Archive for the ‘Law of Moses’ Tag

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

Above:  The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins, by Friedrich Wilhelm Schadow (1788-1862)

Image in the Public Domain

Eschatological Ethics

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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Amos 5:18-24

Psalm 63:1-8 (LBW) or Psalm 84:1-7 (LW)

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 (15-18)

Matthew 25:1-13 (LBW, LW) or Matthew 23:37-39 (LW)

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Lord, when the day of wrath comes

we have no hope except in your grace.

Make us so to watch for the last days

that the consumation of our hope may be

the joy of the marriage feast of your Son,

Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 29

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O Lord, we pray that the visitation of your grace

may so cleanse our thoughts and minds

that your Son Jesus, when he shall come,

may find us a fit dwelling place;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 89

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We have, in the church calendar, turned toward Advent.  The tone in readings has shifted toward the Day of the Lord (Old Testament) and the Second Coming of Jesus (New Testament).  In Matthew, both options, set in the days leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus, have taken a dark turn.

The Psalms are the most upbeat readings.

Amos 5:18-24 issues a collective warning.  Putting on airs of piety while perpetuating and/or excusing social injustice–especially economic injustice, given the rest of the Book of Amos–does not impress God.  It angers God, in fact.  Sacred rituals–part of the Law of Moses–are not properly talismans.

Matthew 23:37-39 includes a denunciation of supposedly pious people executing messengers God has sent.  We readers know that Jesus was about to meet the same fate.  We also read Jesus likening himself to a mother hen–being willing to sacrifice himself for the metaphorical chicks.

The Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) teaches individual spiritual responsibility.  This is consistent with the collective spiritual authority in Amos 5 and Mattthew 23.  Despite the reality of collective spiritual authority, there are some tasks to which one must attend.

My position on how much of the Church–Evangelicalism and fundamentalism, especially–approaches the Second Coming of Jesus and teaches regarding that matter is on record at this weblog.  Evangelicalism and fundamentalism get eschatology wrong.  The rapture is a nineteenth-century invention and a heresy.  Dispensationalism is bunk.  The books of Daniel and Revelation no more predict the future than a bald man needs a comb.

I affirm that the Second Coming will occur eventually.  In the meantime, we need to be busy living the Golden Rule collectively and individually.  In the meantime, we need to increase social justice and decrease social injustice–especially of the economic variety–collectively and individually.  In the meantime, we need to work–collectively and individually–at leaving the world better than we found it.  We can do that much, by grace.

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

Above:  Statue of Tiberius

Image in the Public Domain

The Sovereignty of God

OCTOBER 29, 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 45:1-7

Psalm 96

1 Thessalonians 1:1-5a

Matthew 22:15-21

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Almighty and everlasting God,

in Christ you revealed your glory among the nations. 

Preserve the works of your mercy,

that your Church throughout the world may persevere

with steadfast faith in the confession of your name;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 28

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Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us

that we may continually be given to good works;

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), 86

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The Roman census tax of one denarius (a day’s wage for a laborer) per year reminded the people of their subjugation.  The denarius in the story from Matthew 22 bore the image of the emperor Tiberius, as well as the Latin inscription that translates as

Tiberius Caesar, Divine Son of Augustus.

The coin was a graven image, according to the Law of Moses.  When Jesus requested to see the coin and one of the Herodians produced it, Christ reversed the trap meant for him.  Jesus taught that God outranked Tiberius and deserved full allegiance.  It was a skillful answer that got him in trouble with nobody among the Romans, whose soldiers were watching the religious pilgrims filling Jerusalem ahead of Passover, the annual celebration of the Exodus from slavery in Egypt.  And those Jewish religious leaders could not dispute that God deserved complete allegiance.

Most Jews of the time assumed that, regardless of the name of the Roman emperor at any given moment, Satan was the power behind the throne.  Jesus taught that Tiberius, despite himself, had to answer to and worked for God.  That would have been news to Tiberius.

The assigned readings from the Hebrew Bible affirm the sovereignty of God, evident in nature, as well as in potentates, the moral characters of whom varied.  The Bible favors Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes, who ended the Babylonian Exile.  In fact, most Persian kings named in the Bible–except in that work of fiction called the Book of Esther–receive good press.

God is sovereign, despite all appearances to the contrary.  Some rulers and other people are consciously agents of God.  Others are agents of God despite themselves.  The sovereignty of God is sufficient reason to persevere in hope.  Writing the previous sentence is easier than fulfilling it.  I write during extraordinarily dark times.  Therefore, when I write about persevering in hope, I address myself first then everyone else second.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 20, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZACCHAEUS, PENITENT TAX COLLECTOR AND ROMAN COLLABORATOR

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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 Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Joseph Reveals His Identity, by Peter Von Cornelius

Image in the Public Domain

Forgiveness

SEPTEMBER 24, 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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Genesis 50:15-21

Psalm 103:1-13

Romans 14:5-9

Matthew 18:21-35

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O God, you declare your almighty power

chiefly in showing mercy and pity. 

Grant us the fullness of your grace,

that, pursuing what you have promised,

we may share your heavenly glory;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 27

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O God, without whose blessing we are not able to please you,

mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit

may in all things direct and govern our hearts;

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), 80

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Years ago, I read a news story about forgiveness.  A man had broken into a church building and stolen some equipment.  Police officers had arrested him.  The pastor of that congregation testified on the man’s behalf at the trial and urged leniency.  The judge agreed.  The thief, reformed, joined that church.

The Church is in the forgiveness business when it acts as it should.  Donatism (in both the original, narrow, and the contemporary, broader definitions of that term) resists forgiving.  Life in Christian community entails much mutual forbearance and forgiveness, thereby fostering unity.  In the context of last week’s Gospel reading, however, forbearance and forgiveness does not entail tolerating the intolerable.  If, for example, someone is a domestic abuser, no church or person should overlook that offense.  The Golden Rule requires siding with the victim(s).  Yet, getting away from extreme cases and embracing the spirit of the best of Calvinism, the theological category of Matters Indifferent becomes useful.  Whether or not one does X is a Matter Indifferent; the difference is minor and of no moral importance.

In Matthew 18:21-35 and elsewhere in the canonical Gospels, the link between forgiving others and receiving forgiveness from God is plain.  The standard one applies to others is the standard God will apply to one.  In other words, we will reap what we have sown.  This is consistent with the penalty for perjury in the Law of Moses; one suffers the fate one would have had inflicted on the innocent party, falsely accused.

Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain) insisted that the parts of the Bible he understood the best were the ones that bothered him the most.

I resemble that remark.  I know the difficulty of forgiving others–for offenses far less severe than Joseph’s brothers had committed against him.  Yet I also understand the plain meaning of certain verses in the Gospel of Matthew regarding the importance of forgiveness.

Another issue related to forgiveness is forgiving oneself for offenses, real or imagined.  I know this difficulty, too.  Read Genesis 50:15-21 again, O reader.  Do you get the sense that the brothers had not forgiven themselves?  Do you get the sense that they were projecting onto Joseph?

Matthew 18:22 calls back to Genesis 4:24 in the Septuagint.  “Seventy-seven” means limitless.  Jesus still calls us to forgive each other limitless times.  Forgiveness may not necessarily negate punishment, but it will improve human relationships.  At a minimum, when one forgives, one helps oneself by cutting loose spiritual baggage.  We also need to forgive ourselves limitless times.  All this is possible with grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 30, 2022 COMMON ERA

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

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

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

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PINCHON, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF SAINT-BRIEUC

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   3 comments

Above:  St. Simon Peter, by Peter Paul Rubens

Image in the Public Domain

Hesed

SEPTEMBER 3, 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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Exodus 6:2-8

Psalm 138

Romans 11:33-36

Matthew 16:13-20

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God of all creation,

you reach out to call people of all nations to your kingdom. 

As you gather disciples from near and far,

count us also among those

who boldly confess your Son Jesus Christ as Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 27

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O almighty God, whom to know is everlasting life,

grant us without doubt to know your Son Jesus Christ

to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life

that, following his steps,

we may steadfastly walk in the say that leads to eternal life;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 77

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One day in Athens, Georgia, I visited my favorite thrift store in search of a lamp.  I saw a wooden lamp that needed polishing.  The item looked ugly in the store.  However, I recognized the lamp’s potential.  So, I purchased the lamp, took it home, and polished it.  I owned an attractive lamp.

In the assigned lessons, we read of the faithfulness of God.

  1. The Book of Exodus makes clear that God freed the Hebrew slaves in Egypt.
  2. Psalm 138 extols the faithful love of God.
  3. Romans 11:33-36 needs no summary; read the passage, O reader.  No paraphrase can do justice to the text.
  4. When we turn to Matthew 16:13-20, we read one account of the Confession of St. Peter.  St. (Simon) Peter is the rock in this passage; make no mistake to the contrary, O reader.  16:19 (addressed to St. Peter) resembles 18:18 (addressed to the disciples).  Binding and loosing refer to rabbinic authoritative teaching–interpretation of the Law of Moses.  Putting 16:19 and 18:18 together, the disciples, with St. Peter as the leader, had Christ’s approval to teach authoritatively, and this role played out on the congregational level.

Consider the Twelve, O reader.  The canonical Gospels frequently portray them as being oblivious.  The Gospel of Mark goes out of its way to do this.  The other three Gospels tone down that motif.  If there was hope for the Twelve, there is hope for us.

Jesus recognized potential in the Twelve.

Jesus recognizes potential in you, O reader.  Jesus recognizes potential in me.  If that is not an example of divine faithful love, I do not know what is.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 23, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN GERARD, ENGLISH JESUIT PRIEST; AND SAINT MARY WARD, FOUNDER OF THE INSTITUTE OF THE VIRGIN MARY

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH GOTTLOB GUTTER, GERMAN-AMERICAN INSTRUMENT MAKER, REPAIRMAN, AND MERCHANT

THE FEAST OF JOHN JOHNS, ENGLISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER 

THE FEAST VINCENT LEBBE, BELGIAN-CHINESE ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MISSIONARY; FOUNDER OF THE BROTHERS OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST

THE FEAST OF WILHELM HEINRICH WAUER, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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

Above:  St. Peter Walking on Water, by Alessandro Allori

Image in the Public Domain

Love One Another

AUGUST 20, 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 19:9-18

Psalm 85:8-13 (LBW) or Psalm 28 (LW)

Romans 9:1-5

Matthew 14:22-33

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Almighty and everlasting God,

you are always more ready to hear than we are to pray,

and to give us more than we either desire or deserve. 

Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy,

forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid,

and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask,

except through the merit of your Son,

Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 26

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Almighty and everlasting God,

always more ready to hear than we to pray

and always ready to give more than we either desire or deserve,

pour down upon us the abundance of your mercy,

forgiving us the good things we are not worthy to ask

but through the merits and mediation

of 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), 74

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I am listening.  What is Yahweh saying?

–Psalm 85:8a, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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Quaker theology includes the Inner Light–the Holy Spirit within each person.  God speaks.  Quakers listen.

I assume that God is a chatterbox in search of an attentive audience.  We are busy and/or distracted.  God gives us assignments.  Like Elijah, we do not complete most of them.  Like St. Simon Peter, we look down at the chaos, not up at Jesus.  We lose faith and sink into that chaos without Jesus, without God.

St. Paul the Apostle believed that the covenant had passed to Christians.  His argument has not convinced me; the Jewish covenant has held.  God has established a separate covenant for faithful Gentiles.  Unfortunately, anti-Semitic misinterpretations of St. Paul’s words have fueled hatred and violence for nearly 2000 years.

What is God saying?  One may experience difficulty knowing the answer to that question even when one is listening carefully.  Assumptions and cultural programming get in the way.  Distractions mean that we miss some messages, even repeated ones.  Ego-defense mechanisms bristle against some messages.  Even when we know the words, we need to interpret them in contexts.

In the middle 1980s, at one of the United Methodist congregations of which my father was the pastor, there was a man named Don.  Don was hard of hearing.  He heard parts of what my father said in sermons.  Don frequently became incensed regarding what he did hear.  He missed contexts and misheard certain words and passages.  He heard (somewhat) and did not understand.  And he assumed that my father was in the wrong.  And Don frequently confronted my father.

Many of us are like Don; we hear partially, misunderstand greatly, and assume that we are correct.  We are, of course, correct some of the time.  A cliché says that even a broken clock is right twice a day.  But why be content to be a broken clock?

Rabbi Hillel and Jesus were correct.  The summary of the Law of Moses is to love God fully and one’s neighbor as oneself.  Gentiles often neglect the second half of Rabbi Hillel’s statement, in full:

The rest is commentary.  Go and learn it.

We Gentiles often stop after,

The rest is commentary.

Many of us tend not to want to study the Law of Moses.  And when many of us do study it, we frequently misinterpret and misunderstand it.  Well-meaning piety may mistake culturally-specific examples for timeless principles, resulting in legalism.

The most basic Biblical commandment is to love self-sacrifically.  If we mean what we say when we affirm that all people bear the image of God, we will treat them accordingly.  We will love them.  We will seek the best for them.  We will not treat them like second-class or third-class citizens.  We will not discriminate against them.  We will not deny or minimize their humanity.  In Quaker terms, we will see the Inner Light in them.

According to a story that may be apocryphal, the aged St. John the Evangelist was planning to visit a house church somewhere.  At the appointed time, the Apostle’s helpers carried him into the space where the congregation had gathered.  The helpers sat St. John down in front of the people.  The Apostle said:

My children, love one another.

Then St. John signaled for his helpers to take him away.  As they did, one member of the congregation ran after St. John.  This person asked an ancient equivalent of,

That’s it?

St. John replied:

When you have done that, I will tell you more.

The message is simple yet difficult.  Yahweh tells us to love one another.  The news tells us all we need to know about how poorly or well we are doing, based on that standard.  We are selfish bastards more often than not, sadly.  Or, like Don, we may be hard of hearing.  Or maybe we have selective memories and attention spans.

Do not imagine, O reader, that I exempt myself from these criticisms.  Rather, I know myself well enough to grasp my sinfulness.  I confess that I am a flawed human being.  I am “but dust.”  I depend on grace.

We all do.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 21, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALOYSIUS GONZAGA, JESUIT

THE FEAST OF CARL BERNHARD GARVE, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHARITIE LIES SMITH BANCROFT DE CHENEZ, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN JONES AND JOHN RIGBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 1598 AND 1600

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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

Above:  Icon of Hosea

Image in the Public Domain

Repentance

JUNE 18, 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 5:15-6:6

Psalm 50:1-15 (LBW) or Psalm 119:65-72 (LW)

Romans 4:18-25

Matthew 9:9-13

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O God, the strength of those who hope in you: 

Be present and hear our prayers;

and, because in the weakness of our mortal nature

we can do nothing good without you,

give us the help of your grace,

so that in keeping your commandments

we may please you in will and deed,

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 24

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O God, from whom all good proceeds,

grant to us, your humble servants,

that by your holy inspiration we may think the things that are right

and by your merciful guiding accomplish them;

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 64

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For I desire goodness, not sacrifice;

Obedience to God, rather than burnt offerings.

–Hosea 6:6, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985, 1999)

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Yet the Law of Moses commands sacrifices and burst offerings.

Hebrew prophets did not always express themselves as clearly as some of us may wish they had.  In context, Hosea 6:6 referred to God rejecting the opportunistic appearance of repentance or a habitually errant population.  Divinely-ordained rituals were not properly talismans; they did not protect one from one’s proverbial chickens coming home to roost.  Hosea 6:6 asserted the primacy of morality over rituals.

I am neither a puritan nor a pietist.  I favor polishing God’s altar and eschew condemning “externals.”

God, metaphorically, is a consuming fire.  Before God, therefore, false repentance does not impress.  The attitude in Psalm 119 is preferable:

Before I was humbled, I strayed,

but now I keep your word.

You are good, and you do what is good;

teach me your statutes.

–Psalm 119:67-68, The Revised New Jerusalem Bible (2019)

Sometimes recognizing one’s need to repent may be a challenge.  How can one repent if one does not think one needs to do so?  How can one turn one’s back on one’s sins (some of them, anyway) unless one knows what those sins are?  Self-righteousness creates spiritual obstacles.

How happy are they who know their need for God, for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

–Matthew 5:3, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English–Revised Edition (1972)

The test, O reader, for whether you need God is simple.  Check for your pulse.  If you have one, you need God.  We all stand in the need of grace; may we admit this then think and act accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2022 COMMON ERA

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

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

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

THE FEAST OF ELIAS BOUDINOT, IV, U.S. STATESMAN, PHILANTHROPIST, AND WITNESS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

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

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

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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

Above:  Figs

Image in the Public Domain

Mutuality in God

JUNE 11, 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 11:18-21, 26-28

Psalm 31:1-5 (6-18), 19-24 (LBW) or Psalm 4 (LW)

Romans 3:21-25a, 27-28

Matthew 7:(15-20) 21-29

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Lord God of all nations,

you have revealed your will to your people

and promised your help to us all. 

Help us to hear and to do what you command,

that the darkness may be overcome by the power of your light;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 24

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O God,

whose never-failing providence sets in order all things

both in heaven and on earth,

put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things;

and give us those things that are profitable for us;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 62

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Jewish Covenantal Nomism, present in Deuteronomy 11 and in the background of Romans 3, establishes the tone for this post.  Salvation for Jews comes by grace; they are the Chosen People.  Keeping the moral mandates of the Law of Moses habitually is essential to retaining that salvation.

Love, therefore, the LORD your God, and always keep His charge.  His laws, His rules, and His commandments.

–Deuteronomy 11:1, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985,1999)

Perfection in these matters is impossible, of course.  Therefore, repentance is crucial daily.  In broader Biblical context, God knows that we mere mortals are “but dust.”  Do we?

Grace is free, not cheap.  Nobody can earn or purchase it, but grace does require much of its recipients.  Thin, too, O reader, how much it cost Jesus.

Both options for the Psalm this Sunday contain the combination of trust in God and pleading with God.  I know this feeling.  Maybe you do, too, O reader.

St. Paul the Apostle’s critique of Judaism was simply that it was not Christianity.  As E. P. Sanders wrote:

In short, this is what Paul finds wrong in Judaism:  it is not Christianity.

Paul and Palestinian Judaism:  A Comparison of Patterns of Religion (1977), 552

For St. Paul, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus changed everything.

I, as a Christian, agree.  However, I also affirm the continuation of the Jewish covenant.  I trust that God is faithful to all Jews and Gentiles who fulfill their ends of the covenant and mourns those who drop out.  Many of those who have dropped out may not know that they have done so.

The good fruit of God, boiled down to its essence and one word, is love.  Recall the First Letter of John, O reader:  Be in Christ.  Walk in the way Jesus walked.

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.

–1 John 5:2-3a, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002), 203

And how could we forget 1 John 4:7-8?

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God.  He who does not love does not know God; God is love.

Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

This point brings me back to Psalm 31.  In verse 6 or 7 (depending on versification), either God or the Psalmist hates or detests idolators.  Translations disagree on who hates or detests the idolators.  In context, the voice of Psalm 31 is that of a devout Jews falsely accused of idolatry; he protests against this charge and defends his piety and innocence.  Human beings are capable of hating and detesting, of course.  I reject the argument that God hates or detests anyone, though.

Salvation comes via grace.  Damnation comes via works, however.  God sends nobody to Hell.  As C. S. Lewis wrote, the doors to Hell are locked from the inside.

The Right Reverend Robert C. Wright, the Episcopal Bishop of Atlanta, says to love like Jesus.  Consider, O reader, that Christ’s love is self-sacrificial and unconditional.  It beckons people to love in the same way.  This divine love, flowing through mere mortals, can turn upside-down societies, systems, and institutions right side up.

However, anger, grudges, and hatred are alluring idols.  Much of social media feeds off a steady diet of outrage.  To be fair, some outrage is morally justifiable.  If, for example, human trafficking does not outrage you, O reader, I do not want to know you.  But too much outrage is spiritually and socially toxic.  To borrow a line from Network (1976):

I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!

That kind of rage is a key ingredient in a recipe for a dysfunctional society.

We human beings all belong to God and each other.  We are responsible to and for each other.  May we think and act accordingly, by grace and for the common good.  God commands it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 1, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP AND JAMES, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for Proper 20, Year D (Humes)   2 comments

Above:  Ezra Preaches the Law

Image in the Public Domain

Two Kingdoms

SEPTEMBER 18, 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 15:1-18 or Nehemiah 8:1-4a, 5-6, 8-10

Psalm 138

Revelation 12:1-12

John 11:45-57

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Some authors of certain books of the New Testament favored submission to earthly authority, namely the Roman Empire.  The treatment of the Roman Empire in Luke-Acts was politically deft, shifting blame from imperial officials to hostile Jews.  The greatest shift of blame from the Roman Empire to hostile Jews came in the Gospel of John, though.  (Read John 11:45-57, for example, O reader.)  The author (“John,” whoever he was) of Revelation spared no words regarding the Roman Empire, though.  He depicted that empire as being irredeemably evil.

The nature of apocalyptic literature is that most language is symbolic.  A literal reading, therefore, produces nonsense.  Revelation 12:1-12 contains references to pagan mythology and Jewish scripture, some of it mythological in genre.  Without getting lost in the mythological weeds (something easy to do), I cut to the chase.  The Roman Empire was evil.  God was going to destroy it.

This reading raises two question I will address:

  1. How to relate to evil; and
  2. How to relate to God.

First, never submit to evil.  Resist it always.  (That was quick.)

Second, trust God, who is faithful.  In the full Biblical sense, to believe in God is to trust in God.  We mere mortals can trust God, who has established covenants and given the Law of Moses.  Rules matter; they provide definition to generalizations.  What does “love your neighbor” mean, in practical terms?  That is just one example of how laws (many of them bound by time and circumstances) flesh out timeless principles in the Law of Moses.

I write this blog post during troublesome times on Planet Earth.  I write this blog post during perilous times in the United States of America.  I write this blog post eighteen days after Donald Trump, then the President of the United States, sent a mob of domestic terrorists to assault the Capitol Building and endanger the lives of the Vice President, the members of both houses of Congress, their staffers, and Capitol Police officers.  I write this blog post eighteen days after five people died in that insurrection.  I write this blog post four days after United States military personnel had to guard the Capitol grounds for the inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden.  I write this post as some members of the Republican Party continue to doubt the legitimacy of the presidential election of 2020.  Some even go so far as to claim that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who died on March 5, 2013, participated in a plot to rig the American presidential election of 2020.  I write this blog post in a political climate in which even objective reality is a matter of dispute, and some people claim, with straight faces, that a man dead for nearly seven years rigged or helped to rig the U.S. presidential election, and Trump is a savior figure who will deliver the nation from Deep State Democrats who are pedophiles who drink the blood of children. 

Authoritarianism is on the rise in the United States.  Much of the “Religious Right” supports an authoritarian, even theocratic agenda.  Authoritarianism is a form of evil.  Resistance is the only morally justifiable response to it.

God will win in the end.  That is one message of Revelation 12:1-12.  Yet we mere mortals do not live in the end times.  No, we live in the in-between times.  We live between the writing of the prophecy and the fulfillment of it.  And we have moral obligations, which accompany the covenant.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 24, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF THE ORDINATION OF FLORENCE LI-TIM-OI, FIRST FEMALE PRIEST IN THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION

THE FEAST OF GEORGE A. BUTTRICK, ANGLO-AMERICAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; AND HIS SON, DAVID G. BUTTRICK, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEN UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIE POUSSEPIN, FOUNDRESS OF THE DOMINICAN SISTERS OF CHARITY OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE VIRGIN

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF PODLASIE, 1874

THE FEAST OF SAINT SURANUS OF SORA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MARTYR, 580

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/24/two-kingdoms-iv/

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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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