Archive for the ‘Nicodemus’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 18 (Ackerman)   2 comments

Above:   The Parsonage of Vidette United Methodist Church, Vidette, Georgia, 1980-1982

Photograph by John Dodson Taylor, III

Humanity, Community, and Christian Liberty

SEPTEMBER 9, 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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Jeremiah 28:1-4, 10-17

Psalm 119:65-72

Romans 14:13-23

John 7:45-52

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The difference between a true prophet and a false one becomes evident after he or she has prophesied.  For example, if he or she states that X will happen and the opposite of X happens, he or she is a false prophet.  That is the standard Jeremiah cites in Jeremiah 28 with regard to Hananiah.  Jeremiah, however, does not judge Hananiah; God does that.

The theme of humility unites the assigned readings for this day.  Jeremiah is sufficiently humble to leave judgment to God.  The Psalmist is humble before God.  Certain Pharisees–Nicodemus excepted–manifest a lack of humility toward Jesus and the possibility of him being the Messiah and of God.  St. Paul the Apostle urges humility toward each other.

I recall that, in June 1980-June 1982, when my father was the pastor of the Vidette United Methodist Church, Vidette, Georgia, I was not to play in the yard on Sunday afternoons because, as my father said, someone might get the wrong idea.  That was ridiculous, of course.  God gave us the Sabbath as a blessing, not as a time to ponder dourly what we ought not to do.  Besides, anyone who would have taken offense at me getting exercise and fresh air in the yard on Sunday afternoons should have removed the pole from his or her rectum.  Doing so would have made siting down more comfortable for such a person.

If we permit others to prevent us from doing too much for the sake of avoiding causing offense, we will do little or nothing.  Then what good will we be?  Nevertheless, I understand the principle that we, living in community as we do, are responsible to and for each other.  We ought to live with some respect for certain responsibilities without losing the proper balance between self-restraint and Christian liberty.  Busy bodies should attend to their own business.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 18, 2017 COMMON ERA

PROPER 6:   THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DELPHINUS OF BORDEAUX, AMANDUS OF BORDEAUX, SEVERINUS OF BORDEAUX, VENERIUS OF MILAN, AND CHROMATIUS OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

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

THE FEAST OF ANSON DODGE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/06/18/humility-community-and-christian-liberty/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 22, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Kingdoms of Judah and Israel

Above:  Map of the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel

Image in the Public Domain

Apostasy and Idolatry

OCTOBER 5, 6, and 7, 2017

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The Collect:

Beloved God, from you come all things that are good.

Lead us by the inspiration of your Spirit to know those things that are right,

and by your merciful guidance, help us to do them,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 2:14-22 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 2:23-37 (Friday)

Jeremiah 6:1-10 (Saturday)

Psalm 80:7-15 (All Days)

Colossians 2:16-23 (Thursday)

Philippians 2:14-18; 3:1-4a (Friday)

John 7:40-52 (Saturday)

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Restore us, O God of hosts;

show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

–Psalm 80:7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The reading for these three days overlap nicely, focusing on the themes of idolatry and apostasy.  To commit apostasy is to fall away from grace.  (Thus grace is not irresistible.  Strict Calvinism is therefore mistaken about that fifth of the TULIP formula.  I am also dubious of the Perseverance of the Saints, which relates to Irresistible Grace.)  An idol is anything which takes the place of God in one’s life.  Thus an idol might be a false deity, an activity, or even a sacred text.  Function in one’s life determines that thing’s status relative to idolatry.  Among the most popular idols is the Bible, which is supposed to function instead as an icon–through which people see God.  But, if one treats it as an idol, that is what it is for that person.

The lessons from Jeremiah condemn idolatry which has led to national apostasy, evident in ill-advised alliances with foreign, predatory empires.

What then do you gain by going to Egypt,

to drink the waters of the Nile?

or what do you gain by going to Assyria,

to drink the waters of the Euphrates?

Your wickedness will punish you,

and your apostasies will convict you.

Know and see that it is evil and bitter

for you to forsake the LORD your God;

the fear of me is not in you,

says the LORD GOD of hosts.

–Jeremiah 2:18-19, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

From the gloom of Jeremiah 2 and 6 we turn to the Pauline tradition, which emphasizes Christ crucified and resurrected.  St. Paul the Apostle rejects, among other things, Gnostic asceticism, a form of Jewish ritualism, and the practice of worshiping angels as methods as obtaining the spiritual upper hand.  Christ is sufficient, the ever-Jewish Paul tells us through the ages.

I understand the Apostle’s objection to Gnosticism, with its reliance on secret knowledge and belief that matter is evil.  If salvation comes from having secret knowledge, as Gnostics insisted, the death and resurrection of Jesus were pointless.  In fact, in Gnostic thought, he did not die because he was not even corporeal, for, in Gnosticism, he could not have had a body, a body being material and therefore evil.  Thus Gnosticism was not Christian.  The exclusion of Gnostic texts from the Bible was not, as some “documentaries” on the History Channel claim, a conspiracy of Church leaders to suppress truth and crush dissent.  No, it was a proper course of action.

As for rituals (especially Jewish ones), I approach the text from Colossians differently than do the authors of some of the commentaries I consulted.  A high proportion of these writers were Presbyterians with little use for ritual.  Their paragraphs screamed between the lines “This is why I am not a Papist!”  I, as an Episcopalian, know the value of ritual and of approaching it properly.  It should be an icon, not an idol, although it functions as the latter for many people.  But so does the Bible, and I do not heap scorn on that sacred anthology either.

Apostasy, a theme from the Jeremiah readings, recurs in John 7.  Temple officials accuse some Temple policemen of it for refusing to arrest Jesus, who had impressed them.  These officials also accuse Nicodemus of the same offense.  I realize that much of the Gospel of John reflects late first-century C.E. Jewish Christian invective, for Jewish Christians had found themselves marginalized within Judaism.  Nevertheless, the stories in John 7:40-52 have the ring of truth, for fearful people in positions of power have attempted to retain it in many places and at numerous times.

Idols come in many varieties, shapes, sizes, and ages.  As I have written in this post, function in one’s life determines status relative to idolatry in that life.  Among the more common idols is attachment to the status quo ante, especially if one benefits from it.  Thus we become upset when God does something we do not expect.  This might threaten just our sense of order (hardly a minor issue), but also our identity (also a major consideration) and socio-economic-political or socio-economic standing (of which we tend to be quite protective).  But when was religion supposed to function as a defense against God?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 25, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MICHAEL FARADAY, SCIENTIST

THE FEAST OF BAYARD RUSTIN, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/apostasy-and-idolatry/

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Devotion for May 27 in Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  General Winfield Scott Hancock, United States Army

Image Source = Library of Congress

Ecclesiastes and John, Part III:  Ethics and Loyalty

NOT OBSERVED IN 2017

TRINITY SUNDAY, MAY 27, 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 everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Ecclesiastes 4:1-16

Psalm 136 (Morning)

Psalms 97 and 112 (Evening)

John 7:32-53

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Recently, in the wake of a financial scandal related to a large British investment bank, I listened to a BBC World Service radio program which provided analysis.  I heard an interview with an anthropologist who studies the cultures of large investment banks.  These, according to him, tend to foster dog-eat-dog attitudes, for the quests to earn large bonuses and not to lose one’s job due to perceived redundancy override the ethical drive to work toward the best interests of one’s clients.  There is little or no loyalty in the workplace.  I thought about that interview while reading Ecclesiastes 4:1-16.

 Loyalty can be a precious and rare commodity.  And it is something which one ought not to give away like candy on Halloween.  Some people deserve it; others do not.  The test, I suppose, is reciprocity.  My favorite Civil War general was Winfield Scott Hancock.  He knew that his job entailed risking the lives of the men under his command, but he put himself at risk next to the lowest-ranking men.  He was loyal to them, and they to him.  General Hancock earned their loyalty.

When oppression comes people need to act out of loyalty to each other and fidelity to the truth.  That is no time to have an “every man for himself” attitude.  Nicodemus, in John 7, had legal procedure on his side.  He wanted to see his peers follow their own rules.  These were the same people who were accusing Jesus of breaking the rules, so should they not have followed theirs?  Would that not have been ethical?

When we must answer to God, may unethical behavior not be among our offenses.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 3, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERARD, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH OF PORTUGAL, QUEEN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/04/23/ecclesiastes-and-john-part-iii-ethics-and-loyalty/

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