, 15-26, 30-38

Psalm 11

2 Peter 2:4-10a

Matthew 11:20-24

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David Ackerman continues his grand tour of difficult passages of scripture.  The theme this time is judgment and mercy.

One should be careful to examine a passage of scripture closely.  In Genesis 19, for example, we read of (A) an equal-opportunity rape gang and (B) the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  The gang members do not care if their conquests are male, female, or angelic.  Furthermore, Lot, while being hospitable to his house guests, offers his two daughters to the gang instead.  Fortunately for the daughters, the gang had become fixated on “fresh fish.”  One might reasonably surmise, however, that Lot knew the character of his neighbors.  One might also question the character of the daughters, who went on to get their father drunk, seduce him, and have children with him.  Lot and his family are a disturbing group of people in Genesis.

Elsewhere in the assigned lessons we read of divine judgment on false teachers and those who follow them.  This judgment falls on the unrepentant, whether Jewish or Gentile.  Yet there is also mercy for the repentant, whether Jewish or Gentile.

These readings contain much material to make one squirm.  I refer to what is there, not what we merely think is present.  Genesis 19 is partially an origin story of the Amorites and the Moabites, whose founders were the products of subterfuge, drunkenness, and incest.  It is also partially a cautionary tale about the lack of hospitality.  What could be more inhospitable than seeking to seeking to rape someone?

Divine judgment and mercy are real, as are human misinterpretation of Bible stories.  May we turn of the autopilot mode that prevents us from studying passages seriously and transform us into false teachers.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/false-teachers/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 26, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Lot and His Daughters

Above:   Lot and His Daughters, by Lucas van Leyden

Image in the Public Domain

The Good Society

NOVEMBER 4 and 5, 2019

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The Collect:

Merciful God, gracious and benevolent,

through your Son you invite all the world to a meal of mercy.

Grant that we may eagerly follow this call,

and bring us with all your saints into your life of justice and joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Nehemiah 13:1-3, 23-31 (Monday)

Zechariah 7:1-14 (Tuesday)

Psalm 50 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (Monday)

Jude 5-21 (Tuesday)

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“When you see a thief, you make him your friend,

and you cast your lot in with adulterers.

You have loosed your lips for evil,

and harnessed your tongue to a lie.

You are always speaking evil of your brother

and slandering your own mother’s son.

These things you have done, and I kept still,

and you thought that I am like you.”

–Psalm 50:18-21, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The Law of Moses teaches that, among other things:

  1. We humans depend on God for everything,
  2. We depend on each other also,
  3. We have no right to exploit each other,
  4. We are responsible to each other, and
  5. We are responsible for each other.

Thus hospitality is a great virtue, for it can make the difference between someone coming to harm or avoiding harm, as well as the difference between someone dying or living.

My summary of the forbidden behaviors in these days’ readings is that they are generally activities that harm others.  I note that, in post-exilic zeal to obey the Law of Moses, many people went too far with regard to the treatment of foreigners.  The Book of Jonah pushes back against such excesses.  The Book of Ruth, in which a Moabite woman marries a Hebrew man and becomes an ancestor of King David, is probably another protest against such zealousness-turned-xenophobia, such as that praised in Nehemiah 13:1.

As for homosexual behavior (as opposed to homosexuality as a sexual preference, an understanding which did not exist until recent centuries), Jude 7 is the only verse in the Bible to make explicit the link between homosexual conduct and the story of Sodom in Genesis 19.  In that chapter Lot, who has lived in the city since Genesis 13, presumably knows his neighbors well enough to understand what they like.  Lot has taken in two angels.  A mob gathers outside his door and demands that he send them outside to that they can gang rape the angels.  Lot refuses the demands and offers to send his two virgin daughters out instead.  (Bad father!)  Fortunately for Lot’s daughters, the mob is not interested and the angels have a plan to save Lot and his family from the imminent destruction of the city.  In the context of Genesis 19 the planned sexual activity is rape, not anything consensual; may nobody miss that point.  The standard Biblical condemnations of the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah are like those in Ezekiel 16:48-50 and 3 Maccabees 2:5-6, where one reads that the cities’ sins were notorious and the people were arrogant and brazen in their iniquity.  Ezekiel 16 adds to that description the neglect of the poor and the hungry–a lack of hospitality.

Zechariah 7:8-14 states that the pre-exilic Kingdoms of Israel and Judah violated the basic requirements of the Law of Moses, and paid the price.  The societies, generally speaking, did not administer true justice and act kindly and compassionately.  No, it oppressed widows, orphans, the poor, and resident aliens.  The societies were unrepentant, and divine patience ran out.

Society is people.  It shapes its members, who also influence it.  May we–you, O reader, and I–influence society for the better–to care for the vulnerable, to resist bullying and corruption, to favor kindness and compassion, and to seek and find the proper balance between individual and collective responsibility.  May we eschew bigotry in all forms, for we have a divine mandate to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  May we seek to love God and each other fully, manifesting respect for the image of God in each other, seeking to build each other up, for that is not only the path to the common good but is also godly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/the-good-society/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 22, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

March on Washington 1963

Above:  The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963

Photographer = Warren K. Leffler

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ds-04411

Looking Upon the Heart

SEPTEMBER 30, 2021

OCTOBER 1 and 2, 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:

Genesis 20:1-18 (Thursday)

Genesis 21:22-34 (Friday)

Genesis 23:1-20 (Saturday)

Psalm 8 (All Days)

Galatians 3:23-29 (Thursday)

Romans 8:1-11 (Friday)

Luke 16:14-18 (Saturday)

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When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars that you have ordained,

What are mortals, that you should be mindful of them;

mere human beings, that you should seek them out?

You have made them little lower than the angels

and crown them with glory and honour.

–Psalm 8:4-6, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The Book of Genesis is honest about the vices and virtues of Abraham and Sarah.  Abraham was a man who valued his relationship with God so much that he acted to the detriment of his family sometimes.  Sarah knew jealousy and acted accordingly.  Abraham, who preferred that people deal honestly with him, dealt dishonestly with others on occasion, telling lies.  These were not the

No, that dress does not make you look fat

variety of lies.  No, these were lies with negative consequences for people.  Yet Abraham and Sarah were instruments of divine grace in their time.  Their legacy has never ceased to exist.

Grace is radical and frequently disturbing.  It ignores human-created distinctions (as in the pericope from Galatians) and calls us to live according to a higher purpose.  We are free from the shackles we have accepted, those which others have imposed upon us, and those we have imposed upon ourselves.  We are free to love God and our fellow human beings as fully as possible, via grace.  We are free to follow Jesus, our Lord and Savior, who taught us via words and deeds how to live according to the Kingdom of God.

Recently I watched a sermon by Michael Curry, soon to become the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church.  He spoke of an incident in the Gospels in which our Lord and Savior’s relatives, convinced that Jesus was crazy, sought to take him away and control him.  Seeking to control Jesus is what much of the Christian Church has sought to do for a long time, Curry stated accurately.  Our Lord and Savior was–and remains–beyond control, fortunately.  Yet elements of institutionalized Christianity have retained human-created distinctions (such as those St. Paul the Apostle listed in the pericope from Galatians) and have labeled doing so orthodoxy.  Fortunately, other elements of institutionalized Christianity have behaved properly in that regard.

Boundaries provide order, hence definition and psychological security.  Some of them are necessary and proper.  Other boundaries, however, exclude improperly, labeling members of the household of God as outsiders, unclean persons, et cetera.  Jesus, as the Gospels present him, defied social conventions and broke down boundaries relative to, among other factors, gender, ritual impurity, and economic status.  Erroneous distinctions regarding gender and economic status remain in societies, of course.  Many of us lack the concept of ritual impurity, but we have probably learned from our cultures or subcultures that certain types of people are somehow impure, that contact with them will defile us.  Often these are racial or ethnic distinctions.

The example of Jesus commands us to, among other things, lay aside erroneous standards of judging and to consider only the proverbial heart.  That is a difficult spiritual vocation, but it is a matter of obedience to God.  It is also possible via grace.

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/looking-upon-the-heart/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 12, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Elisha

Above:   The Prophet Elisha

Image in the Public Domain

The Will of God and Morality

JULY 22-24, 2021

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The Collect:

Gracious God, you have placed within the hearts of all your children

a longing for your word and a hunger for your truth.

Grant that we may know your Son to be the true bread of heaven

and share this bread with all the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 19:19-21 (Thursday)

2 Kings 3:4-20 (Friday)

2 Kings 4:38-41 (Saturday)

Psalm 145:10-18 (All Days)

Colossians 1:9-14 (Thursday)

Colossians 3:12-17 (Friday)

John 4:31-38 (Saturday)

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All you have made will confess you, LORD,

those devoted to you will give you thanks.

They will speak of your royal glory

and tell of your mighty deeds,

Making known to all mankind your mighty deeds,

your majestic royal glory.

–Psalm 145:10-12, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)

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Certain stories of Elisha resemble those of his mentor, Elijah, as an observant reader of the Books of Kings knows.  And, as an observant reader of the Gospels and the Books of Kings knows, some of the miracle stories of Jesus echo certain accounts of incidents from the lives of Elijah and Elisha.  Examples of these include raising people from the dead and feeding a multitude with a small amount of food.  Those stories indicate, among other things, that the heroes were close to God and were able to meet the needs of people.

The Elisha stories for these days have him leave home, participate in helping his kingdom win a war against Moab, and render dangerous food safe.  They portray him as an agent of the will of God.

The “will of God” is a phrase many people use improperly, even callously.  I, as a student of history, know that various individuals have utilized it to justify the murder of priests of Baal (by the order of Elijah, in 1 Kings 18:40), blame innocent victims of natural disasters exasperated by human shortsightedness (such as God allegedly sending Hurricane Katrina to New Orleans or a devastating earthquake to Haiti, supposedly to smite evildoers in those places), et cetera.  These misuses of the concept of the will of God offend my morality and make God seem like a thug at best.

We ought to exercise great caution using the phrase “the will of God,” for we might speak or write falsely of God and drive or keep people away from a Christian pilgrimage.  This is a topic to approach seriously, not lightly.  Among the most thoughtful treatments is Leslie D. Weatherhead’s The Will of God (1944), which speaks of three wills of God:  intentional, circumstantial, and ultimate.  That is deeper than some professing Christians want to delve into the issue, however.

I do not pretend to be an expert on the will of God, but I do attempt to be an intellectually honest Christian.  I, as a Christian, claim to follow Jesus.  To ask what he would do or would not do, therefore, is a relevant question when pondering issues of morality and the will of God.  The four canonical Gospels are useful for these and other purposes.  I conclude, therefore, that Jesus would not have ordered the deaths of priests of Baal or resorted to homophobia to explain the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.  And I cannot conceive of Jesus agreeing with George Zimmerman that the death of Trayvon Martin was part of God’s plan and that wishing that Martin were alive is almost blasphemous.  Zimmerman is a bad theologian.

Living according to compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, and love, per Colossians 3:12-14, is the best way to proceed.  Doing so increases the probability that one will live as an agent of the will of God, whose love we see epitomized in Jesus.  It is better to live rightly than to seek to be right in one’s opinion of oneself.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 5, 2015 COMMON ERA

EASTER SUNDAY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF MILNER BALL, PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, LAW PROFESSOR, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS, AND HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT NOKTER BALBULUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/04/05/the-will-of-god-and-morality/

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Devotion for Monday After Proper 9, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Ezekiel Icon

Above:  An Icon of the Prophet Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

Ignoring the Prophets of God

JULY 5, 2021

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The Collect:

God of the covenant, in our baptism you call us

to proclaim the coming of your kingdom.

Give us the courage you gave the apostles,

that we may faithfully witness to your love and peace

in every circumstance of life,

in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 2:8-3:11

Psalm 119:81-88

2 Corinthians 11:16-33

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My soul is pining for your salvation;

I have hoped in your word.

My eyes fail with watching for your word,

while I say, “O, when will you comfort me?”

I have become like a wineskin in the smoke,

yet I do not forget your statutes.

How many are the days of your servant?

When will you bring judgment on those who persecute me?

The proud have dug pits for me

in defiance of your law.

All your commandments are true;

help me, for they persecute me with falsehood.

They had almost made an end of me on earth,

but I have not forsaken your commandments.

Give me life according to your lovingkindness;

so shall I keep the testimonies of your mouth.

–Psalm 119:81-88, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The role of a prophet of God can be an unhappy and quite difficult one.  Ezekiel accepted his commission readily then objected bitterly to having to make harsh statements to a population which refused to heed his message, which he relayed from God.  St. Paul the Apostle, by his own accounts, was frequently in danger.  Nevertheless, the audience of 2 Corinthians 11:16-33 had misplaced priorities:

For you put up with it when someone makes slaves of you, or preys upon you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or gives you a slap in the face.

–2 Corinthians 11:20, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

They suffered because of their foolishness, not for the sake of righteousness.

A more interesting question concerns why so many of we human beings refuse to heed prophets from God.  Often we have difficulty telling the false prophets from the genuine articles, so we clump them together as “kooks.”  That explains much, but not all, germane to my question.  I am convinced that we humans prefer to be comfortable, sometimes in socially unjust and theologically false contexts.  God’s prophets denounce idolatry, but we have become fond of and attached to our idols.  We find that not resisting social injustice is easier than calling it what it is then acting accordingly, so we do little or nothing when the opportunity to act presents itself.  The prophets of God remind us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  They tell us to welcome strangers and to care for widows and orphans, but we find ways to justify dong the opposite while claiming to follow God.  The prophets of God call our attention to the exploitation of people, but we might benefit financially from economic injustice.

The image of God is among the most profound theological concepts in the Bible, an anthology packed with them.  I wonder how much better societies and communities would be if more people tried to recognize the image of God in all others then acted accordingly.  The treatment of human beings, especially the somehow different, would certainly improve.  Prejudices would decline, the world would be a more peaceful place, and efforts to justify discrimination as the protection of religious freedom would have less support.  More people would heed the words of God’s prophets.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE EVE OF EASTER, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF BENJAMIN HALL KENNEDY, GREEK AND LATIN SCHOLAR, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT GEORGE THE YOUNGER, GREEK ORTHODOX BISHOP OF MITYLENE

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/ignoring-the-prophets-of-god/

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Devotion for Saturday Before Trinity Sunday, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Little Rock 1959

Above:  A Racist Rally at the State Capitol, Little Rock, Arkansas, August 20, 1959

Photographer = John T. Bledsoe

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-19754

Dressing Up Darkness as Light

MAY 29, 2021

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The Collect:

God of heaven and earth,

before the foundation of the universe and the beginning of time

you are the triune God:

Author of creation, eternal Word of creation, life-giving Spirit of wisdom.

Guide us to all truth by your Spirit,

that we may proclaim all that Christ has revealed

and rejoice in the glory he shares with us.

Glory and praise to you,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 5:15-24

Psalm 29

John 15:18-20, 26-27

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The voice of the LORD is a powerful voice;

the voice of the LORD is a voice of splendor.

–Psalm 29:4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Ah,

Those who call evil good

And good evil;

Who present darkness as light

And light as darkness;

Who prevent bitter as sweet

And sweet as bitter!

–Isaiah 5:20, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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I am a student of history, especially that of the ecclesiastical variety.  Much of that content troubles me.  In my library I have documents justifying perfidy in the name of Jesus and more broadly in the name of God.  I think of a sermon, “God the Original Segregationist” (1954), which the minister continued to sell via mail as late as 1971.  I think also of sermons defending chattel slavery while quoting the Bible.  And I own a reprint of an article from the magazine of the National Association of Evangelicals in 1960 arguing that no Roman Catholic should serve as the President of the United States.

I consider my family tree, which includes a slaveholder and Georgia state senator who, in the 1860s, complained in writing to Governor Joseph Brown that the state had drafted his (the senator’s) slaves’ labor yet been slow to compensate the senator for their work.  My relative was a deacon of the Fort Gaines Baptist Church, Fort Gaines, Georgia.  I assume that he thought of himself as a good Christian.

Fortunately, overt racism has fallen out of favor in many quarters, but covert racism remains ubiquitous.  Slavery, furthermore, has few prominent defenders of which I am aware in American Christianity.  Nevertheless, some prominent American Evangelicals defended the Crusades–orgies of violence, religious intolerance, and even some cannibalism–with much energy recently.

Dressing up darkness as light is an ancient sin which remains contemporary.  Even many who condemn slavery commit homophobia.  Some are malevolent, saying openly that homosexuals ought to have fewer civil rights and liberties than heterosexuals.  Certain malevolent homophobes go as far as to advocate executing or imprisoning homosexuals.  Others, however, act out of outdated mindsets based on erroneous assumptions and are not malevolent.  They are still wrong, of course.

The biblical call to justice, present in the works of the prophets and elsewhere requires us to reject the forms of bigotry we have learned from cultures.  To love our neighbors as we love ourselves and act toward them as we would have them behave toward us entails laying aside our negative biases and recognizing the image of God in them then acting accordingly.  This can prove risky when cultures, governments, and social institutions perpetuate bigotry and discrimination.

If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own.  Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world–therefore the world hates you.

–John 15:19, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

I have learned negative biases and unlearned some of them.  The main difficulty when dealing with one’s assumptions is trying to recognize one’s moral blind spots, especially those which are socially unacceptable.  Defense mechanisms interfere with this process, perpetuating the illusion that one is holier than one actually is.  Yet a faithful pilgrimage with God requires that one, by grace, face oneself honestly.  Hopefully this will result in an accurate self-appraisal and lead to repentance, that is, changing one’s mind, turning around.  That can be difficult, but it is possible via the power of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 14, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATHILDA, QUEEN OF GERMANY

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/dressing-up-darkness-as-light/

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

05791v

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 June 14 and 15 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Gender Equality Sign

Proverbs and John, Part V:  Loving One Another While God Watches Us

JUNE 14 AND 15, 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 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:

Proverbs 14:1-27 (June 14)

Proverbs 15:1-29 (June 15)

Psalm 85 (Morning–June 14)

Psalm 61 (Morning–June 15)

Psalms 25 and 40 (Evening–June 14)

Psalms 138 and 98 (Evening–June 15)

John 15:1-11 (June 14)

John 15:12-27 (June 15)

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We read the following caution in Proverbs 15:3 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The eyes of the LORD are everywhere,

Observing the bad and the good.

And, in John 15, we read of great love–the kind which motivates one to die for his friends.  Jesus, who had that love, knew the hatred of people whom he had not wronged.  The mandate of the Apostles

to love one another

–John 15:17b, The New Jerusalem Bible

applies to we Christians today.  We will not always get along; personalities will prove mutually incompatible.  Cultural, educational, and intellectual chasms will exist.  And major disagreements will arise.  Yet we can avoid hating one another or consigning the other to Hell rhetorically.

I, as one considered a heretic so often that I have adopted the label as an affirmative one, am used to the

You will go to Hell

sentence and attitude.  I have chosen not to engage those who scorned me thus in further conversation beyond friendly “Hi” and “Bye” dialogue; what else was there to say?  I sought to explore questions, but the other wanted to spout blind dogma as if on automatic pilot.

My default setting is to regard my fellow human beings–regardless of how annoying I find some of them–as fellow bearers of the Image of God.  And my fellow and sister Christians–including those with whom I have little in common theologically–are my coreligionists.  I accept with great ease many who differ from me.  Others I tolerate, but that is more than some of them do in regard to me.  I wish that friendlier theological cohabitation could occur more often that it does, for all of us know very little of God, whose mysteriousness exists beyond the bounds of human comprehension thereof.  But I try–usually successfully–to eschew hostility in my own mind.

And I try to live and think according to the standard of equality before God.  I take great offense at ecclesiastical acceptance of the tendency to block off women and homosexuals as groups, membership in which makes them second-class members to whom ordination is off-limits.  I was born both male and heterosexual; these were not my choices, not that I argue with them.  Many of the people with whom I worship were born female and/or homosexual; those were not their choices either.  All of us stand equal before God.  Any ecclesiastical body which baptizes females yet refuses to ordain because they are women commits hypocrisy, as does one which baptizes homosexuals yet refuses to ordain them because of that identity.  Such hypocrisy ought to cease.  This is a civil rights issue, a matter of loving one another.  And God is watching us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 12, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DESIDERIUS ERASMUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN GUALBERT, FOUNDER OF THE VALLOMBROSAN BENEDICTINES

THE FEAST OF NATHAN SODERBLOM, ECUMENIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/proverbs-and-john-part-v-loving-one-another-while-god-watches-us/

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