Archive for the ‘Judgment and Mercy’ Tag

Devotion for the Last Sunday After Pentecost: Christ the King Sunday/the Last Sunday in the Church Year: The Sunday of the Fulfillment, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Good Shepherd

Image in the Public Domain

Hope

NOVEMBER 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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Ezekiel 34:11-16, 23-24 (LBWLW) or Isaiah 65:17-25 (LW)

Psalm 95:1-7a (LBW) or Psalm 130 (LW)

1 Corinthians 15:20-28 (LBWLW) or 2 Peter 3:3-4, 8-10a, 13 (LW)

Matthew 25:31-46 (LBWLW) or Mathew 25:1-13 (LW)

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Almighty and everlasting God,

whose will it is to restore all things to your beloved Son,

whom you anointed priest forever and king of all creation;

Grant that all the people of the earth,

now divided by the power of sin,

may be united under the glorious and gentle rule

of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 30

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Lord God, heavenly Father, send forth your Son, we pray,

that he may lead home his bride, the Church,

that we with all the redeemed may enter into your eternal kingdom;

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), 94

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I wrote about Matthew 25:31-46 in the previous post in this series and about Matthew 25:1-13 here.

We–you, O reader, and I–have arrived at the end of Year A of the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship Lectionary (1973).

This journey concludes on divine judgment and mercy, ever in balance and beyond human comprehension.  Much of this divine judgment and mercy exists in the context of impending apocalypse, in certain readings.  Maintaining hope can prove challenging to maintain during difficult times, but that is another motif.  Apocalypse offers hope for God’s order on Earth.

  1. We read of YHWH as the Good Shepherd (in contrast to bad shepherds–Kings of Israel and Judah) in Ezekiel 34, during the Babylonian Exile.
  2. Third Isaiah (in Isaiah 65) offered comfort to people who had expected to leave the Babylonian Exile and to return to a verdant paradise.  Instead, they returned to their ancestral homeland, which was neither verdant nor a paradise.
  3. Psalm 130 exists in the shadow of death–the depths of Sheol.
  4. Even the crucifixion of Jesus became a means of bestowing hope (1 Corinthians 15).

So, may we all cling to hope in God.  The lectionary omits the parts of Psalm 95 that recall the faithlessness in the desert after the Exodus.  No, we read the beginning of Psalm 95; we read an invitation to trust in the faithfulness of God and to worship sovereign YHWH.  We read that we are the sheep of YHWH’s pasture (see Ezekiel 34, too).

We are sheep prone to stray prone to stray.  We have a Good Shepherd, fortunately.

If You keep account of sins, O LORD,

Lord, who will survive?

Yours is the power to forgive

so that You may be held in awe.

–Psalm 130:3-4, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Hope always exists in God.  So, are we mere mortals willing to embrace that hope?

As I type these words, I know the struggle to maintain hope.  For the last few years, current events have mostly driven me to despair.  Know, O reader, that when I write about trusting and hoping in God, I write to myself as much as I write to you.  I am no spiritual giant; I do not have it all figured out.  Not even spiritual giants have it all figured out; they know this.  They also grasp that no mere mortal can ever figure everything out anyway.

God has figured everything out.  That must suffice.

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 the Twenty-Seventh Sunday After Pentecost, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   3 comments

Above:  Icon of the Last Judgment

Image in the Public Domain

Secret Disciples of Jesus

NOVEMBER 19, 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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Jeremiah 26:1-6 (LBWLW) or Jeremiah 25:30-32 (LW)

Psalm 105:1-7

1 Thessalonians 3:7-13 (LBW, LW) or 1 Thessalonians 1:3-10 (LW)

Matthew 24:1-14 (LBWLW) or Mathew 25:31-46 (LW)

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Almighty and ever-living God,

before the earth was formed and even after it ceases to be,

you are God. 

Break into our short span of life

and let us see the signs of your final will and purpose;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 30

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Almighty and ever-living God,

since you have given exceedingly great and precious promises

to those who believe,

grant us so perfectly and without all doubt

to believe in your Son Jesus Christ

that our faith in your sight may never be reproved;

through our Savior, Jesus Christ,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

–Lutheran Worship (1982), 92

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Divine judgment and mercy come mixed in the assigned readings.  Contexts vary.  They include the Day of the LORD, the Exodus, the latter years of the Kingdom of Judah, the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., and the Second Coming of Jesus.  God is faithful and universal, we read.  And many people who have a relationship with God may be unaware of that relationship.  The flip side is that many people who think they have a relationship with God do not.

In the parable from Matthew 25, those astonished righteous learned that, by helping the vulnerable with whom Jesus identified, they had a relationship with Jesus.  Those astonished righteous learned that they had performed good works for Jesus and had been faithful to him.

A parable, by definition, contains layers of meanings.  Let us not ignore this layer of meaning, O reader.  The parable in Matthew 25:31-46 speaks of service.  The parable ought not to lead to Pietism–downplaying doctrine and falling into works-based righteousness.  No, the parable should tell us something about divine judgment and mercy; we mere mortals do not understand them.  Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance; we cannot grasp what that balance is.

Reread Matthew 25:31-46, O reader.  Notice the astonishment of those who thought they were righteous and the astonishment of those who learned they were righteous.  Then look around and ponder.  The parable counsels against spiritual complacency.  Love is active.  Jesus has many disciples, a host of whom do not know they are his disciples, based on the parable’s standard.  Celebrate grace and Christian service, O reader.  Live grace-fully.

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 the Twenty-Fifth Sunday After Pentecost, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  The Parable of the Talents

Image in the Public Domain

Rejecting Grace

NOT OBSERVED IN 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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Hosea 11:1-4, 8-9

Psalm 90:12-17 (LBW) or Psalm 90:13-17 (LW)

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Matthew 25:14-30 (LBWLW) or Mathew 24:3-14 (LW)

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Stir up, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people

to seek more eagerly the help you offer,

that, at the last, they may enjoy the fruit of salvation;

through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 29

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O God, so rule and govern our hearts and minds

by your Holy Spirit that, being ever mindful

of the end of all things and your just judgment,

we may be stirred up to holiness of living here

and dwell with you forever hereafter;

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), 90

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Rejecting grace is a frequent behavior, sadly.  Hosea 11:1-9 and Matthew 25:14-20 speak of it.

The difference between the blessed and the cursed is one thing and one thing only:  the blessed accept their acceptance and the cursed reject it; but the acceptance is already in place for both groups before either does anything about it…. The difference between heaven and hell, accordingly, is simply that those in heaven accept endless forgiveness, while those in hell reject it.  Indeed, the precise hell of hell is its endless refusal to open the door to the reconciled and reconciling party that stands forever on its porch and knocks, equally endlessly, for permission to begin the Supper of the Lamb (Rev. 3:20).

–Robert Farrar Capon, Kingdom, Grace, Judgment:  Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus (2002), 356-357

Or, as C. S. Lewis wrote, the doors to Hell are locked from the inside.

As some of the other assigned readings indicate, the lectionary has turned toward Advent.  Certain Confessional Lutheran denominations have labeled the last four Sundays before Christmas the End Times Season.  In England, in 1990, the Joint Liturgical Group prepared a four-year lectionary that starts nine Sundays before Christmas.

I cannot argue with the logic of both systems.  The Joint Lecitonary Group’s lectionary violates centuries of Western Christian tradition, but so be it.  I know of an Episcopal congregation that celebrates eight Sundays of Advent.

Psalm 90 contextualizes human rebellion, divine judgment, and divine grace within the contrast between divine permanence and human impermanence.  I reject the idea that we must respond favorably to God before we die, or else.  I reject any limitation of grace.  However, I affirm that responding favorably to God consistently and as soon as possible is the best possible strategy, one which gladdens God’s heart.

Receiving grace requires extending it to others.  This principle applies to groups and individuals alike.  As St. Paul the Apostle wrote to the church at Thessalonica:

So give encouragement to each other, and keep strengthening one another, as you do already.

–1 Thessalonians 5:11, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

God seeks everyone.  Divine love pursues and accompanies all of us.  Will we–collectively and individually–accept it or reject it?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 23, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARTIN DE PORRES AND JUAN MACIAS, HUMANITARIANS AND DOMINICAN LAY BROTHERS; SAINT ROSE OF LIMA, HUMANITARIAN AND DOMINICAN SISTER; AND SAINT TURIBIUS OF MOGREVEJO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF LIMA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCISZEK DACHTERA, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1944

THE FEAST OF THEODORE O. WEDEL, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; AND HIS WIFE, CYNTHIA CLARK WEDEL, U.S. PSYCHOLOGIST AND EPISCOPAL ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF THOMAS AUGUSTINE JUDGE, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST; FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARY SERVANTS OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY, THE MISSIONARY SERVANTS OF THE MOST BLESSED TRINITY, AND THE MISSIONARY CENACLE APOSTOLATE

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  A Vineyard

Image in the Public Domain

Tenants, Not Landlords

OCTOBER 15, 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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Isaiah 5:1-7

Psalm 80:7-14 (LBW) or Psalm 118:19-24 (LW)

Philippians 3:12-21

Matthew 21:33-43

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Our Lord Jesus, you have endured

the doubts and foolish questions of every generation. 

Forgive us for trying to be judge over you,

and grant us the confident faith to acknowledge you as Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 28

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O God, whose almighty power is made known chiefly

in showing mercy and pity,

grant us the fullness of your grace

that we may be partakers of your heavenly treasures;

through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 84

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The Bible moves past preaching and immediately starts meddling.  Good!  It ought to do this.

The vineyard is an image of the people of God in the Bible.  In Isaiah 5, the image of vineyard full of wild (literally, noxious) grapes condemns the population doomed to suffer exile and occupation.  Psalm 80 likens the people of Israel to a vine and prays for the restoration of Israel in the midst of exile.  The Parable of the Tenants condemns fruitless religious authority figures–a timeless warning.

That parable also quotes Psalm 119 when the Matthean text refers to the cornerstone the builders had rejected.  The cornerstone is a messianic theme, as in Isaiah 8:14; 28:16; and Zechariah 3:9; 4:7.  For other applications of the cornerstone to Jesus, read Acts 4:11; Romans 9:33; 1 Peter 2:4f; Ephesians 2:20; and 1 Corinthians 3:11.

Years ago, I had a discouraging conversation with a female student at the college where I taught.  She told me before class one day that she did not care about what happened to and on the Earth, for her citizenship was in Heaven.  I vainly attempted to persuade her to care.  Her attitude contradicted the Law of Moses, the witness of the Hebrew prophets, the teachings of Jesus, and the epistles–Judaism and Christianity, in other words.

The Golden Rule requires us–collectively and individually–to care for and about each other and the planet.  Judaism and Christianity teach that people are stewards–not owners–of the planet.  (God is the owner.)  The state of ecology indicates that we are terrible stewards, overall.  The lack of mutuality during the COVID-19 pandemic proves that many people do not give a damn about others and the common good.

God remains God.  God still cares.  God cannot exist without caring.  That should comfort many people and terrify many others.  Divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 18, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ARTEMISIA BOWDEN, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EDUCATOR AND CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF ERDMANN NEUMEISTER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS JOHN MCCONNELL, U.S. METHODIST BISHOP AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF JONATHAN FRIEDRICH BAHNMAIER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PETTER DASS, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

Judgment and Mercy

SEPTEMBER 17, 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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Ezekiel 33:7-9

Psalm 119:33-40 (LBW) or Psalm 119:113-120 (LW)

Romans 13:1-10

Matthew 18:15-20

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Almighty and eternal God,

you know our problems and our weaknesses

better than we ourselves. 

In your love and by your power help us in our confusion,

and, in spite of our weaknesses, make us firm in faith;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 27

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Grant, merciful Lord, to your faithful people pardon and peace

that they may be cleansed from all their sins

and serve you with a quiet mind;

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), 79

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Context is crucial.  Any given text originates within a particular context.  To read that text without the context in mind is to distort that text.

Consider the relationship of the people to human authority, O reader.  Romans 13:1-7, which commands submission to the government, comes from a particular time and place.  That text also comes from the mind of a citizen of the Roman Empire.  On the other hand, Exodus 1 praises the midwives Shiphrah and Puah for disobeying the Pharaoh’s orders.  Likewise, the Apocalypse of John assumes that resistance to the Roman Empire, an agent of Satan, is mandatory for Christians.  In history, one may point to the Underground Railroad, the conductors of which were, according to United States federal law, criminals, at least part of the time.  Does anyone want to go on record as condemning the Underground Railroad?  I also know that, in the context of the Third Reich, many Christian theologians teach that one must oppose the government sometimes.  For the obvious reason, this teaching is especially strong among German theologians.

The caveat in Romans 13:1-7 is that any civil authority not responsive to the will of God is not a true authority.  Therefore, one may validly resist that government for the sake of conscience.  The examples of resisting slavery and Nazism certainly apply under this principle.

Now that I have gotten that out of the way….

One purpose of prophetic pronouncements of divine punishment is to encourage repentance.  Repentance, in turn, cancels punishment.  One who is supposed to warn people is not responsible for their fate if one warns them.  However, if one does not warn them, one is accountable for their fate.  The commandments of God impart life, but people must know what they are.

Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence love is the fulfillment of the law.

–Romans 13:10, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

In context, “you” (Matthew 18:18-19) is plural.

I covered Matthew 18:18 in the post for the Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year A.

Love confronts when necessary.  Love confronts in these contexts, for the benefit of the person confronted.  Many people understand this in the context of addiction interventions.  Obeying the Golden Rule sometimes entails practicing tough love, offering what someone needs, not what that person wants.  How one responds becomes one’s responsibility, for those who have confronted have done their jobs.

Although one may desire to rescue someone, doing so may prove impossible.  I know this from experience.  Some people cannot or will not do what they need to do.  I leave judgment in these matters to God, who frequently shows more mercy than many people do.  If I must err, I prefer to do so on the side of mercy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 17, 2022 COMMON ERA

PROPER 11:  THE SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WHITE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF BENNETT J. SIMS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF THE CARMELITE MARTYRS OF COMPIÈGNE, 1794

THE FEAST OF CATHERINE LOUISA MARTHENS, FIRST LUTHERAN DEACONESS CONSECRATED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 1850

THE FEAST OF SAINT NERSES LAMPRONATS, ARMENIAN APOSTOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF TARSUS

THE FEAST OF STEPHEN THEODORE BADIN, FIRST ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST ORDAINED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the Tenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  The Parable of the Net

Image in the Public Domain

Good News and Bad News

AUGUST 6, 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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1 Kings 3:5-12

Psalm 119:129-136

Romans 8:28-30

Matthew 13:44-52

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O God, your ears are always open to the prayers of your servants. 

Open our hearts and minds to you,

that we may live in harmony with your will

and receive the gifts of your Spirit;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 26

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O God, the Protector of all who trust in you,

without whom nothing is strong and nothing is holy,

increase and multiply your mercy on us,

that with you as our Ruler and Guide,

we may so pass through things temporal,

that we lose not the things eternal;

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), 71

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Redeem me from human oppression….

–Psalm 119:134a, The Revised New Jerusalem Bible (2019)

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Good news and bad news come together.

  1. The reading from 1 Kings 3 marinates in hindsight and the wasted potential of King Solomon, who had come to power like Michael Corleone, settling disputes with murder.  One may reasonably speculate that King Solomon had already cast his die before 1 Kings 3.  Nevertheless, hope springs eternal, to quote a cliché.
  2. We read a portion of Psalm 119, in which the author extols God’s commandments in the context of human oppression.
  3. Single Predestination (Romans 8:28-30) is to Heaven.  Those not so predestined have the witness of the Holy Spirit available to them.
  4. We read that, at the end of the age, the angels will separate the wicked from the righteous.  This is good news for the righteous and bad news for the wicked.  Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.

I paid little attention to predestination when I was a Methodist.  My theology has shifted, however, into Anglican-Lutheranism, which includes Single Predestination.  After growing up ignoring passages such as Romans 8:28-30, I have embraced them.

The good news of Single Predestination, paired with the witness of the Holy Spirit, is grace.  Those predestined receive one form of grace.  Those not predestined receive another form of grace.  Their free will to accept or reject the witness of the Holy Spirit exists because of grace.  Everything boils down to grace.

We human beings do not have to earn everything.  We cannot earn grace.  If we accept it, we also accept its demands on our lives.  Grace is free, not cheap.

Good news and bad news come together.  We mere mortals make our bad news and some of our good news.  God brings us good news.  Are we receptive to it?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYL0R

JUNE 18, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM BINGHAM TAPPAN, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER. POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ADOLPHUS NELSON, SWEDISH-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF BERNARD MIZEKI, ANGLICAN CATECHIST AND CONVERT IN SOUTHERN RHODESIA, 1896

THE FEAST OF JOHANN FRANCK, HEINRICH HELD, AND SIMON DACH, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MASSIE, HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF VERNARD ELLER, U.S. CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN MINISTER AND THEOLOGIAN

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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

Above:  The New Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

Judgment and Mercy

NOVEMBER 13, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Genesis 24:34-67 or Zechariah 9:9-12, 16-17

Psalm 145:10-21

Revelation 22:1-7, 12-17

John 16:16-33

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This life is a mix of pleasure, joy, love, and hardship.  Nevertheless, we read, keep the faith; God will win in the end.  God will destroy the unrepentant wicked, wipe out the oppressive and corrupt world order, and inaugurate the fully realized Kingdom of God.  That is a fine note to go out on one week prior to Christ the King Sunday.

Stereotypes of God in the Old Testament and the New Testament exist.  The God of the Hebrew Bible is supposedly harsh, judgmental, and temperamental.  He is allegedly not gracious.  And the God of the New Testament is supposedly all love, sunshine, puppies, and kittens.  Anyone who has read the Old and New Testaments closely knows or should know that divine judgment and mercy exist in balance throughout the Bible.  The God of Revelation is not all love, sunshine, puppies, and kittens, for example.

So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 2, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF JESUS IN THE TEMPLE

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/02/02/judgment-and-mercy-part-xxii/

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

Above:  Ruth and Boaz, by Julian Schnorr von Carolsfield

Image in the Public Domain

Judgment and Mercy

OCTOBER 9, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Genesis 18:16-33 or Ruth 2:1-13

Psalm 141

Revelation 19:11-21

John 14:1-14

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Divine judgment and mercy are in balance throughout the Bible.  The intercession of Abraham on the behalf of the people of Sodom (Genesis 18:16-33) proved to be in vain, but he did haggle God down.  That story expresses something positive about God.  When we turn to Revelation 19:11-21, we need to notice that the triumph of suffering, divine love in Christ (mercy, for sure) follows judgment on Babylon (code for the Roman Empire).

I offer a lesson that may be difficult:  Mercy for the oppressed may be judgment and punishment of the oppressors.  Furthermore, oppressors may not think of themselves as such.  They may be the heroes of their own stories.  They may think they are righteous, just.

All of us should squirm in discomfort when we think about the human capacity for self-delusion.  Human psychology can be a person’s worst enemy.  It can also be the worse foe of any community, nation-state, government, institution, corporation, et cetera.  Human psychology is the worst enemy of Homo sapiens and Planet Earth.

Thomas Jefferson, a slaveholder, wrote regarding the consequences of slavery for the United States of America:

I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his his justice cannot sleep forever.

The Apocalypse of John is about, among other topics, what will happen when divine judgment wakes up.  That warning remains germane at all times and in all places.  Exploitation, economic injustice, needless violence, and oppression are always present, to some degree.  They are evil.  God will vanquish them and inaugurate the fully realized Kingdom of God.

In the meantime, one duty of we who follow God is to leave the world better than we found it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 27, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JEROME, PAULA OF ROME, EUSTOCHIUM, BLAESILLA, MARCELLA, AND LEA OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANGELA MERICI, FOUNDRESS OF THE COMPANY OF SAINT URSULA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAROLINA SANTOCANALE, FOUNDRESS OF THE CAPUCHIN SISTERS OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION

THE FEAST OF CASPAR NEUMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PIERRE BATIFFOL, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, HISTORIAN, AND THEOLOGIAN

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/27/judgment-and-mercy-part-xxi/

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Devotion for Proper 6, Year D (Humes)   2 comments

Above:  Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well of Jacob

Image in the Public Domain

Judgment and Mercy

JUNE 12, 2022

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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 9:8-15 or Proverbs 22:1-23

Psalm 119:33-48

1 Timothy 6:1-8

John 4:1-42

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First, I condemn all forms of slavery at all times and places.  The acceptance of slavery in 1 Timothy 6:1-2 is false doctrine.

With that matter out of the way, I focus on my main point.  1 Timothy 6:7 is correct; we came into this world with nothing.  We, likewise, can take nothing with us when we die.  Greed is a form of idolatry.

The reading from Proverbs 22 includes harsh words for those who oppress the poor.  To oppress to the poor is to get on God’s bad side.  Oppression of the poor is a topic in the Book of Amos.  That practice is one of the stated causes of the fall of the northern Kingdom of Israel.

Judgment and mercy exist in balance in Amos 9.  The destruction, we read, will not be thorough.  Then restoration will follow.  This restoration remains in future tense, given the scattering of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.

LORD, let your mercy come upon me,

the salvation you have promised.

–Psalm 119:41, The Revised New Jerusalem Bible (2019)

Jesus knew how to use harsh language.  He used none with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, though.  He had a long conversation with a woman–a Samaritan woman.  Jesus surprised even his closest associates by doing so.  Christ offered grace and no judgment.  Many exegetes, preachers, and Sunday School teachers have judged the woman, though.  They should never have done so.

The woman at the well was different from the condemned people in Amos 9 and the false teachers in 1 Timothy 6.  She was receptive to God speaking to her when she realized what was happening.  That Samaritan woman gained insight.  She also acquired a good name, something more desirable than great riches.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 3, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE TENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF EDWARD CASWALL, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD PERRONET, BRITISH METHODIST PREACHER

THE FEAST OF GLADYS AYLWARD, MISSIONARY IN CHINA AND TAIWAN

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ALFRED PASSAVANT, SR., U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HUMANITARIAN, AND EVANGELIST

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https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2021/01/03/devotion-for-the-eighth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d-humes/

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/03/judgment-and-mercy-part-xx/

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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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