Archive for the ‘Psalm 23’ Tag

Devotion for Trinity Sunday (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:   The First Council of Nicaea

Image in the Public Domain

Relationships

JUNE 7, 2020

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

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

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of 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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Song of Songs 8:6-7

Psalm 89:5-8

Hebrews 11:4-7, 17-28

John 5:19-24

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Trinity Sunday is frequently a difficult occasion to preach, for many heresies have their origin in attempts to explain the Trinity.  Yet on this day, the only Christian feast devoted to a doctrine, one must say something.

The Bible offers a variety of images for God from Genesis to Revelation.  Abraham and God, we read, took walks together and engaged in conversations.  Yet, as we read in Exodus, the understanding of God had become one of a remote figure whose holiness was fatal to most people–Moses excepted.  We read of the heavenly court, modeled after earthly royal courts, in Psalm 89.  And we read in John 5 that Jesus and YHWH/God the Father have a relationship.

The full nature of divinity exceeds human capacity to grasp it, but we can know some truths.  Hebrews 11 reminds us of the faithfulness of God in relating to we human beings.  By faith, we read, people have committed great deeds that have glorified God and benefited others, even long past the lifespans of those who have committed those great deeds.  The theme of relationship is also present in the Song of Songs (a book I advise reading in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures, 1985).   The relationship in Song of Songs 8 is between a man and a woman (marital status unknown), whose love has placed their lives at risk.  Love and death are linked for them.

Let me be a seal upon your heart,

Like the seal upon your hand.

For love is fierce as death,

Passion is mighty as Sheol;

Its darts are darts of fire,

A blazing flame.

Vast floods cannot quench love,

Nor rivers drown it.

If a man offered all his wealth for love,

He would be laughed to scorn.

–Song of Songs 8:6-7, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Neither can anything quench or drown divine love for us, despite our frequent lack of love for God.  Yet for a relationship to be healthy, more than one figure must be engaged in maintaining it.  May we embrace the mystery of the Holy Trinity and pursue and deepen a healthy relationship with God, whose goodness and mercy alone pursue us in Psalm 23.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/relationships/

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Devotion for Friday Before Proper 20, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Sky with clouds sunny day

Above:   Sky with Clouds

Image in the Public Domain

Grace and Judgment

SEPTEMBER 20, 2019

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The Collect:

God among us, we gather in the name of your Son

to learn love for one another.  Keep our feet from evil paths.

Turn our minds to your wisdom and our hearts to the grace

revealed in your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 22:17-31

Psalm 113

Romans 8:31-39

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Who is like the LORD our God, who sits enthroned on high,

but stoops to behold the heavens and the earth?

He takes up the weak out of the dust and lifts up the poor from the ashes.

He sets them with the princes, with the princes of his people.

–Psalm 113:5-7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The reading from Ezekiel 22 is full of divine judgment on the unrighteous, notably false prophets who have stolen from people, destroyed lives, and taken lives, among other offenses.

I will repay them for their conduct–declares the Lord GOD.

–Ezekiel 22:31b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Good news for the oppressed is frequently bad news for their unrepentant oppressors.

St. Paul the Apostle made a wonderful point about the love of God in Christ:

For I am certain of this:  neither death nor life, no angel, no prince, nothing that exists, nothing still to come, not any power, or height or depth, nor any created thing, can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.

–Romans 8:38-39, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

That passage reminds me of Psalm 139, in which the author praises God for being omnipresent:

Where could I go to escape your spirit?

Where could I flee from your presence?

If I climb the heavens, you are there,

there too, if I lie in Sheol.

If I flew to the point of sunrise,

or westward across the sea,

your hand would still be guiding me,

your right hand holding me.

If I asked darkness to cover me,

and light to become night around me,

that darkness would not be dark to you,

night would be as light as day.

–Psalm 139:7-12, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

On the other hand, the author of Psalm 139 prays that God will kill the wicked and announces his hatred of those who hate God in verses 19-22.  Does not the love of God extend to them?  Does not God desire that they confess their sins and repent?  Does not God prefer that oppressors cease their oppression and become godly?  In Psalm 23 God prepares a banquet for the author in the presence of the author’s enemies, who are powerless to prevent the banquet.  Furthermore, only divine goodness and kindness pursue the author; his enemies fall away, unable to keep up with divine love and might.

God does not separate us from divine love, grace, kindness, and mercy.  No, we choose to acknowledge it and to act accordingly or to do the opposite.  Love comes with the possibility of rejection and the duty of acceptance.  Grace is free yet definitely not cheap, for it changes its recipients; it comes with obligations.  God liberates us to love, glorify, and enjoy Him forever.  Will we accept that grace and its accompanying duties, especially those regarding how we treat our fellow human beings?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW BOBOLA, JESUIT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ABBOT OF GLASTONBURY AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF KERMARTIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND ADVOCATE OF THE POOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/05/19/grace-and-judgment/

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Devotion for Saturday Before Proper 11, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Christ Giving Sight to Bartimaeus--Blake

Above:  Christ Giving Sight to Bartimaeus, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

God, Beside Us in Suffering

JULY 21, 2018

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The Collect:

O God, powerful and compassionate,

you shepherd your people, faithfully feeding and protecting us.

Heal each of us, and make us a whole people,

that we may embody the justice and peace of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 12:1-13

Psalm 23

Luke 18:35-43

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The LORD is my shepherd;

there is nothing I lack.

In green pastures he makes me lie down;

to still waters he leads me;

he restores my soul.

He guides me along the right paths

for the sake of his name.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

your rod and your staff comfort me.

You set a table before me

in front of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me

all the days of my life;

I will dwell in the house of the LORD

for endless days.

–Psalm 23, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2010)

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Jeremiah lamented the fact that the wicked (many of them, anyway) prosper and that the righteous (many of them, anyway) suffer.  He also prayed for divine wrath against the wicked.  That was a predictable and understandable attitude, one which many people have shared.  May we be honest, O reader?  Have you and I not rejoiced to learn that some scoundrel got his just desserts?

I perceive, however, that Jesus never rejoiced in that.  Yes, he became angry with and confronted people who acted in certain ways and harbored certain attitudes, but I sense that he would have preferred that they repent and follow him.  He did not even seem confrontational with the wealthy man in Luke 18:18-30, just a few verses before healing a blind man near Jericho.  Later our Lord and Savior prayed for those who executed him and consented to his execution.

Blessed are you when people hate you and ostracize you, when they insult you and slander your very name, because of the Son of Man.  On that day exult and dance for joy, for you have a rich reward in heaven; that is how their fathers treated the prophets.

–Luke 6:22-23, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The same God who sets a table for us in the presence of our enemies abides with us during difficult times.  I have known that presence during my darkest hours.  I treasure the blessing of that presence without possessing any nostalgia for the context thereof.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu told a story about a Jew during the Holocaust.  A Nazi guard was forcing him to perform an especially dirty, degrading, disgusting, and unpleasant cleaning job.

Where is your God now?,

the guard asked sarcastically.  The Jew replied,

Beside me, here in the muck.

Here ends the lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE EVE OF EASTER, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF BENJAMIN HALL KENNEDY, GREEK AND LATIN SCHOLAR, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT GEORGE THE YOUNGER, GREEK ORTHODOX BISHOP OF MITYLENE

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/god-beside-us-in-suffering/

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Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Proper 11, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

St. Paul Preaching in Athens

Above:  St. Paul Preaching in Athens, by Raphael

Image in the Public Domain

Divine Love, Pursuing Us

JULY 19 and 20, 2018

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The Collect:

O God, powerful and compassionate,

you shepherd your people, faithfully feeding and protecting us.

Heal each of us, and make us a whole people,

that we may embody the justice and peace of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 10:1-16 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 10:17-25 (Friday)

Psalm 23 (Both Days)

Colossians 1:15-23 (Thursday)

Acts 17:16-31 (Friday)

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The LORD is my shepherd;

there is nothing I lack.

In green pastures he makes me lie down;

to still waters he leads me;

he restores my soul.

He guides me along the right paths

for the sake of his name.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

your rod and your staff comfort me.

You set a table before me

in front of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me

all the days of my life;

I will dwell in the house of the LORD

for endless days.

–Psalm 23, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2010)

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Among my favorite quotes is one from Theophrastus (circa 371-circa 287 Before the Common Era), a Greek philosopher:

Superstition is cowardice in face of the divine.

The interlocking pericopes for these two days combine to encourage us to avoid superstition and idolatry.  The readings tell us to follow God, who is faithful to divine promises, who chastises us for the purpose of correction, and who pursues us to bless us.  Divine goodness and mercy do not merely follow us in Psalm 23.  No, they chase after us with the intention of overtaking us.

Perhaps my favorite passage from Colossians is the one assigned for one of these two days.  The crucified and resurrected Christ is the reconciling agent in the created order.  That is a profound theological statement, one which requires more than one blog post to unpack.  Much of that theology exists in the realm of mystery, defying rational statements and related apologetics.  That is fine with me, for I enjoy a divine mystery.  I have spent years with that mystery from Colossians, pondering it and permitting it to seep into my being.  I hope to spend more years on that project.  Certainly the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth (however the mechanics of that worked) was an example of goodness and mercy pursuing humankind.  The chase continues, fortunately.

May you, O reader, embrace God, whose goodness and mercy pursue you to bless you, and continue in a healthy spiritual pilgrimage.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE EVE OF EASTER, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF BENJAMIN HALL KENNEDY, GREEK AND LATIN SCHOLAR, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT GEORGE THE YOUNGER, GREEK ORTHODOX BISHOP OF MITYLENE

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/divine-love-pursuing-us/

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Devotion for Saturday Before Proper 23, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Destruction of Jerusalem by Ercole de' Roberti

Above:  The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans Under the Titus, A.D. 70, by David Roberts

Image in the Public Domain

Apocalypses

OCTOBER 10, 2020

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The Collect:

Lord of the feast, you have prepared a table before all peoples

and poured out your life with abundance.

Call us again to your banquet.

Strengthen us by what is honorable, just, and pure,

and transform us into a people or righteousness and peace,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 24:17-23

Psalm 23

Mark 2:18-22

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Psalm 23 presents a pristine, pleasant picture of verdant pastures, safety in God, and an overflowing cup.  That is the opposite of Isaiah 24, in which God pronounced judgment on the sinful Earth.  Leading up to that chapter we read of divine judgment on various nations (including the Kingdom of Judah) and a condemnation of official corruption.  Divine redemption of Judah and human thanksgiving for God’s deliverance of the people from oppression follow Isaiah 24 immediately.  Destruction of the wicked order makes room for the new world of righteousness.

I detect an apocalyptic note in Mark 2:18-22 also.  The disciples of Jesus will not fast until

the bridegroom is taken away from them

–2:20a, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985).

The canonical Gospels contain openly apocalyptic sections, especially in proximity to the Passion of Jesus.  That seems appropriate, given the nature of crucifixion and the Roman imperial use of violence.

I have noticed two unhelpful extremes in theology and Bible-based art.   One is fixating on the pleasant, so that Jesus usually smiles, for example.  The other is to focus on doom, gloom, destruction, and judgment.  Both contain true elements, of course, but the error is fixating on one extreme so as to deny or minimize its opposite.  So, avoid extremism, I note that the rescue of people from oppressors is good news for the oppressed and bad news for the oppressors and their allies.  May none of us be like those who mourn the fall of Babylon in Revelation 18.

Sometimes we mere mortals find ourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, so we suffer and lament.

Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days!

–Mark 13:17, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

That is the unfortunate reality of many people in parts of the world, is it not?  Yet we humans may hope for a better time.  We might even function as partners with God to improve circumstances.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 29, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE BEHEADING OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST

THE FEAST OF JOHN BUNYAN, PROTESTANT SPIRITUAL WRITER

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/apocalypses/

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Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Proper 23, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

08508v

Above:  Pool of Hezekiah, Jerusalem, Palestine, Between 1898 and 1946

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-08508

Good and Bad Priorities

OCTOBER 8 and 9, 2020

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The Collect:

Lord of the feast, you have prepared a table before all peoples

and poured out your life with abundance.

Call us again to your banquet.

Strengthen us by what is honorable, just, and pure,

and transform us into a people or righteousness and peace,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 22:1-8a (Thursday)

Isaiah 22:8b-14 (Friday)

Psalm 23 (Both Days)

1 Peter 5:1-5, 12-14 (Thursday)

James 4:4-10 (Friday)

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At first glance, from a certain point of view, the official actions in Isaiah 22 were reasonable.  Strengthening defenses and securing the water supply at a time of military threat were good ideas.  Yet, according to First Isaiah, they were insufficient:

You counted the houses of Jerusalem, and you broke down the houses to fortify the wall.  You made a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the old pool.  But you did not look to him who did it, or have regard for him who planned it long ago.

–Isaiah 22:10-11, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

And, as the New Testament readings remind us, we must behave toward God and each other humbly if we are to act properly.  This ethic is consistent with the Law of Moses, which teaches that people have responsibilities to and for each other, depend on each other, and rely completely on God.  Rugged individualism is a lie, despite its popularity in many political and cultural sectors.

Among the recurring condemnations of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah in the Old Testament are:

  1. Idolatry,
  2. Overconfidence in human plans and actions,
  3. Failure to trust God,
  4. Official corruption, and
  5. Economic exploitation of the poor.

Those are timeless condemnations.   The identities of idols change, but idolatry seems to be a human pattern of thinking and acting.  We become enamored of ourselves and pay God too little attention.  Greed for wealth and power lead to corruption, one of the main causes of poverty and related social problems.  And many people either rig the system to create or perpetuate poverty or defend that system, criticizing critics as “Socialists” or other words meant to frighten and distract the oppressed from the real problem.  Yet there is no scarcity in the Kingdom of God, which indicts flawed systems of human origin.

Psalm 23 offers a vision of divine abundance and security.  Enemies are nearby, but safety and plenty are one’s reality:

Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

–Verse 6, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

More people would enjoy a reality closer to that in this life if more individuals had properly ordered priorities.  We human beings cannot save this world; only God can do that.  Yet we can leave the world a better place than we found it.  We have a responsibility to do that much.  And grace is available to empower us to fulfill our duties.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 29, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE BEHEADING OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST

THE FEAST OF JOHN BUNYAN, PROTESTANT SPIRITUAL WRITER

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/good-and-bad-priorities/

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Devotion for November 24, 25, and 26 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

B_Facundus_254

Above:  The New Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

Daniel and Revelation, Part III:  The Proper Center

TUESDAY-THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 24-26, 2020

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 4:1-37/3:31-4:34 (November 24)

Protestant versification varies from the Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox pattern in places.

Daniel 5:1-30 (November 25)

Daniel 6:1-28/5:31-6:29 (November 26)

Protestant versification varies from the Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox pattern in places.

Psalm 110 (Morning–November 24)

Psalm 62 (Morning–November 25)

Psalm 13 (Morning–November 26)

Psalms 66 and 23 (Evening–November 24)

Psalms 73 and 8 (Evening–November 25)

Psalms 36 and 5 (Evening–November 26)

Revelation 21:1-8 (November 24)

Revelation 21:9-22 (November 25)

Revelation 22:1-21 (November 26)

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The king at your right hand, O Lord,

shall smite down kings in the day of his wrath.

In all his majesty, he shall judge among the nations,

smiting heads over all the wide earth.

He shall drink from the brook beside the way;

therefore shall he lift high his head.

–Psalm 110:5-7, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The fictional stories in Daniel 4-6 are morality tales about kings who opposed God, sometimes out of hubris.  Two of the three med bad ends; the other changed his ways.  Hubris, of course, is that which goes before the fall.  It constitutes making oneself one’s own idol.

Glory, of course, belongs to God.  Thus, in Revelation 21-22, God and the Lamb (Jesus) are the Temple and the origin of light.  This is beautiful and metaphorical imagery which should influence how we who call ourselves Christians order our priorities.  God–specifically Christ–should occupy the focal point of our attentions and affections.

We are, as a psalmist said, like grass–grass which bears the Image of God and is slightly lower than the angels–but grass nevertheless.  So may we think neither too highly nor too lowly of ourselves and each other.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 5, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ROBERT FRANCIS KENNEDY, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL AND SENATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONIFACE OF MAINZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/daniel-and-revelation-part-iii-the-proper-center/

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