Archive for the ‘Image of God’ Tag

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

OCTOBER 31, 2022

NOVEMBER 1, 2022

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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 Saturday Before Proper 23, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Moses Prays for Miriam To Be Healed

Above:   Moses Prays for the Healing of Miriam

Image in the Public Domain

Inclusion and Exclusion

OCTOBER 8, 2022

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The Collect:

Almighty and most merciful God, your bountiful goodness fills all creation.

Keep us safe from all that may hurt us,

that, whole and well in body and spirit,

we may with grateful hearts accomplish all that you would have us to do,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 14:33-53 (Thursday)

Numbers 4:34-5:4 (Friday)

Psalm 111 (Both Days)

2 Timothy 1:13-18 (Thursday)

2 Timothy 2:1-7 (Friday)

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Hallelujah!

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,

in the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.

–Psalm 111:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The word “leprosy,” in the Bible, has a broad definition, applying to a variety of diseases of the skin.  Such conditions also fall under the heading of ritual impurity (consult Numbers 5:2a) and require a time of isolation before one returns to one’s community and to a state of ritual purity (consult Leviticus 13).

In Numbers 12 Miriam spoke negatively of Moses.  Her punishment was a bad case of snow-white scales, which usually would have caused her to go away for two weeks.  It became seven days, however, due to the intercession of her esteemed brother.  The rabbinical name for her condition was metzora, from motzi’ shem ra’, or “uttering an evil name.”  Her sin was slander, but the object of that offense pleaded to God on her behalf.  A time of removal from the community was inevitable, but the goal of the leadership of that community was always restoration.

In Luke 5 Jesus healed a man with some kind of skin disease.  It was not leprosy, in the narrow, clinical definition of that term, but it was enough to render the man ritually impure and to isolate him from his community.  Then Jesus commanded him to obey the requirements of Leviticus 14 and not to tell anyone (other than the priest, per Leviticus 14).  Perhaps the man went to the priest, but he certainly spread the word, causing crowds to deny Jesus as much solitude as he needed.

Salvation was Christ’s primary task on the Earth; healing was something he did.  Did crowds come to him mostly to hear the words of salvation or to seek healing?  Quite often they flocked to him for the latter purpose.  There was nothing wrong with seeking wholeness and restoration, of course, but there was much more to Christ’s mission than individual wholeness and restoration.  There was, for example, collective wholeness and restoration.

A community cannot be at its best when people who should be part of it are not.  Such people might be outsiders by their choice or the decisions of others.  Many people are outsiders because self-identified insiders exclude them, often wrongly.  Frequently we human beings define ourselves negatively–according to who or what we are not.  This practice harms us and those we exclude improperly.  As Professor Luke Timothy Johnson says, one message in the Gospel of Mark is that those who think they are insiders might actually be outsiders.  And, as Edmond Browning, a former Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, writes, in Christ there are no outsiders.

May we who follow God (or at least attempt to do so) identify as children of God who bear the divine image and respect the image of God in our fellow human beings.  Theological and personality differences will persist, of course, but we need not seek to define ourselves negatively and, by extension, others in the same way.

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/inclusion-and-exclusion/

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

Vegetables

Above:  Vegetables

Image in the Public Domain

Nobility and Love

AUGUST 25 and 26, 2022

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The Collect:

O God, you resist those who are proud and give grace those who are humble.

Give us the humility of your Son, that we may embody

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 15:13-17 (Thursday)

Proverbs 18:6-12 (Friday)

Psalm 112 (Both Days)

1 Peter 3:8-12 (Thursday)

1 Peter 4:7-11 (Friday)

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How blessed is anyone who fears Yahweh,

who delights in his commandments!

–Psalm 112:1, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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These days’ readings, taken together, extol humility, love, and recognition of complete dependence upon God.  As one saying from Proverbs states eloquently,

Better a meal of vegetables where there is love

Than a flattened ox where there is hate.

–15:17, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Like unto that is the commandment to

maintain constant love for one another

–1 Peter 4:8a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989),

which is consistent with the ethic of human responsibilities to and for each other, as in the Law of Moses.

Pride (hubris) goes before the fall.  Humility is frequently difficult also, but it is the better path.  Yes, each of us bears the image of God, but each of us also carries an imperfect nature.  Depravity is not even an article of faith for me, for I have evidence for it, and therefore require no faith to recognize the reality of it.  Nevertheless, as I heard growing up, God did not make any garbage.  Yes, we humans are equally capable of both nobility and depravity, of love and of death.  May we, by grace, succeed more often than not in following the paths of nobility and love.

St. Paul the Apostle offered timeless wisdom in his Letter to the Romans:

Never pay back evil for evil.  Let your aims be such as all count honourable.  If possible, so far as it lies with you, live at peace with all.  My dear friends, do not seek revenge, but leave a place for divine retribution; for there is a text which reads, “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord, I will repay.”  But there is another text:  “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; by doing so you will heap live coals on his head.”  Do not let evil conquer you, but use good to conquer evil.

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

That passage cites Leviticus 19:18 and Proverbs 25:21-22.  It is also compatible with Matthew 5:43-48.

St. Paul summarized an essential part of Christian ethics better than my capacity to paraphrase it.  For that reason I leave you, O reader, with those noble words.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 24, 2016 COMMON ERA

MAUNDY THURSDAY

THE FEAST OF THOMAS ATTWOOD, “FATHER OF MODERN CHURCH MUSIC”

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIDACUS JOSEPH OF CADIZ, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF OSCAR ROMERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF SAN SALVADOR, AND THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR

THE FEAST OF PAUL COUTURIER, ECUMENIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/03/24/nobility-and-love/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 3, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Corinth

Above:   Washerwomen at Ancient Roman Fountain, Corinth, Greece

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = https://www.loc.gov/item/2003681458/

Acting According to Agape

MAY 23 and 24, 2016

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The Collect:

O God our rock, your word brings life to the whole creation

and salvation from sin and death.

Nourish our faith in your promises, and ground us in your strength,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 38

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 24:1-10 (Monday)

Jeremiah 29:10-19 (Tuesday)

Psalm 1 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 16:1-12 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 16:13-24 (Tuesday)

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How blessed is anyone who rejects the advice of the wicked

and does not stand in the path that sinners tread,

nor a seat in company with cynics,

but who delights in the law of Yahweh

and murmurs his law day and night.

–Psalm 1:1-2, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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That is one side of Psalm 1.  The other is that the way of the wicked is doomed.  The path of the misguided is likewise treacherous, but, if they change course, divine mercy will follow judgment.

One line from the readings for these two days stands out in my mind:

Let all that you do be done in love.

–1 Corinthians 16:14, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

“Love” is agape, meaning selflessness and unconditional love.  It is the form of love in 1 Corinthians 13, the great love chapter.  This is the type of love God has for people.  How we respond to that great love is crucial.  Will we accept that grace and all of its accompanying demands, such as loving our neighbors as we love ourselves?  Will we live the Incarnation of Christ?  When we sin, will we turn to God in remorse and repentance?  None of us can do all of the above perfectly, of course, but all of us can try and can depend on grace as we do so.

Who are our neighbors?  Often many of us prefer a narrow definition of “neighbor.”  Our neighbors in God are all people–near and far away, those we like and those we find intolerable, those who think as we do and those who would argue with us about the weather, those who have much and those who possess little, et cetera.  Our neighbors are a motley crew.  Do we recognize the image of God in them?  Do we seek the common good or our own selfish gain?   The truth is that whatever we do to others, we do to ourselves also, for human societies are webs of interdependency.  To seek the common good, therefore, is to seek one’s best interests.

Do we even seek to do all things out of agape?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 27, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANNE LINE AND ROGER FILCOCK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT BALDOMERUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF GEORGE HERBERT, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICTOR THE HERMIT

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/02/27/acting-according-to-agape/

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Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 28, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Destroy This Mad Brute

Above:  A U.S. Anti-German Propaganda Poster from World War I

Image in the Public Domain

Faithfulness and Faithlessness, Part II

NOVEMBER 17, 2021

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The Collect:

Almighty God, your sovereign purpose bring salvation to birth.

Give us faith amid the tumults of this world,

trusting that your kingdom comes and your will is done

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

Zechariah 12:1-13:1

Psalm 13

Mark 13:9-23

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How long, O LORD?

Will you forget me forever?

how long will you hide your face from me?

How long shall I have perplexity of mind,

and grief in my heart, day after day?

how long shall my enemy triumph over me?

Look upon me and answer me, O LORD my God;

give light to my eyes, lest I sleep in death;

lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed,”

and my foes rejoice that I have fallen.

But I trust in your mercy;

my heart is joyful because of your saving help.

I will sing to you, O LORD,

for you have dealt with me richly;

I will praise the name of the Lord Most High.

–Psalm 13, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The text of Mark 13:9-13 describes current events in much of the world.  Fortunately, that statement does not apply to my nation-state, the United States of America, where we have religious toleration.  That is an alien concept in much of the world, however.  In any case, the end of the pericope provides a segue to the other reading.

But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

–Mark 13:23b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Zechariah 12:1-13:1 is a prediction of the end times.  Tiny Judah will by the power and grace of God, find not only restoration but victory over its enemies, who will suffer.  The new, restored society will mourn over

those who are slain, wailing over them as a favorite son and showing bitter grief as over a first-born.

–Verse 10b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Proposals regarding the identity of “those who are slain” are numerous.  The slain might have come from the Gentile nations, all but annihilated in verse 9.  Mourning for one’s defeated foes seems like a well-developed spiritual virtue, does it not?  The Hebrew text is ambiguous regarding the identity of the mourned slain, so another option might be correct.  For example, maybe the lamented slain are messengers of God whom authorities persecuted and populations disregarded.  That interpretation meshes well with the reading from Mark 13.  Mourning the sins of one’s society is one step toward the goal of addressing societal ills and avoiding similar errors in the present day and the future, after all.

The vagueness of the reference to the mourned slain invites readers to interact with and ponder that text.  Perhaps more than one interpretation is correct.  One unambiguous aspect, however, is grief following the act of violence.  Whatever we do to others, we do to ourselves.  Those who commit violence are therefore victims of it.  Violence is necessary sometimes, unfortunately.  It can, however, be far less commonplace than it is.  Societies will be much better off when they grieve, not celebrate, violence (even necessary violence), and use it only as the last resort.  The same rule applies to individuals and communities.

One way governments persuade their citizens to fight wars is to dehumanize the enemies.  For example, Germans became “Huns” during World War I and Japanese became “Japs” during World War II.  Wartime propaganda in the United States depicted Germans as barely human and sometimes as beasts in 1917 and 1918.  During World War II American propaganda depicted Japanese in racially denigrating imagery and invited patriotic citizens to “slap a Jap.”  Likewise, Japanese propaganda denigrated Westerners in racial terms also.  Yet everybody involved was quite human, and the populations were not their governments.  As I write this sentence in 2015, Germany and Japan have long been allies of the United States.  We humans have no difficulty accepting the fact that our friends and allies are human, do we?

Sometimes it is proper that one side win a war and another lose it, for the sake of the world.  However, along the path to victory may we refrain from dehumanizing our fellow human beings on the other side, for God loves them also and they bear the image of God.  And, as we deal with agents of God, may we refrain from harming them, for

  1. we ought to heed them, and
  2. the use of violence for the purpose of defending one’s sense of righteousness belies the assertion of the possession of that virtue.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 10, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SCHEFFLER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORG NEUMARK, GERMAN LUTHERAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN HINES, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/faithfulness-and-faithlessness-part-ii/

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Devotion for Friday and Saturday Before Proper 27, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Fig Tree

Above:  A Fig Tree, 1915

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-01901

If Only

NOVEMBER 5 and 6, 2021

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The Collect:

O God, you show forth your almighty power

chiefly by reaching out to us in mercy.

Grant to us the fullness of your grace,

strengthen our trust in your promises,

and bring all the world to share in the treasures that come

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 15:1-11 (Friday)

Deuteronomy 24:17-22 (Saturday)

Psalm 146 (Both Days)

Hebrews 9:15-24 (Friday)

Mark 11:12-14, 20-24 (Saturday)

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Blessed is the man whose help is the God of Jacob:

whose hope is in the Lord his God,

the God who made heaven and earth:

the sea and all that is in them,

who keeps faith forever:

who deals justice to those that are oppressed.

–Psalm 146:5-7, The Alternative Service Book 1980

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For there will never cease to be needy ones in your land, which is why I command you:  open your hand to the poor and needy kinsman in your land.

–Deuteronomy 15:11, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Deuteronomy 15:11 follows two pivotal verses:

There shall be no needy among you–since the LORD your God will bless you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you as a hereditary portion–if only you heed the LORD your God and take care to keep all this instruction that I enjoin upon you this day.

–Deuteronomy 15:4-5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

“If only” is a major condition in that passage.

The readings from Deuteronomy acknowledge the reality of the presence of needy people and provide culturally specific ways to minimize the social problem.  These include:

  1. Forgiving debts of Hebrews (but not for foreigners) and the freeing of servants every seventh year;
  2. Refraining from exploiting strangers, widows, and orphans;
  3. Leaving olives on trees and grapes in vineyards for the poor to pick; and
  4. Leaving grain in the fields for the poor to glean.

Examples change according to the location and time, but the principle to care for the less fortunate on the societal and individual levels is constant.

Failure to obey these laws was among the charges Hebrews prophets made against their society.  The Temple system at the time of Jesus exploited the poor and promoted collaboration with the Roman Empire and a form of piety dependent upon wealth.  The story of the cursed fig tree in Mark 11 uses the fig tree as a symbol for Israel and the cursing of the plant as an allegory of our Lord and Savior’s rejection of the Temple system, for the two parts of the reading from Mark 11 function as bookends for the cleansing of the Temple.

And when the chief priests and scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching.

–Mark 11:19, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Therefore I find a fitting segue to the pericope from Hebrews 9, with its theme of cleansing from sin by blood.  (Let us never give the Resurrection of Jesus short shrift, for, without the Resurrection, we have a perpetually dead Jesus.)  Jesus died because of, among other reasons, the threat he posed to the political-religious Temple system, the shortcomings of which he criticized.  The actual executioners were Romans, whose empire took the law-and-order mentality to an extreme.  Our Lord and Savior was dangerous in the eyes of oppressors, who acted.  God used their evil deeds for a redemptive purpose, however.  That sounds like grace to me.

If only more societies and governments heeded the call for economic justice.  If only more religious institutions sought ways to care effectively for the poor and to reduce poverty rates.  If only more people recognized the image of God in the marginalized and acted accordingly.  If only more governments and societies considered violence to be the last resort and refrained from using it against nonviolent people.  If only…, the world would be a better place.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 6, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT VINCENTIA GEROSA AND BARTHOLOMEA CAPITANIO, COFOUNDERS OF THE SISTERS OF CHARITY OF LOVERE

THE FEAST OF ISAIAH, BIBLICAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF JAN HUS, PROTO-PROTESTANT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF OLUF HANSON SMEBY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/07/06/if-only/

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Devotion for Friday and Saturday Before Proper 26, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Parable of the Good Samaritan

Above:  Parable of the Good Samaritan

Image in the Public Domain

Treating People Properly

OCTOBER 29 and 30, 2021

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have taught us in your Son that love fulfills the law.

Inspire us to love you with all our heart, our soul, our mind, and our strength,

and teach us how to love our neighbors as ourselves,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 19:32-37 (Friday)

Numbers 9:9-14 (Saturday)

Psalm 119:1-8 (Both Days)

Romans 3:21-31 (Friday)

Luke 10:25-37 (Saturday)

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Blessed are those whose way is blameless:

who walk in the law of the Lord.

Blessed are those who keep his commands:

and seek him with their whole heart;

those who do no wrong:

but walk in the ways of our God.

For you, Lord, have commanded us:

to persevere in all your precepts.

If only my ways were unerring:

towards the keeping of your statutes!

Then I should not be ashamed:

when I looked on all your commandments.

I will praise you with sincerity of heart:

as I learn your righteous judgements.

I will keep your statutes:

O forsake me not utterly.

–Psalm 119:1-8, The Alternative Service Book 1980

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How we treat each other matters.  The most effective test of our standards in this field is how we treat vulnerable and marginalized people, such as the elderly, strangers, resident aliens, widows, orphans, and the poor.  The readings from the Torah drive this point home well.  My side reading in the Law of Moses led me to related verses, such as Exodus 22:20 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures, 1985):

You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

The following verses warn in strong and dire terms against mistreating a widow or an orphan and charging interest on a loan to a poor person.

Yet we human beings know how to create excuses for mistreating each other.  In the Parable of the Good Samaritan alone, ritual purity (in the context of defilement by coming into contact with blood or a corpse), apathy, and fear of robbers hiding nearby are possible reasons for not helping the beaten and bleeding man.  The hero of the parable is an outcast–a Samaritan, to be precise.  His canon was truncated, he was a half-breed, and he did not worship in Jerusalem.  Yet he did what the respectable religious people (in the parable) who worshiped in Jerusalem refused to do.

Exodus 12:43-49 made a big deal about circumcision in relation to the question of who may celebrate the Passover.  In contrast, St. Paul the Apostle, writing in Romans 3:30 and elsewhere, downplayed the issue of circumcision.  It was–and remains–a question of identity, hence its capacity to inspire strong emotions long ago as well as today.  I side with St. Paul, however, for I favor removing barriers to bringing people to God.  If one’s identity depends (even partially) on spiritual elitism, one has a problem.

No, may we welcome the strangers and the marginalized, recognizing the image of God in them.  May we recognize our fellow members of the household of God regardless of any categories we have learned from others and might use to exclude people unjustly.  Who are our Samaritans, people we would be shocked to think of as good?  Our Lord and Savior’s parable challenges us to question our prejudices and love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  Stern commandments from the Law of Moses also remind us of our responsibilities to strangers and other vulnerable people.  Will we make excuses for disobedience or will we seek to love our neighbors as we love ourselves?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

INDEPENDENCE DAY (U.S.A.)

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/treating-people-properly-2/

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Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 24, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Icon of Samuel

Above:  Icon of Samuel

Image in the Public Domain

Rejecting or Accepting God, Part II

OCTOBER 20, 2021

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The Collect:

Sovereign God, you turn your greatness into goodness for all the peoples on earth.

Shape us into willing servants of your kingdom,

and make us desire always and only your will,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 12:1-25

Psalm 37:23-40

John 13:1-17

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When your steps are guided by the Lord

and you delight in his way,

Though you stumble, you shall not fall headlong,

for the Lord holds you fast by the hand.

–Psalm 37:23-24, Common Worship (2000)

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This post flows naturally from its predecessor, in which Jesus identified the servant as the greatest person in the Kingdom of God.  He acted on that principle in John 13.  Long before then, elsewhere, the prophet Samuel never used his office to benefit himself.  Actually, sometimes he placed himself at risk while performing his duties.

In 1 Samuel 12, early in King Saul’s reign, the population (as a whole) had rejected God’s rule.  Yet God had not rejected the people:

For the sake of His great name, the LORD will never abandon His people, seeing that the LORD undertook to make you His people.

–1 Samuel 12:22, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Since God has remained faithful, so should we.  This is possible by grace.  One aspect of this fidelity to God in Christ is following our Lord and Savior’s example of service and humility daily.  Details will vary according to circumstances, but the principle is constant and timeless.  Recognizing the image of God in others and extending them the respect consistent with that ethic requires one to lay aside certain preconceptions and illusions of self-importance one might harbor.  That can prove to be difficult, but it is necessary and proper.  And, if one professes to follow Jesus, not to pursue that course of action increases one’s hypocrisy.

To be faithful in this way has long been a challenge for me.  Challenges, however, are possible to meet; they are difficult.  Fortunately, I have noticed much progress, for which I give thanks to God.  The room for improvement contains much potential for spiritual growth.  I welcome that growth.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

INDEPENDENCE DAY (U.S.A.)

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/rejecting-or-accepting-god-part-ii/

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Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 22, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Trees

Above:  Trees (1872), by C. D. Gedney

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-22358

Under Every Leafy Tree

OCTOBER 6, 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:

Jeremiah 3:6-14

Psalm 112

Matthew 5:27-36

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Alleluia.

Blessed are those who fear the Lord

and have great delight in his commandments.

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

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The translation of Jeremiah 3:6 in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) is vivid:

The LORD said to me in the days of King Josiah:  Have you seen what Rebel Israel did, going to every high mountain and under every leafy tree, and whoring there?

That is a reference to idolatry, which more than one Biblical writer referred to as spiritual adultery.  There is good news, however:

Go, make this proclamation toward the north, and say:  Turn back, O Rebel Israel–declares the LORD.  I will not look on you in anger, for I am compassionate–declares the LORD.  I will not bear a grudge for all time.  Only recognize your sin; for you have transgressed against the LORD your God, and scattered your favors among strangers under every leafy tree, and you have not heeded Me–declares the LORD.

–Jeremiah 3:12-13, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

That good news depends on turning away from sin and toward God, of course.

As I have noted in previous posts, what one does in private affects other people and what occurs between two people has consequences for others.  These realities are consistent with an ethic of responsibility to and for each other–mutuality.  This ethic undergirds the pericope from Matthew.  Actions flow from thoughts, hence the teaching about lusting in one’s heart.  The next verses include hyperbole; they are not orders to maim or mutilate oneself.  The teaching regarding divorce in Matthew 5:31, set in a patriarchal culture with no social safety net, exists for the protection of the woman, to spare her fates such as starvation or prostitution.  And how much better would society be if more people said what they meant and meant what they said?  The context of Matthew 5:33-37 is the practice of swearing false oaths while seeming not to do so.

How we behave toward each other and God matters greatly.  We owe everything to God, upon whom we depend completely.  One manifestation of a proper attitude toward God is treating one’s fellow human beings with the dignity inherent in bearing the image of God.  Some details of what that entails will vary according to circumstances, but the principle is eternal, constant, and timeless.  Why not seek to live humbly before God and to work for the best interests of one’s neighbors, rather than to sin “under every leafy tree,” metaphorical or literal?

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/under-every-leafy-tree/

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

Brooms

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

Photographer = Lee Russell

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USF33-011853-M3

Mutuality in God and Human Dignity

OCTOBER 4 and 5, 2021

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The Collect:

Sovereign God, you have created us to live

in loving community with one another.

Form us for life that is faithful and steadfast,

and teach us to trust like little children,

that we may reflect the image of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 22:13-30 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 24:1-5 (Tuesday)

Psalm 112 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 7:1-9 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 7:10-16 (Tuesday)

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Alleluia.

Blessed are those who fear the Lord

and have great delight in his commandments.

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

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

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

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

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

Thus you will sweep away evil from your midst

repeats throughout Deuteronomy 22, echoing after each death sentence.

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 2, 2014 COMMON ERA

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

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

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

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

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

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