Archive for the ‘John 15’ Tag

Devotion for Trinity Sunday (Year D)   1 comment

ancient-corinth

Above:  Ancient Corinth

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-07406

Building Each Other Up in Christ

JUNE 7, 2020

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The Collect:

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 9:1-9, 11:1-13 or Ecclesiastes 8:1-17

Psalm 35

John 15:18-25 (26-27); 16:1-4a

2 Corinthians 12:11-21; 13:1-10 (11-13)

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One might suffer for any of a number of reasons.  One might, as did Solomon, suffer for one’s sins; actions do have consequences, after all.  Or one might suffer because of the sins of at least one other person.  This is one reason one might suffer for the sake of righteousness.  Or perhaps one might suffer for merely being at the wrong place at the wrong time.  On other occasions there might be no apparent reason for one’s suffering.

This is a devotion for Trinity Sunday.  Many attempts to explain the mystery of the Holy Trinity have resulted in heresy.  I have resolved to cease trying to explain it and to revel in the glorious mystery instead.  God is greater and more glorious than I can imagine; thanks be to God!

I do feel comfortable in making some comments, however.  For example, Jesus of Nazareth (the historical figure) was the incarnated form of the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son.  I do not pretend to grasp the mechanics of the Godhead, but so be it.  Jesus suffered and died, but not because of any sin of his; he committed none.  God suffered due to human sinfulness and made something wondrous out of something brutal and base.

That extravagant grace imposes certain obligations on those who benefit from it.  Among these obligations is building each other up.  St. Paul the Apostle’s words on that topic remain as applicable today as they were in Corinth nearly 2000 years ago.  Christ Jesus is in me.  He is also in you, O reader.  He is also in those around us.  How will we treat them?  We have Jesus, a role model, to emulate.  Where would the human race be without him?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT FILIP SIPHONG ONPHITHAKT, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN THAILAND

THE FEAST OF MAUDE DOMINICA PETRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MODERNIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF RALPH ADAMS CRAM AND RICHARD UPJOHN, ARCHITECTS; AND JOHN LAFARGE, SR., PAINTER AND STAINED GLASS MAKER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/building-up-each-other-in-christ/

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Devotion for Monday After Proper 12, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Esther Before Ahasuerus

Above:  Esther Before Ahasuerus, by Tintoretto

Image in the Public Domain

Esther V:  Courage

JULY 29, 2019

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, you are always more ready than we are to pray,

and you gladly give more than we either desire or deserve.

Pour upon us your abundant mercy.

Forgive us those things that weigh on our conscience,

and give us those good things that come only through your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

Esther 5:1-14

Psalm 55:16-23

Colossians 2:16-3:1

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They attack those at peace with them,

going back on their oaths;

though their mouth is smoother than butter,

enmity is in their hearts;

their words more soothing than oil,

yet sharpened like swords.

–Psalm 55:20-21, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Our journey through the Book of Esther picks up with Chapter D (as The New American Bible labels it), which embellishes upon and replaces 5:1-2.  Queen Esther enters the presence of King Ahasuerus.  Perhaps she is manipulative in showing great deference to him, as to win his favor, but we can forgive her that, given the circumstances, which is to say, the possibility of execution.  The monarch is tender toward her and grants her whatever she wishes, which is a banquet the next day with Haman present.  Haman, meanwhile, continues to plot against Mordecai and has an impaling stake (for Mordecai’s execution) erected.  Haman is indeed one who, in the words of Psalm 55, has enmity in his heart.

The advice from Colossians to seek “the things that are above” is always appropriate.  Certainly placing one’s life at risk for the benefit of others falls into that category.  It is a courageous act, one that requires selfless love.  There is no higher love than to lay down one’s life for another or for others (John 15:13).  To risk doing that is close enough to that standard for that category, at least in my thinking.

I read the story of Esther in Chapters D and 5 then ask myself what I might have done in her situation.  I might have chosen the easy way out and laid low.  After all, who wants to die by being impaled on a stake?  The story convicts the great mass of us of our moral cowardice.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, BISHOP OF ARMAGH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/03/17/esther-v-courage/

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Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 16, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Ancient Jerusalem with Solomon's Temple

Above:  Ancient Jerusalem with Solomon’s Temple

Image in the Public Domain

Enemies, Divine Judgment, and Divine Mercy

AUGUST 29, 2018

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The Collect:

Holy God, your word feeds your people with life that is eternal.

Direct our choices and preserve us in your truth,

that, renouncing what is evil and false, we may live in you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 33:10-16

Psalm 119:97-104

John 15:16-25

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How I love your law!

All day long I pore over it.

Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies

for it is available to me for ever.

Psalm 119:97-98, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)

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One might have enemies for a wide range of reasons.  Being godly is one of them.  That helps to explain hostility to Jesus, who made evident defects in the political (including religious) and economic systems of First Century C.E. Judea.  (One function of much of the language of the Kingdom of God was to make clear the contrast between human and divine orders.)  Many other faithful people have encountered hostility and/or violence and/or death because of their fidelity to God and their lived applications of divine commandments relative to social justice.  Often those who have despised them and/or condoned or committed violence against them have imagined themselves to be righteous.  Their attitudes and actions and/or inactions have belied that conceit.

Sometimes, however, one has enemies for reasons separate from righteousness.  Such is the case in Isaiah 33.  The unidentified foe (probably the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire) will ultimately perish, as will the sinful people fo the Kingdom of Judah.  Yet a remnant of Judah will survive, for Jerusalem is like a ship floating on a sea of divine love.  The Kingdom of Judah will fall to the conquerors, but God will remain undefeated.  God, never conquered, will restore Judah, for judgment does not preclude love in relation to those whom God has chosen.

Concepts of God are inherently inadequate, for God is infinite and our minds cannot grasp the nature of God.  I have sought to become increasingly aware of the limits of my God concept, which is broader than those many others harbor.  The most workable solution at which I can arrive is to acknowledge limitations of human knowledge relative to God, affirm that what I can know will have to suffice, make the most faithful statements I can, and admit that I am certainly mistaken about a great deal.  My statements of faith are like the song of the bird in a story Anthony De Mello (1931-1987) told in The Song of the Bird (1982).  Yes, every statement about God is a distortion of the truth, but speak and write about God for the same reason the bird sings:

Not because it has a statement, but because it has a song.

–Page 4

The nature of God is a mystery I will never solve, and that is fine.  Where divine judgment ends and divine mercy begins is another mystery I will never solve.  That is also fine.

One lesson I feel comfortable stating unambiguously concerns having enemies.  Whenever I have a foe or foes, I should not assume that God is on my side.  No, I need to ask if I am on God’s side.  I might even arrive at an answer (hopefully an accurate one) to that questions.  Nationalism often gets in the way on this point for many people.  The British national anthem, “God Save the King/Queen,” includes the following frequently omitted stanza:

O Lord, our God, arise,

Scatter his/her enemies

and make them fall.

Confound their politics,

Frustrate their knavish tricks,

On Thee our hopes we fix,

God save us all.

Yet, as Irishman Monsignor Hugh O Flaherty (1898-1963) liked to say,

God has no country.

God created human beings in the divine image.  We have reciprocated.  Perhaps it is something we cannot help but to do, for we must think and write of God in human terms, or not at all.  Nevertheless, if we use our metaphors in the knowledge that they are metaphors, perhaps we will avoid falling into certain theological errors.

As for divine judgment and mercy, they are in the purview of God, where they belong and have always been.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL STENNETT, ENGLISH SEVENTH-DAY BAPTIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN HOWARD, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, APOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA, BIBLE SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/enemies-divine-judgment-and-divine-mercy/

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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 26, 2018

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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 September 14 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Tree Roots

Above:  Tree Roots

Photographed by Samuel Herman Gottscho (1875-1971) on August 22, 1932

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZC2-4270

2 Chronicles and Colossians, Part II:  Gratitude to God

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 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 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:

2 Chronicles 33:1-25

Psalm 104 (Morning)

Psalms 118 and 111 (Evening)

Colossians 1:23-2:7

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If you love me you will keep my commandments.

–John 14:15, The New Jerusalem Bible

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The theme of keeping divine commandments unites this day’s readings.  The psalms (104, 111, and 118) and the lesson from Colossians speak of gratitude in various contexts.  One way of expressing gratitude is doing that which pleases the one to whom one is grateful.  The opposite pattern fills the verses of the lection from 2 Chronicles.

God has done so much for us that we can never repay the debt, not that God expects us to do that.  But simple gratitude–lived gratitude–is proper and possible.  We do  not have to guess what pleases God, for we have a model–Jesus–to follow.  The definition of discipleship in Christianity is following Jesus through good and bad times.  May our love for God, by grace, glorify God, bring others to God, and demonstrate our gratitude to the One who has done more for us than we can repay.  May we, rooted in Christ, be Christ to others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 24, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATTHIAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/2-chronicles-and-colossians-part-ii-gratitude-to-god/

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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

SUNDAY AND MONDAY, JUNE 14 AND 15, 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 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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