Archive for the ‘Idolatry’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 29, Year C (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Tribute Money, by Titian

Image in the Public Domain

Images of Gods

NOVEMBER 21, 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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Jeremiah 23:1-6

Psalm 100

Colossians 1:11-20

Luke 20:20-26

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The application of imagery reserved for YHWH in the Hebrew Bible to Jesus in the New Testament makes sense, given Trinitarian theology.  Psalm 100 lauds God (YHWH), the Good Shepherd.  YJWH is the Good Shepherd in Jeremiah 23:1-6.  Jesus is the self-identified Good Shepherd in John 10, not one of today’s assigned readings.  Jesus, like YHWH in various Psalms, has primacy in creation, according to Colossians 1:15.

I will turn to the Gospel reading next.

This reading, set early in Holy Week, is one in which Jesus evades a trap:

Is it permissible for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?

–Luke 20:23b, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

“Yes” and “no” were dangerous answers.  If Jesus had replied, “no,” he would have made himself a target for Romans, who were swarming in Jerusalem that week.  On the other hand, if Jesus had responded, “yes,” he would have offended those who interpreted the Law of Moses to read that paying such taxes was illegal.

Jesus evaded the trap and ensnared those trying to ensnare him.  Why did the spies carry Roman denarii into the Temple complex?  A denarius, an idol, technically.  That year, the image on the coin was that of Emperor Tiberius.  The English translation of the Latin inscription was,

Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus, Augustus.

Jesus asked a seemingly obvious question with a straight-forward answer.

Show me a denarius.  Whose head and name are on it?

–Luke 20:25, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

The answer was obvious.  Our Lord and Savior’s answer was one for the ages:

Well then, give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar–and to God what belongs to God.

–Luke 20:25, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

The coin bore the image of Tiberius Caesar.  He was welcome to have it back.

Each of us bears the image of God.  Each of us belongs to God.  Each of us has a mandate to be faithful to God in all matters.  All areas of human life fall under divine authority.  Human, temporal authority is limited, though.

One of the features of segments of Christianity in the United States of America that disturbs me is the near-worship (sometimes worship) of the nation-state.  I refer not exclusively to any given administration and/or nation-state.  Administrations come and go.  Nation-states rise and fall.  The principle of which I write remains constant.  In my North American context, the Americanization of the Gospel in the service of a political program and/or potentate dilutes and distorts the Gospel.  The purposes of the Gospel include confronting authority, not following it blindly.  True Judeo-Christian religion has a sharp prophetic edge that informs potentates how far they fall short of God’s ideals and that no nation-state is the Kingdom of God.

We have only one king anyway.  That monarch is YHWH, as N. T. Wright correctly insists in Jesus and the Victory of God (1996).  Jesus defies human definitions of monarchy.  This is a prominent theme in the Gospel of John.  Yet the theme of Christ the King Sunday is timeless.  Despite appearances to the contrary, God remains sovereign.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH; AND SAINT ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH AND “FATHER OF ORTHODOXY”

THE FEAST OF CHARLES SILVESTER HORNE, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHARLES FRIEDRICH HASSE, GERMAN-BRITISH MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF JULIA BULKLEY CADY CORY, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGISMUND OF BURGUNDY, KING; SAINT CLOTILDA, FRANKISH QUEEN; AND SAINT CLODOALD, FRANKISH PRINCE AND ABBOT

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2020/05/02/images-of-gods/

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Devotion for Proper 23, Year C (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Parable of the Unjust Steward, by Jan Luyken

Image in the Public Domain

Perplexing Readings

OCTOBER 10, 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 15:1-23 or Jeremiah 31:27-34

Psalm 109:1-5, 21-27, 30-31

Romans 11:1-21

Luke 16:1-15

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We have some perplexing readings this Sunday.  Seldom does a lectionary load a Sunday with difficult lessons.

  1. The attack on the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15 was to avenge an Amalekite attack on Israelites centuries prior, in Exodus 17:8-16.
  2. According to Deuteronomy 20:16-18 and 25:17-19, King Saul and his forces, engaged in a holy war (Is there such a thing?), should have killed all enemies, taken no prisoners, and taken no booty.  They took booty and spared the life of King Agag, though.  This, according to 1 Samuel 15, led to God’s final rejection of Saul, who had blamed others for his violation of the law.  (Are not glad that leaders everywhere no longer deflect blame for their errors?  That is a sarcastic question, of course.)
  3. The tone in Psalm 109 is relentlessly unforgiving.
  4. We read in Romans 11:1-21 that Gentile believers are, by the mercy of God, a branch grafted onto the Jewish tree.  Yet the Gentile branch is not exempt from the judgment of God.  The Gentile branch also has a long and shameful record of anti-Semitism.
  5. The Parable of the Unjust Steward/Corrupt Manager is a challenging text.  The titular character is not a role model, after all.  Yet he is intelligent and able to secure his future by committing favors he can call in when he needs to do so.  One point is that we should be astute, but not corrupt.  Naïveté is not a spiritual virtue.
  6. Money is a tool.  It should never be an idol, although it frequently is.  Greed is one of the more common sins.

I admit my lack of comfort with 1 Samuel 15 and its background.  As Amy-Jill Levine says, people did things differently back then.

I also know well the desire for divine vindication, as well as the unwillingness to forgive.  And, when I want to forgive, I do not always know how to do so.  This reminds me of the predicament of St. Paul the Apostle in Romans 7:19-20.

Each of us is susceptible to many forms of idolatry.  Something or someone becomes an idol when one treats something of someone as an idol.  Function defines an idol.

And what about that parable?  In the context of the Gospel of Luke, one needs also to consider teachings about wealth–blessed are the poor, woe to the rich, et cetera.  The theme of reversal of fortune is germane.  Also, the order not to exalt oneself, but to be kind to those who cannot repay one (Luke 14:7-14) constitutes a counterpoint to the dishonest/corrupt/astute manager/steward.  Remember, also, that if the fictional manager/steward had been honest, he would have kept his job longer, and we would not have that parable to ponder as we scratch our heads.

Obeying the Golden Rule, being as innocent as doves, and being as wise as serpents seems like a good policy.  May we heed the law of God written on our hearts, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 27, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WASHINGTON DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF NEW JERSEY; AND HIS SON, WILLIAM CROSWELL DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ALBANY; HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANTONY AND THEODOSIUS OF KIEV, FOUNDERS OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONASTICISM; SAINT BARLAAM OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT; AND SAINT STEPHEN OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF CHRISTINA ROSSETTI, POET AND RELIGIOUS WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS REMACLUS OF MAASTRICHT, THEODORE OF MAASTRICHT, LAMBERT OF MAASTRICHT, HUBERT OF MAASTRICT AND LIEGE, AND FLORIBERT OF LIEGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT LANDRADA OF MUNSTERBILSEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; AND SAINTS OTGER OF UTRECHT, PLECHELM OF GUELDERLAND, AND WIRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARIES

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZITA OF TUSCANY, WORKER OF CHARITY

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2020/04/27/perplexing-readings/

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Devotion for Proper 18, Year C (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Parable of the Rich Fool, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Abundance, Overabundance, and Scarcity

SEPTEMBER 5, 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 3:1-20 or Jeremiah 18:1-11

Psalm 104:1-6, 14-24

Romans 7:12-25

Luke 12:13-21

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Abundance is of God.  Scarcity is a human creation.

The society in which Jesus lived consisted mostly of poor people.  A small portion of the population controlled most of the wealth.  The middle class was very small.  The society in which Jesus lived resembled many contemporary societies in these ways.  The rich fool in the parable hoarded much more food than he needed; he should have kept what he needed for himself and shared the rest.  That was his moral obligation to the poor, according to the Law of Moses and the testimony of the Hebrew prophets.  The rich fool was not bereft of teaching of the law and the testimony of the prophets.  He chose to disregard them.

Assuming that one (1) recognizes the voice of God, and (2) understands what that voice tells one to do, obeying that voice may prove challenging, as St. Paul the Apostle knew.  Temptation is strong, after all.  The temptation to trust in that which is tangible is hardwired into human psychology.  Human psyches frequently stand between us and our potential in God.  This overarching problem is both psychological and spiritual.  It holds back individuals and societies, to common detriment.  However, assuming that one does not recognize the voice of God or what that voice tells one to do, one is like the rich fool in the parable.  Obliviousness to God is a spiritual and societal affliction.

In Augustinian terms, sin is disordered love.  God is worthy of the most love.  People, hobbies, et cetera, are worthy of less love.  To love anyone or anything more than one ought to do is to have disordered love and to commit idolatry, to draw love away from God.  Hoarding, as in the parable, is a psychological and a spiritual ailment.

Life does not consist of the abundance of possessions, Jesus teaches us.I know hoarding when I see it, based on other people’s houses in which I have been present, as well as on some reality television programs.  I have never been a hoarder.  Nevertheless, I know the negative consequences of having collected too many possessions.  I also know the joys of downsizing.  I know the sensation of having become the possession of the inanimate objects, as well as the joys of removing many of them, revealing walls and floors.  I rejoice in seeing uncluttered surfaces and walls with a few, spaced-out pictures on them.  I understand that overabundance is antithetical to abundant life.  Overabundance leads one to serve possessions and to swear fealty to them, not to God.

Abundance is of God.  There is enough of everything for all people to have what they need.  Scarcity is a sinful, human creation.  It is the inevitable result of overabundance, rooted in idolatry.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 22, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GENE BRITTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF DONALD S. ARMENTROUT, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HADEWIJCH OF BRABERT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF KATHE KOLLWITZ, GERMAN LUTHERAN ARTIST AND PACIFIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT VITALIS OF GAZA, MONK, HERMIT, AND MARTYR, CIRCA 625

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2020/04/22/abundance-overabundance-and-scarcity/

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Devotion for Proper 11, Year C (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Jephthah

Image in the Public Domain

Character, Part I

JULY 18, 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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Judges 11:1-8, 30-40 or Jeremiah 7:1-15

Psalm 90:1-10, 13-17

Romans 2:13-29

Luke 9:51-62

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Judges 11, in which we read of the judge Jephthah, is certainly absent from books of Bible stories for children.  I wonder if Jesus had the fate of Jephthah’s unnamed daughter in mind when he taught not to swear an oath, but to let yes be yes and no be no (Matthew 5:33-37).  Tammi J. Schneider is correct; in the story of Jephthah we read of a man who had

no qualities, no deeds, no crisis, no God.

We also read of a man who reaped what he sowed.  Unfortunately, we read that his daughter reaped it, too.

The Hebrew Bible describes the character of God mostly by recounting what God did and had done.  By the same logic, we are like what we do and have done.

What do we do?  Do we seek wisdom?  Do we practice idolatry?  Do we practice and/or condone economic injustice?  Do we oppress aliens?  Do we deal fairly with each other?  Do we make excuses for not following God?  Is the law of God written on our hearts?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

WEDNESDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF SAINT OLGA OF KIEV, REGENT OF KIEVAN RUSSIA; SAINT ADALBERT OF MAGDEBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT ADALBERT OF PRAGUE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MARTYR, 997; AND SAINTS BENEDICT AND GAUDENTIUS OF POMERANIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 997

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DAMIEN AND MARIANNE OF MOLOKAI, WORKERS AMONG LEPERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT FLAVIA DOMITILLA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NOBLEWOMAN; AND SAINTS MARO, EUTYCHES, AND VICTORINUS OF ROME, PRIESTS AND MARTYS, CIRCA 99

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUNNA OF ALSACE, THE “HOLY WASHERWOMAN”

THE FEAST OF LUCY CRAFT LANEY, AFRICAN-AMERICAN PRESBYTERIAN EDUCATOR AND CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2020/04/15/character-part-i/

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Devotion for Proper 10, Year C (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Gideon

Image in the Public Domain

Who Do You Think You Are?

JULY 11, 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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Judges 7:1-8, 16-22 or Jeremiah 3:21-4:4

Psalm 89:46-52

Romans 2:1-12

Luke 9:37-50

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To the extent that any person or group is estranged from God, the fault is entirely human.  Sin creates estrangement from God.  Many people blame God for that which God did not do and for which they have no business blaming God.  Many people blame God when they should blame other people and/or themselves.  Many people scapegoat God.  Many people operate from an erroneous God concept, as one reads in J. B. Phillips‘s classic book, Your God is Too Small (1961).

Perhaps the core of the readings for this Sunday is,

Who do you think you are?

Do we–individually and collectively–think more highly of ourselves than we should?

For the least among you all, that is the one who is great.

–Luke 9:48c, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Do we think we are less sinful than others?  Do we think we are more worthy of glory than God?  Do we imagine that we do not depend on each other and entirely on God?  If we do, we err.

Ego can be difficult to tame.  Bringing it into line requires divine assistance.  I do not pretend to have mastered humility.  However, I know that, by grace, ego is less of a problem than it used to be.  I, as a mere mortal, am vulnerable to human frailties.  I am also responsible for my sins.  Ego, in balance, has its place.  Ego, in balance, is positive.  Ego, unbalanced, destroys and damages others and self, and constitutes a form of idolatry.  In Augustinian terms, I write of disordered love.

The ethics and morals Jesus taught are not topsy-turvy; social mores that contradict them are.  The ethics and morals Jesus taught are not topsy-turvy; human psychology frequently is.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 14, 2020 COMMON ERA

TUESDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF EDWARD THOMAS DEMBY AND HENRY BEARD DELANY, EPISCOPAL SUFFRAGAN BISHOPS FOR COLORED WORK

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANTHONY, JOHN, AND EUSTATHIUS OF VILNIUS, MARTYRS IN LITHUANIA, 1347

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FREDERICK HANDEL, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT WANDREGISILUS OF NORMANDY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT LAMBERT OF LYONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZENAIDA OF TARSUS AND HER SISTER, SAINT PHILONELLA OF TARSUS; AND SAINT HERMIONE OF EPHESUS; UNMERCENARY PHYSICIANS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2020/04/14/who-do-you-think-you-are/

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Devotion for Proper 20, Year B (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Elijah in the Wilderness, by Washington Allston

Image in the Public Domain

Signs

SEPTEMBER 20, 2020

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

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

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of 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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Exodus 32:1-14 or 1 Kings 19:1-15

Psalm 59:1-5, 16-17

Hebrews 4:1-13

Mark 8:22-33

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Yahweh, God of Hosts, God of Israel!

Awake to punish all the nations,

show no mercy to wicked traitors.

–Psalm 59:6, Mitchell J. Dahood (1968)

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That attitude is consistent with God’s Plan A in Exodus 32, after the idolatry and apostasy at the base of the mountain.  Aaron’s poor excuse still makes me laugh, though.

So I said to them, “Whoever has gold, take it off!  They gave it to me and I hurled it into the fire and out came this calf!

–Exodus 32:24, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Exodus and Mark contain stories of dramatic, powerful encounters with God.  We read of visual and tactile experiences. We also read of short-lived faithfulness, of much grumbling, of obliviousness, of recognition followed by official denial, and of fidelity.

The juxtaposition of the formerly blind man (Mark 8:22-26) and the obliviousness of St. Simon Peter (Mark 8:32-33) highlights the spiritual blindness of the latter man.  The stories also challenge us to ponder our spiritual blindness.

Even Elijah, who had recently confronted the prophets of Baal Peor then presided over their slaughter (1 Kings 18), had to deal with his spiritual blindness.  While hiding from Queen Jezebel and feeling sorry for himself, he encountered God, who, in that context, revealed self not in dramatic ways (as Baal Peor would have done), but in a still, small voice, or, as The New Jerusalem Bible (1985) renders the text,

a light murmuring sound.

Do we fail to notice messages from God because we seek dramatic signs?

Sometimes, in the Gospels, one reads of Jesus performing a miracle, followed by people demanding a sigh.  One’s jaw should drop.  One should seek God for the correct reasons and not become attached to dramatic signs.  God whispers sometimes.  God whispers to us, to those similar to us, and to those quite different from us.  God judges and forgives.  Signs are abundant.  How many do we notice?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/07/25/signs-part-ii/

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Devotion for Proper 3, Year B (Humes)   Leave a comment

Above:  Job and His Alleged Friends

Image in the Public Domain

The Idol of Certainty

NOT OBSERVED IN 2020

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

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

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of 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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Job 8:8-22 or Deuteronomy 11:18-28

Psalm 42

James 2:18-26

Mark 2:1-12

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In the perfect moral universe of Bildad the Shuhite and those who think like him, piety is a shield against misfortune.  This is an attitude present in parts of the Book of Psalms.  That book also contradicts the attitude, however, for certain psalms acknowledge that innocent people suffer.

Jesus, without ignoring that the suffering of many resulted partially from their sins, did not state that all human suffering resulted from the sins of the suffering.  His sinless life testified to a different reality, that sometimes we suffer because of the sins of others, and piety sometimes leads to persecution and/or death.

Certainty can become an idol, as in the cases of Bildad (Job 8) and the accusers of Jesus (Mark 2).  Idols abound; certainty is one of the most popular ones.  I refer to false, misplaced certainty, not to confirmed knowledge, such as 2 + 2 = 4.  No, I refer to certainty that fills voids meant for faith in God.  The human psyche craves certainty.  Unfortunately, false certainty leads to conspiracy theories, to other denial of reality, and to idolatry.  In reality, what we do not know outweighs what we do know, and humility is in order; certainty be damned much of the time.

May we walk the path of faith in Christ without ignoring that of which we can objectively be certain.  May God grant us the wisdom to recognize the difference between matters in which we need faith and those in which we can reasonably have certainty.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2019 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 DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

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

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Originally published at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS

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Devotion for Proper 24, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Caesar’s Coin, by Peter Paul Rubens

Image in the Public Domain

The Presence of God

OCTOBER 20, 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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Song of Songs 2:8-13 or Isaiah 59:1-4, 7-14, 20-21

Psalm 34:11-22

1 Corinthians 12:12-31

Matthew 22:15-33

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The Song of Songs is a text between a man and a woman, lovers, perhaps married.  They are in mortal danger because of their love.  I reject overly metaphorical interpretation of the book, such as it is between YHWH and Israel or Christ and the Church.  Nevertheless, the affirmation that God is present in the details of our lives does sacramentalize them.

Speaking of our lives, we Christians have the calling to fulfill our roles in the Church, the body of Christ.  We are all important in that respect.  If we do not do our part, we diminish the Church.

The readings from which Isaiah 59 and Psalm 34 complement each other.  God does not separate Himself from us.  No, we separate ourselves from God.  We do this collectively and individually.  We do this via rife injustice.  We do this via idolatry.  We do this via violence.  These sins have consequences in this life and the next one, we read, but God remains faithful and merciful.  Divine judgment comes bound up with divine mercy, however.

Speaking of idolatry, what was one of our Lord and Savior’s supposedly devout adversary doing with that idolatrous, blasphemous Roman coin?  The Pharisaic trick question was, in the mind of the man who asked it, supposed to entrap Jesus, who might sound like a traitor by advising against paying the Roman head tax or might offend Zealots, Jewish nationalists.  The empire had instituted the head tax in the province of Judea in 6 C.E.  The tax had prompted insurrection.  The tax’s existence contributed to the First Jewish War, after the time of Jesus and before the composition of the Gospel of Matthew.  The tax was payable only in Roman coinage.  At the time of the scene the coinage bore the image of Caesar Tiberius (I) and the inscription (in Latin) translated

Tiberius Caesar, august son of the divine Augustus, high priest.

Jesus found the middle way and turned the tables, so to speak, on those seeking to ensnare him in his words.

Another trick question followed.  Some Sadducees, who rejected belief in the afterlife, asked a question, rooted in levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5-10).  At the time of the writing of that law, the concept of the afterlife was not part of Judaism.  Those Sadducees had missed the point and weaponized scripture.  Jesus challenged their religious authority.

Tip:  Do not attempt to entrap Jesus in his words.

If we will trust God to help us lead holy lives mindful of the divine presence in all details, especially those we might think of as mundane or not sacred yet not bad, we will find sacred meaning in tasks as simple as housework.  We will also be too busy finding such meaning that we will not act like those people condemned in Isaiah 59 or those who attempted to ensnare Jesus verbally.  No, we will be too busy being aware of living in the presence of God to do any of that.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 16, 2018 COMMON ERA

PROPER 19:  THE SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT CYPRIAN OF CARTHAGE, BISHOP AND MARTYR, 258; AND SAINTS CORNELIUS, LUCIUS I, AND STEPHEN I, BISHOPS OF ROME

THE FEAST OF GEORGE HENRY TRABERT, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR AND AUTHOR

THE FEAST OF JAMES FRANCIS CARNEY, U.S.-HONDURAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MISSIONARY, REVOLUTIONARY, AND MARTYR, 1983

THE FEAST OF MARTIN BEHM, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/09/16/the-presence-of-god-part-vi/

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Devotion for Proper 20, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Sunlight Through Trees with Building Ruins

Photographer = Theodor Horydczak

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-H824-T-1927-005

A Light to the Nations

SEPTEMBER 22, 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 42:1-26 or Isaiah 49:1-13

Psalm 26

1 Corinthians 10:1-17

Matthew 16:13-28

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God raises the stakes.  One would think (in Isaiah 49) that, for the people of Israel, identified as the servant of God, restoring the survivors of Israel after the Babylonian Exile would be a sufficiently daunting challenge.  But no!  The mission of the people of Israel in Isaiah 49 is to be a light to the nations.  In Matthew 16 we read of the Confession of St. Peter (yes, the rock upon which Christ built the Church) and Jesus’s immediate rebuke of St. Peter, who failed to understand the meanings of messiahship and discipleship.  Each of us has a calling to take up his or her cross and follow Jesus.  One who does not do that is not a follower of Jesus.  In Genesis 42 we read of most of Joseph’s brothers.  Their challenge, we read, is really to face themselves.  That is our greatest challenge, is it not?  Can each of us deal effectively with the person in the mirror?

The main words in 1 Corinthians 10:1-17 are “idols” and “idolatry.”  Idols, for us, are whatever we treat as such.  Everyone has a set of them.  The test of idolatry is whether an object, practice, idea, et cetera distracts one from God, who calls us to lay idols aside.  How can we follow Christ and be lights of God when pursuing idols instead?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 28, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF AMBROSE OF MILAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT MONICA OF HIPPO, MOTHER IF SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO; AND SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF HIPPO REGIUS

THE FEAST OF DENIS WORTMAN, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LAURA S. COPERHAVER, U.S. LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER AND MISSIONARY LEADER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MOSES THE BLACK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/08/28/a-light-to-the-nations-viii/

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Devotion for Proper 16, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Judah and Tamar, by the School of Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

The Law of Mercy

AUGUST 25, 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 38:1-26 or Isaiah 40:21-31

Psalm 18:31-36, 43-50

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Matthew 12:1-21

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Temple prostitution, in the background in Genesis 38, might be background for 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 also.  If it is, the reading becomes deeper than it is otherwise.  If to engage in sexual relations with a pagan prostitute is to unite with the deity the prostitute serves, idolatry becomes an issue.  Christians are supposed to function as part of the body of Christ, therefore visiting a pagan temple prostitute is worse than visiting a prostitute in general.

Speaking of Genesis 38, it is another of those different stories we find frequently in the Hebrew Bible.  It remains a proverbial hot potato.  When must a father-in-law sire his grandsons?  When the laws governing levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5-10) dictate.  The text does not condemn Tamar for her deceit either, for the narrative makes plain that it was the option left open to her.

In June 1996 my father became the pastor of the Asbury United Methodist Church in northern Appling County, Georgia, U.S.A.  One of the adult Sunday School classes was reading the Book of Genesis a chapter at a time.  One week the teacher announced that the class would not discuss Chapter 38 (although they had apparently discussed Chapter 37 the previous week), but would talk about Chapter 39 instead.  I wonder if the teacher also skipped the rape of Dinah and the subsequent bloodbath in Chapter 34.  Probably, yes.

When passages of scripture make us that uncomfortable, we should study them.  We should study all of the Bible, of course, but double down on the parts that cause us to squirm.

God is strong, mighty, loving, and trustworthy, we read.  Sometimes mercy on some takes the form of judgment on others.  After all, judgment on oppressors does help the oppressed, does it not?

Much occurs theologically in Matthew 12:1-21, but the major point is that mercy overrides Sabbath laws.  We read that some labor was mandatory on the Sabbath, especially for priests.  So yes, we read Jesus announce, the hungry may pluck grain and the man with the withered hand may receive healing, not just rudimentary first aid.

In the Gospel of Matthew one of the points drilled into the text was that Jesus did not seek to destroy the Law of Moses.  No, he presented his interpretation as correct and in opposition to the interpretations of his critics.  Jesus stood within the context of Judaism, not against it.  For example, the Mishnah, published in 200 C.E. (about 170 years after the crucifixion of Jesus), listed 39 types of labor prohibited on the Sabbath.  Plucking food was not one of them.  Christ’s opponents in Chapter 12:1-21 were, to use an anachronistic expression, more Catholic than the Pope.

The Sabbath, in the Law of Moses, was about liberation.  Slaves in Egypt received no days off, so a day off was a mark of freedom.  Besides, science and experience have taught us the necessity of down time.  Much of my Christian tradition has reacted against leisure (especially “worldly amusements,” a bane of Pietism and Puritanism) and insisted that idle hands are the Devil’s workshop.  Nevertheless, science and experience have affirmed the necessity of a certain amount of idleness.

Judaism, at its best, is not legalistic; neither is Christianity.  Yet legalistic Jews and Christians exist.  A healthy attitude is to seek to respond to God faithfully, without becoming lost in the thicket of laws, without failing to see the forest for the trees, without mistaking culturally specific examples for timeless principles, without shooting cannon balls at gnats, and without forgetting mercy.

And while one is doing that, one should read the scriptural passages that make one squirm in one’s seat.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 30, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLARENCE JORDAN, SOUTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CHRYSOLOGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF RAVENNA AND DEFENDER OF ORTHODOXY

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICENTA CHÁVEZ OROZCO, FOUNDRESS OF THE SERVANTS OF THE HOLY TRINITY AND THE POOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM PINCHON, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/07/30/the-law-of-mercy/

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