Archive for the ‘John 3’ Tag

Devotion for Trinity Sunday, Year B (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Holy Trinity, by St. Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

Embrace This Mystery

MAY 26, 2023

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Psalm 149 (LBW) or Psalm 96 (LW)

Romans 8:14-17

John 3:1-17

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Almighty God our Father,

dwelling in majesty and mystery,

renewing and fulfilling creation by your eternal Spirit,

and revealing your glory through our Lord Jesus Christ: 

Cleanse us from doubt and fear,

and enable us to worship you,

with your Son and the Holy Spirit, one God,

living and reigning, now and forever.  Amen.

OR

Almighty and ever-living God,

you have given us grace,

by the confession of the true faith

to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity

and, in the power of your divine majesty,

to worship the unity. 

Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship,

and bring us at last to see you in your eternal glory,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 24

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Almighty and everlasting God,

since you have given us, your servants,

grace to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity

by the confession of a true faith,

and to worship the true Unity in the power of your divine majesty,

keep us also steadfast in this true faith and worship,

and defend us from all our adversaries;

for you, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, live and reign,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 61

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God (YHWH, Elohim, or whichever other name one prefers to use; a Christian term is God the Father) is one.  God is sovereign.  God is just.  These characteristics come from the assigned readings from the Hebrew Bible, before I turn to Romans 8 and John 3.

The readings from Romans 8 and John 3 add Jesus and the Holy Spirit to the mix.  Thus, we have all the ingredients for the formula of the Trinity.  The word “Trinity” never appears in the New Testament.  The ingredients of it do, however.  The current, orthodox form of that doctrine is the result of successive councils and rebuttals against heresies during the first few centuries of Christianity.

I have read enough books and portions of books to know that every Trinitarian heresy began as a well-meaning attempt to explain the Trinity.  So, I choose not to play that game.  No, I embrace the mystery and focus on its meanings.  One meaning is that, although God is one, God is complex, not simple.

In Christian terms, spiritual birth via the Holy Spirit is essential.  This may be quiet or dramatic.  Itay include an event one can mark as the time of spiritual renewal or it may sneak up on someone.  I belong the company of people who have, within their active memory, always known God via Jesus.  The dates I can mark on a timeline are mostly sacramental.  They include one baptism, one confirmation, and three reaffirmations, with each of the last four occurring in the presence of a bishop in Apostolic Succession.

Lutheran minister and liturgist Philip H. Pfatteicher tells us that Trinity Sunday is:

not the feast of a doctrine but…the celebration of the richness of the being of God and the occasion of a thankful review of the now-completed mystery of salvation, which is the work of the Father thorugh the Holy Spirit.

Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship:  Lutheran Liturgy in Its Ecumenical Context (1990), 301

So, on Trinity Sunday, as well as all other days, may we thank God for the

now-completed mystery of salvation.

And, with the author of Psalm 96, may we ascribe glory and might to God.  May our words, thoughts, and actions glorify God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 27, 2023 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-NINTH DAY OF LENT

THE FEAST OF CHARLES HENRY BRENT, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY BISHOP OF THE PHILIPPINES, BISHOP OF WESTERN NEW YORK, AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SAINTS NICHOLAS OWEN, THOMAS GARNET, MARK BARKWORTH, EDWARD OLDCORNE, AND RALPH ASHLEY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 1601-1608

THE FEAST OF PETER LUTKIN, EPISCOPAL COMPOSER, LITURGIST, AND MUSIC EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF ROBERT HALL BAYNES, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF MADAGASCAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT RUPERT OF SALZBURG, APOSTLE OF BAVARIA AND AUSTRIA

THE FEAST OF STANLEY ROTHER, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MISSIONARY, AND MARTYR IN GUATEMALA, 1981

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the Twenty-Sixth Sunday After Pentecost, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Madonna and Child, by Filippo Lippi

Image in the Public Domain

Like a Child in Its Mother’s Arms

NOVEMBER 12, 2023

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Malachi 2:1-2, 4-10 (LBW, LW) or Job 14:1-6 (LW)

Psalm 131 (LBW) or Psalm 90:1-12 (LW)

1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 (LW) or 1 Thessalonians 2:8-13 (LBW, LW)

Matthew 23:1-12 (LBWLW) or Mathew 24:15-28 (LW)

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Lord God, so rule and govern our hearts and minds

by your Holy Spirit that,

always keeping in mind the end of all things and the day of judgment,

we may be stirred up to holiness here

and may live with you forever in the world to come,

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 29

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O Lord, absolve your people from their offenses

that from the bonds of sins,

which by reason of our weakness we have brought upon us,

we may be delivered by your bountiful goodness;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 91

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Malachi 2:3 is not an assigned verse.  I suppose that hearing it read aloud in church would raise some awkward issues and prompt gasps of shock.  Set in the context of priests offering sacrifices wrongly after the end of the Babylonian Exile, Malachi 2:3 reads:

I will put your seed under a ban, and I will strew dung upon your faces, the dung of your festal sacrifices, and you shall be carried out to its [heap].

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures 

God seems to take proper worship seriously in Malachi 2.

For all the John 3:16 signs at sporting events, I cannot recall one Malachi 2:3 sign.  Perhaps a wiseacre should correct that oversight.

Eschatological overtones in the New Testament combine with musings about the human condition and about trust in God in the Hebrew Bible.  Psalm 131 speaks of individual and collective trust in God, described in maternal terms.  Matters individual and collective are inseparable, as John Donne (1572-1631) wrote:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Therefore, in faith community, encouraging one another is part of

a life worthy of God.

–1 Thessalonians 2:12, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Lives worthy of God, by grace, build up people.  Lives worthy of God seek and find the common good.  Lives worthy of God play out both individually and collectively.  Lives worthy of God remain deeply flawed–sinful.  That is the human condition.  Yet these lives do not wallow in that sin.  No, these lives

…keep tranquil and quiet

like a child in its mother’s arms,

as content as a child that has been weaned.

–Psalm 131:2, The Jerusalem Bible (1966).

Consider that image, O reader.  Live accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 24, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARTHOLOMEW THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for Proper 5, Year D (Humes)   2 comments

Above:  Figs, by Giovanna Garzoni

Image in the Public Domain

Mutuality in God

JUNE 10, 2018

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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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Amos 8:1-12 or Proverbs 9:1-6

Psalm 119:1-8, 12-16

1 Timothy 5:17-25

John 3:1-21

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The evildoers in Amos 8 were dishonest.  They lived to cheat people and to exploit those who were vulnerable and less fortunate.  These evildoers were, in terms of Proverbs 9, absent from Lady Wisdom’s banquet.  No, they attended Lady Folly’s banquet.  These evildoers, in terms of Psalm 119, did not have blameless ways and did not walk in the Law of God.

I seek to be clear, as Amos 8:4f is clear.  Some people seek to obey the divinely-imposed ethical mandates vis-à-vis mutuality yet get some details wrong.  Amos 8:4f does not condemn such people.  No, it condemns those who are not even trying to obey divine law, to respect God in their fellow human beings.

Such dishonest people have always been with us, unfortunately.

A lifestyle of mutuality seeks to bring out the best in others.  It strives to build the common good, therefore to respect the image of God each person bears.  This effort glorifies God.  May we humans love one another.  May we love God, too.  May we seek to build each other up, not to build ourselves up at the expense of others.  May we glorify God, not ourselves.

This is what we should do, after all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 2, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE NINTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN KONRAD WILHELM LOEHE, BAVARIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, AND COORDINATOR OF DOMESTIC AND FOREIGN MISSIONS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS NARCISSUS, ARGEUS, AND MARCELLINUS OF TOMI, ROMAN MARTYRS, 320

THE FEAST OF SAINT ODILO OF CLUNY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SABINE BARING-GOULD, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2021/01/02/devotion-for-the-seventh-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d-humes/

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/02/mutuality-in-god-vi/

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Devotion for Proper 4, Year D (Humes)   2 comments

Above:  Nicodemus Coming to Jesus, by Henry Ossawa Turner

Image in the Public Domain

Salvation and Damnation

JUNE 3, 2018

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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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Amos 7:1-17 or Proverbs 8:1-21

Psalm 118:14-29

1 Timothy 5:1-16

John 3:1-21

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Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance in the Old and New Testaments.  They find balance in Jesus in John 3.  Those who reject the light condemn themselves to the darkness.  God sends nobody to Hell.  All who go there send themselves.  We read of the impending doom of the northern Kingdom of Israel in Amos 7.  In that passage, we also read that God is in judgment mode.

Proverbs 8 speaks of divine wisdom.  That is the wisdom, the persistent, collective rejection which led to the pronouncement of divine judgment in Amos 7.  The word of God that Amos proclaimed was treasonous, according to authorities in the Kingdom of Israel.  That word of God condemned the leaders who labeled that truth as treason.  The Assyrians arrived in force, right on schedule, though.  The truth was not treason.

The reading from 1 Timothy 5 speaks to divinely-mandated ethics.  The passage also contains some culturally-specific elements that may be irrelevant to your context, O reader.  May we not become distracted by those culturally-specific details.  The timeless principle is mutuality:  We are res[pmsob;e to and for each other.  In that timeless context, individual and collective responsibility also exist in balance.

I admit without apology that I am pedantic.  My pedantry extends to theology.  In the Gospel of John, eternal life is knowing God via Jesus (John 17:3).  Within the Johannine context, as in John 3:16, therefore, there is no eternity apart from God–Jesus, to be precise.  In other words, eternal life and the afterlife are not synonyms in Johannine theology.  “Eternal” describes the quality of life, not the length thereof.  I am a generally Johannine Christian, so I understand “eternal life” according to the definition in John 17:3.  Nevertheless, outside of the Johannine tradition in the New Testament, the meaning of “eternal” is “everlasting.”

I am not shy about saying and writing openly what I really think:  I remain unconvinced that my Jewish elder brothers and sisters in faith are doomed to go to Hell.  No, I affirm that their covenant remains in effect.  According to Covenantal Nomism, consistently and unrepentantly disregarding the ethical obligations of the Law of Moses causes one to drop out of the covenant.  Salvation comes via grace, but damnation comes via works.

The more I age and move away from reflexively Reformation-influenced theology, the more comfortable I become embracing the relationship among faith, works, salvation, and damnation in both Testaments.  God cares deeply about how people treat each other, the Bible tells us.  We mere mortals may deceive ourselves and each other.  We cannot, however, pull the proverbial wool over God’s equally proverbial eyes.  Our creeds become evident in our deeds.

Nevertheless, may we avoid the trap of thinking that we deserve salvation.  That remains a gift.  All who receive it may experience a degree of shock when they realize who else has received it.  So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 1, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE EIGHTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS

THE WORLD DAY OF PEACE

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https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2021/01/01/devotion-for-the-sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d-humes/

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/01/salvation-and-damnation-part-iii/

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Devotion for Proper 28, Year B (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Caduceus

Image in the Public Domain

Judgment and Mercy

NOVEMBER 17, 2024

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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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Numbers 21:4-9 or Malachi 3:19-24/4:1-6

Psalm 74:1-2, 10-17

Hebrews 13:1-16, 20-21

Mark 12:35-44

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The promise of divine punishment for evil and of divine deliverance of the oppressed and righteous on the great Day of the LORD is one example of judgment and mercy being like sides of a coin.  The deliverance of the oppressed is very bad news for the oppressors, who are, in a way, victims of themselves.

If we behave as we should–revere God, take care of each other, et cetera–we will not have to fear punishment from God for not doing so.  We may incur punishment from human authorities, as in Tobit 1, but God did not promise a peaceful life in exchange for righteousness.

Two stories require more attention.

The cure in Numbers, cited also in John 3:14-15, in the context of the crucifixion of Jesus, our Lord and Savior’s glorification, according to the Fourth Gospel, is a textbook case of sympathetic magic.  It is related to Egyptian imagery of kingship, divinity, and protection from cobra saliva.  A commonplace visual echo is the caduceus, the medical symbol.

Pay attention to what precedes and follows Mark 12:41-44.  Our Lord and Savior’s condemnation of those who, among other things,

eat up the property of widows,

precedes the account of the widow giving all she had to the Temple.  Immediately in Chapter 13, we read a prediction of the destruction of the Temple.  I conclude that Jesus found the widow’s faith laudable yet grieved her choice.

May our lives bring glory to God and lead others to faith and discipleship.  May we, in our zeal, not go off the deep end and embarrass God and/or accidentally drive people away from God or get in the way of evangelism.  And may we never mistake an internal monologue for a dialogue with God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 27, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BROOKE FOSS WESTCOTT, ANGLICAN SCHOLAR, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND BISHOP OF DURHAM; AND FENTON JOHN ANTHONY HORT, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN HENRY BATEMAN, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHAN NORDAHL BRUN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN BISHOP, AUTHOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND RENEWER OF THE CHURCH; AND HIS GRANDSON, WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, U.S. ARCHITECT AND QUAKER PEACE ACTIVIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/07/27/judgment-and-mercy-part-xiv/

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Devotion for Trinity Sunday, Year B (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Holy Trinity, by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

Worship the Unity

MAY 26, 2024

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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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Isaiah 6:1-8

Psalm 29

Romans 8:12-17

John 3:1-8

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I aspire never to diminish the glorious mystery of God, or to attempt to do so.  The doctrine of the Trinity, which the Church developed over centuries via debates, interpretation, and ecumenical councils, is the best explanation for which I can hope.  However, the Trinity still makes no logical sense.  For example, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are co-eternal.  Yet the Son proceeds from the Father.  And, depending on one’s theology, vis-à-vis the filoque clause, the Spirit proceeds either from the Father or from the Father and the Son.  Huh?

No, the Trinity is illogical.  So be it.  I frolic in the illogical, glorious mystery of God, who adopts us as sons (literally, in the Greek text), and therefore as heirs.  I frolic in the mystery of the Holy Spirit, in whom is new new life.  I frolic in the mystery and worship the unity.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 29, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/06/29/worship-the-unity/

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Devotion for the Feast of the Holy Cross (September 14)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Crucifixion and the Way of the Holy Cross, June 9, 1887

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-00312

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross

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The Feast of the Holy Cross commemorates two events–The discovery of the supposed true cross by St. Helena on September 14, 320, and the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, on that day in 335, on the anniversary of the dedication of the First Temple in Jerusalem.  In the Eastern Orthodox Church the corresponding commemoration is the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

The Feast of the Holy Cross has had an interesting history.  It existed in Constantinople in the 600s and in Rome in the 800s.  The feast did not transfer into Anglicanism initially.  It did become a lesser feast–a black-letter day–in The Book of Common Prayer in 1561.  In The Church of England The Alternative Service Book (1980) kept Holy Cross Day as a black-letter day, but Common Worship (2000) promoted the commemoration to a major feast–a red-letter day.  The Episcopal Church dropped Holy Cross Day in 1789 but added it–as a red-letter day–during Prayer Book revision in the 1970s.  The feast remained outside the mainstream of U.S. and Canadian Lutheranism until the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and its variant, Lutheran Worship (1982).

Without getting lost in the narrative weeds (especially in Numbers 21), one needs to know that God chastises Jews and Christians for their sins yet does not destroy them, except when He allegedly sends poisonous snakes to attack them.  Then God provides a healing mechanism.  We should look up toward God, not grumble in a lack of gratitude.  Isaiah 45:21-25, set toward the end of the Babylonian Exile, argues that God is the master of history, and that the vindication of the former Kingdom of Judah will benefit Gentiles also, for Gentiles will receive invitations to worship the one true God.  Many will accept, we read.  In the Gospel of John the exaltation of Jesus is his crucifixion.  That is counter-intuitive; it might even be shocking.    If so, recall 1 Corinthians 1:23–Christ crucified is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.  God frequently works in ways we do not understand.  John 12 mentions some God-fearers, Gentiles who worshiped YHWH.  This reference picks up from Isaiah 45:21-25.  It also fits well with the Pauline mission to Gentiles and emphasis on Christ crucified.

As for God sending poisonous snakes to bite grumbling Israelites, that does not fit into my concept of God.  My God-concept encompasses both judgment and mercy, but not that kind of behavior.

The choice of the cross as the symbol of Christianity is wonderfully ironic.  The cross, an instrument of judicial murder and the creation of fear meant to inspire cowering submission to Roman authority, has become a symbol of divine love, sacrifice, and victory.  A symbol means what people agree it means; that is what makes it a symbol.  Long after the demise of the Roman Empire, the cross remains a transformed symbol.

The Episcopal collect for Holy Cross Day invites us to take up a cross and follow Jesus.  In Cotton Patch Gospel (1982), the play based on Clarence Jordan‘s The Cotton Patch Version of Matthew and John, Jesus, says that a person not willing to accept his or her lynching is unworthy of Him.

That is indeed a high standard.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA, DISCIPLE OF JESUS

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Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross

that he might draw the whole world to himself:

Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption,

may take up our cross and follow him;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Isaiah 45:21-25

Psalm 98 or 8:1-4

Philippians 2:5-11 or Galatians 6:14-18

John 12:31-36a

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 581

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Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross

that he might draw the whole world to himself.

To those who look upon the cross, grant your wisdom, healing, and eternal life,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Numbers 21:4b-9

Psalm 98:1-4 or 78:1-2, 34-38

1 Corinthians 1:18-24

John 3:13-17

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 57

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Numbers 21:4-9

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

John 12:20-33

Lutheran Service Book (2006), xxiii

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Originally published at SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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Devotion for the Feast of the Holy Cross, Years A, B, C, and D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Crucifixion and the Way of the Holy Cross, June 9, 1887

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-00312

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross

SEPTEMBER 14, 2023

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Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross

that he might draw the whole world to himself:

Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption,

may take up our cross and follow him;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 581

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Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross

that he might draw the whole world to himself.

To those who look upon the cross, grant your wisdom, healing, and eternal life,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 57

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Numbers 21:4b-9

Psalm 98:1-5 or 78:1-2, 34-38

1 Corinthians 1:18-24

John 3:13-17

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The Feast of the Holy Cross commemorates two events–The discovery of the supposed true cross by St. Helena on September 14, 320, and the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, on that day in 335, on the anniversary of the dedication of the First Temple in Jerusalem.  In the Eastern Orthodox Church the corresponding commemoration is the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

The Feast of the Holy Cross has had an interesting history.  It existed in Constantinople in the 600s and in Rome in the 800s.  The feast did not transfer into Anglicanism initially.  It did become a lesser feast–a black-letter day–in The Book of Common Prayer in 1561.  In The Church of England The Alternative Service Book (1980) kept Holy Cross Day as a black-letter day, but Common Worship (2000) promoted the commemoration to a major feast–a red-letter day.  The Episcopal Church dropped Holy Cross Day in 1789 but added it–as a red-letter day–during Prayer Book revision in the 1970s.  The feast remained outside the mainstream of U.S. and Canadian Lutheranism until the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and its variant, Lutheran Worship (1982).

Without getting lost in the narrative weeds (especially in Numbers 21), one needs to know that God chastises Jews and Christians for their sins yet does not destroy them, except when He allegedly sends poisonous snakes to attack them.  Then God provides a healing mechanism.  We should look up toward God, not grumble in a lack of gratitude.  In the Gospel of John the exaltation of Jesus is his crucifixion.  That is counter-intuitive; it might even be shocking.    If so, recall 1 Corinthians 1:23–Christ crucified is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.  God frequently works in ways we do not understand.

As for God sending poisonous snakes to bite grumbling Israelites, that does not fit into my concept of God.  My God-concept encompasses both judgment and mercy, but not that kind of behavior.

The choice of the cross as the symbol of Christianity is wonderfully ironic.  The cross, an instrument of judicial murder and the creation of fear meant to inspire cowering submission to Roman authority, has become a symbol of divine love, sacrifice, and victory.  A symbol means what people agree it means; that is what makes it a symbol.  Long after the demise of the Roman Empire, the cross remains a transformed symbol.

The Episcopal collect for Holy Cross Day invites us to take up a cross and follow Jesus.  In Cotton Patch Gospel (1982), the play based on Clarence Jordan‘s The Cotton Patch Version of Matthew and John, Jesus, says that a person not willing to accept his or her lynching is unworthy of Him.

That is indeed a high standard.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 27, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS GALLAUDET AND HENRY WINTER SYLE, EPISCOPAL PRIESTS AND EDUCATORS OF THE DEAF

THE FEAST OF SAINT AMADEUS OF CLERMONT, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK; AND HIS SON, SAINT AMADEUS OF LAUSANNE, FRENCH-SWISS ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC BARBERI, ROMAN CATHOLIC APOSTLE TO ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF HENRIETTE LUISE VAN HAYN, GERMAN MORAVIAN HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/08/27/the-exaltation-of-the-holy-cross-part-ii/

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Devotion for Saturday Before Proper 10, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Nicodemus and Jesus on a Rooftop

Above:  Jesus and Nicodemus on a Rooftop, by Henry Ossawa Tanner

Image in the Public Domain

Timeless Principles

JULY 9, 2022

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The Collect:

O Lord God, your mercy delights us, and the world longs for your loving care.

Hear the cries of everyone in need, and turn our hearts to love our neighbors

with the love of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 19:1-4, 32-37

Psalm 25:1-10

John 3:16-21

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Direct me in your paths, Yahweh,

and teach me your paths.

Encourage me to walk in your truth and teach me

since you are the God who saves me.

–Psalm 25:4-5, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The lection from Leviticus 19 commands the keeping of all of God’s laws.  The specific orders in the designated verses are:

  1. To belong to God (literally, to be holy),
  2. To honor one’s parents,
  3. To keep the Sabbath,
  4. To refrain from idolatry,
  5. To respect the elderly,
  6. To love strangers as one loves oneself, and
  7. To deal honestly in business.

In other words, God should be in all that one does.  These are some examples of how to live according to that principle, how to walk in the light, not the darkness.

Some people accused Jesus of violating the first and third items on the list above.  According to some, our Lord and Savior was in league with evil forces and committed blasphemy.  Furthermore, Jesus allegedly violated the Sabbath when he gathered food or healed someone on that day.  Were hunger and illness holy!

Timeless principles have culturally specific examples.  A common exegetical error is to confuse an example for a principle.  Legalism takes hold needlessly and unfortunately.  The grand organizing principles to follow are:

  1. Everybody depends on God completely,
  2. We depend on each other,
  3. We are responsible to each other,
  4. We are responsible for each other, and
  5. We have no right to exploit each other.

All of those principles are compatible with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Fulfilling a goal as lofty as obeying God’s laws is impossible by human power alone.  Fortunately, we do not need to rely on our own power, for we have access to grace.  May we accept that grace and its accompanying obligations relative to other people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 14, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATHILDA, QUEEN OF GERMANY

THE FEAST OF JOHN SWERTNER, DUTCH-GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND HYMNAL EDITOR; AND HIS COLLABORATOR, JOHN MUELLER, GERMAN-ENGLISH MORAVIAN MINISTER, HYMN EDITOR, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/timeless-principles-2/

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Devotion for Saturday Before Proper 29, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Seleucid Empire

Above:  Map of the Seleucid Empire

Image in the Public Domain

Dashed Hopes and the Faithfulness of God

NOVEMBER 20, 2021

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God,

you anointed your beloved Son to be priest and sovereign forever.

Grant that all the people of the earth,

now divided by the power of sin,

may be united by the glorious and gentle rule of Jesus Christ,

our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 7:1-8, 15-18

Psalm 93

John 3:31-36

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You, O LORD, are Sovereign;

you have put on splendid apparel;

you, O LORD, have put on your apparel

and girded yourself with strength.

You have made the whole world so sure

that it cannot be moved;

ever since the world began, your throne has been established;

you are from everlasting.

The waters have lifted up, O LORD,

the waters have lifted up their voice;

the waters have lifted up their pounding waves.

Mightier than the sound of many waters,

mightier than the breakers of the sea,

mightier is the LORD who dwells on high.

Your testimonies are very sure,

and holiness adorns your house, O LORD,

forever and forevermore.

–Psalm 93, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Sometimes our expectations exceed reality as events unfold.

The expectations in Daniel 7:1-8 and 15-18 was that, after the fall of the Seleucid Empire (extant 312-64 B.C.E.),

holy ones of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess the kingdom forever–forever and ever.

–Daniel 7:18, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The Seleucid Empire fell for several reasons, including weak leadership, pressures from the Armenians, and the expansion of the Roman Republic, soon to become the Roman Empire.  The fully realized Kingdom of God on Earth did not come to pass in 64 B.C.E. or at any time between then and the day I am writing these words.

St. John the Baptist had apocalyptic expectations regarding Jesus (Luke 3).  The clearly labeled voice of the forerunner said in John 3:30 (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989),

He must increase, but I must decrease.

But who is speaking in John 3:31-36?  My reading has revealed three possibilities:

  1. St. John the Baptist, for the text indicates no change of speaker;
  2. Jesus, perhaps cut and pasted from the conversation with Nicodemus earlier in the chapter; or
  3. the author of the Fourth Gospel, making one of his occasional explanatory comments to the readers.

Either way, the pericope’s comment about the fidelity of God is what interest me.  Jesus did not fulfill the apocalyptic expectations of St. John the Baptist, but that fact did nothing to belie the fidelity of God.  The apocalyptic expectations of Daniel 7:1-8 and 15-18 proved baseless, but that fact has not disproved the fidelity of God.  Sometimes we human beings hope for events which never happen, at least as we anticipate.  Some of these dashed expectations have passed into the canon of scripture.  Nevertheless, the hope that one day God will abolish the world order built on violence and artificial scarcity and replace it with justice remains a valid promise.  God will keep it faithfully in divine time, if not according to human expectations.

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/dashed-hopes-and-the-faithfulness-of-god/

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