Archive for the ‘Revelation 2’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 13, Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Noah’s Ark

Image in the Public Domain

The Peace of God

JULY 31, 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 6:9-22 or Acts 22:21-30

Psalm 127

Revelation 2:18-29

John 6:60-71

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Context matters.

Thyatira was a frontier city and a center of commerce.  Idolatry was also commonplace, as in meat sacrificed to false deities.  St. Paul the Apostle had addressed other churches regarding this matter.  He recognized that, given the non-existence of those gods and goddesses, one could, in good conscience, eat meat sacrificed to them.  St. Paul the Apostle also treated that matter cautiously.  He knew that many people, still strongly influenced by their culture, did not know that there was only one God.

Whether to consume meat offered to idols remained an issue for many Christians.  In my cultural context, however, that is a non-issue.  Nevertheless, the question of what an equivalent issue in my time and place may be germane.

Ernest Lee Stoffel, in The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), wrote about improper compromises the Church makes with culture–an evergreen issue.  The Church made unacceptable compromises with culture during the age of Christendom.  The Church of 2021, increasingly on the margins of society in places where it used to be prominent, has continued to face the pressure to make improper compromises.

May we of the Church be careful, both collectively and individually.  May we avoid mistaking being serial contrarians for being faithful disciples of Jesus.  The larger culture is not wrong about everything.

And may we never lose faith that God is in charge.  God still cares about us and remains with us.  We may or may not receive protection from unfortunate events.  Nevertheless, God will be with us.  we still depend entirely on God.  We continue to depend on each other and to be responsible to and for each other.  Together, with God’s help, we will come through storms of life, even if they consume us physically, emotionally, and/or economically.

Consider Jesus and St. Paul the Apostle, O reader.  Both of them suffered terribly.  St. Paul died as a martyr.  Jesus died on a cross.  (He did not remain dead for long, of course.)  As Daniel Berrigan (1921-2016) said, Christians should look good on wood.

I have heard of certain Evangelical megachurches without a cross in sight.  Crosses are depressing, some people have explained.  How do such people think Jesus felt?

The servant is not greater than the master.

The peace of God, it is no peace,

But strife closed in the sod.

Yet, brothers, pray for but one thing:

The marvelous peace of God.

–William Alexander Percy (1885-1942), 1924; quoted in Pilgrim Hymnal (1958), #340

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 18, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE CONFESSION OF SAINT PETER THE APOSTLE

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/18/the-peace-of-god-part-ii/

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Devotion for Proper 12, Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Stoning of Saint Stephen, by Rembrandt Van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Wickedness

JULY 24, 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 6:1-8 or Acts 22:1-22

Psalm 125

Revelation 2:12-17

John 6:41-59

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The Humes lectionary divides Genesis 6 across two Sundays:  Today’s portion of Genesis 6 includes the debut of the Nephilim in the Bible.  This is an example of pagan folklore adapted for scriptural purposes.  And Richard Elliott Friedman, in his Commentary on the Torah (2001), describes stories of the Nephilim as being elements of a larger story

widely separated, distributed across great stretches of the narrative.

–33

According to Dr. Friedman, Genesis 6:1-5 links to Numbers 13:33, Joshua 11:21-22, and 1 Samuel 17:4.  Dr. Friedman describes Goliath of Gath as the last of the Nephilim, the final one to go down to defeat.

The big idea in Genesis 6:1-8 is the increasing wickedness of the human race.  “Wicked” and “wickedness” are words many use casually, with little or not thought about what they mean.  The Random House Dictionary of the English Language (1973) offers various definitions of “wicked.”  The most helpful one, in this context is:

evil or morally bad in principle or in practice; sinful; vicious; iniquitous.

In Jewish theology, wickedness (or one form of it) flows from the conviction that God does not care what we do, therefore we mere mortals are on our own.  The dictionary’s definition of wickedness as being evil in principle or practice is helpful and accurate.  Moustache-twirling villains exist in greater numbers in cartoons than in real life.  Most people who commit wickedness do not think of themselves as being wicked or or having committed wickedness.  Many of them think they have performed necessary yet dirty work, at worst.  And many others imagine that they are doing or have done God’s work.

One may point to Saul of Tarsus, who had the blood of Christians on his hands before he became St. Paul the Apostle.  One lesson to take away from St. Paul’s story is that the wicked are not beyond repentance and redemption.

On a prosaic level, each of us needs to watch his or her life for creeping wickedness.  One can be conventionally pious and orthodox yet be wicked.  One can affirm that God cares about how we treat others and be wicked.  One can sin while imagining that one is acting righteously.

Unfortunately, some of the references in Revelation 2:12-17 are vague.  Time has consumed details of the Nicolaitian heresy, for example.  And the text does not go into detail regarding what some members of the church at Pergamum were doing.  According to Ernest Lee Stoffel, The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), the offense was probably a perceived license to sin, predicated on salvation by grace–cheap grace, in other words.  Grace is cheap yet never cheap.

Moral compartmentalization is an ancient and contemporary spiritual ailment.  The challenge to be holy on Sunday and on Monday remains a topic on the minds of many pastors.  Related to this matter is another one:  the frequent disconnect between private morality and public morality.  Without creating or maintaining a theocracy, people can apply their ethics and morals in public life.  The main caveat is that some methods of application may not work, may be of limited effectiveness, and/or may have negative, unintended consequences.  I feel confident, O reader, in stating that the idealistic aspects of the movement that gave birth to Prohibition in the United States of America did not not include aiding and abetting organized crime.  But they had that effect.

By grace, may we seek to avoid wickedness and succeed in avoiding it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERTO DE NOBOLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERARD AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN MOROCCO, 1220

THE FEAST OF EDMUND HAMILTON SEARS, U.S. UNITARIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF GUSTAVE WEIGEL, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MEUX BENSON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST; CHARLES CHAPMAN GRAFTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST, AND BISHOP OF FOND DU LAC; AND CHARLES GORE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WORCESTER, BIRMINGHAM, AND OXFORD; FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE RESURRECTION; AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AND WORLD PEACE

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/16/wickedness/

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Devotion for Proper 11, Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Ruins of Ephesus

Image Source = Google Earth

Keeping Faith

JULY 17, 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 4:1-16 or Acts 21:8-15

Psalm 124

Revelation 2:8-11

John 6:25-40

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Keep the faith, we read.  Keep the faith, even though a congregation is small in membership and poor by economic standards.  Keep the faith even though one or one’s fellow congregants must suffer and perhaps die for the faith.  Keep the faith while enemies of the people of God assail them.  Keep the faith in the name of Jesus, the bread of life.

Why does God prefer X to Y?  The answer may never become obvious to we mere mortals, as in the matter of the sacrifices Cain and Abel made to God.  What is clear, however, is how people respond or react to God’s choosing.  One may respond well, as in Acts 2:14:

The Lord’s will be done.

The Revised New Jerusalem Bible (2019)

Or one may respond badly.

Keep the faith amid disappointment and anger, we read.  Keep the faith when hopes and realities do not resemble each other.  Do not lash out and behave in an unfortunate and indefensible manner.

Ernest Lee Stoffel, writing in 1981, wrote words (based on Revelation 2:8-11) that are more applicable to the state of the church in 2021.

The church’s present “poverty” in the world–declining membership, gaining little attention in the world, losing her place as a dominant institution in most communities–may be the way to her becoming “rich,” to the recovery of her real power in Christ’s power.  The way of bigness and wealth (and this is not to inveigh against large, rich churches) may not be the way.  Sometimes it is when we have nothing, when we have been stripped of our securities, and feel no affirmation at all, that we have the most power.  The way may be the way of “poverty” before Christ, standing before him, stripped of any affirmation or security.

The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), 29

After all, we all depend entirely on God, who is faithful.  May we keep the faith.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERTO DE NOBOLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERARD AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN MOROCCO, 1220

THE FEAST OF EDMUND HAMILTON SEARS, U.S. UNITARIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF GUSTAVE WEIGEL, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MEUX BENSON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST; CHARLES CHAPMAN GRAFTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST, AND BISHOP OF FOND DU LAC; AND CHARLES GORE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WORCESTER, BIRMINGHAM, AND OXFORD; FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE RESURRECTION; AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AND WORLD PEACE

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/16/keeping-faith-part-ii/

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Devotion for Proper 10, Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Ruins of Ephesus

Image Source = Google Earth

Deeds and Creeds

JULY 10, 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 3:1-19 or Acts 20:17-38

Psalm 123

Revelation 2:1-7

John 6:16-24

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Words have power.  Libel and slander are threats.  Some words build up.  Other words tear down.  Some words make truths plain.  Other words confuse.  Some words heal, but other words harm.  And misquoting God is always a bad idea.

Consider Genesis 2:16-17, O reader:

The LORD God gave the man this order:  You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden, except the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  From it you shall not eat; when you eat from it you shall die.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Then, O reader, consider Genesis 3:2-3:

The woman answered the snake:  “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, “You shall not eat it or even touch it, or else you will die!”

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

God said nothing about touching the fruit in Genesis 2:16-17.

Misquoting God opens a door that should remain closed.

Nevertheless, I have this complaint to make; you have less love than you used to.

–Revelation 2:4, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Concern for resisting heresy can come at a high cost, if a congregation, person, et cetera, goes about affirming orthodoxy the wrong way.  That cost is too little love.  This is also a moral in Morris West’s novel Lazarus (1990), about the fictional Pope Leo XIV, a harsh yet extremely orthodox man.

The late Presbyterian minister Ernest Lee Stoffel offered useful analysis of the message to the church at Ephesus:

This is to say that a church can lose its effectiveness if it has no love.  As I think about the mission of the church, as I hear calls for “more evangelism” and a stronger application of the Gospel to the social issues of the day, I wonder if we can do either unless we can love first–love each other and love the world, for Christ’s sake.

The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), 27

To quote St. Paul the Apostle:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

–1 Corinthians 13:1-3, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

Orthodoxy without love is devoid of value.  May we who say we follow Jesus really follow him.  May we love as he did–unconditionally and selflessly.  May we–collectively and individually–love like Jesus.  May our orthodoxy and our orthopraxy be like sides of one coin.  May our deeds reveal our creeds and not belie our professions of faith.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 15, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER AND MARTYR, 1968

THE FEAST OF ABBY KELLEY FOSTER AND HER HUSBAND, STEPHEN SYMONDS FOSTER, U.S. QUAKER ABOLITIONISTS AND FEMINISTS

THE FEAST OF BERTHA PAULSSEN, GERMAN-AMERICAN SEMINARY PROFESSOR, PSYCHOLOGIST, AND SOCIOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF GENE M. TUCKER, UNITED METHODIST MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN COSIN, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF COSIN

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/15/deeds-and-creeds-v/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 21, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Golden Rule

Above:   The Golden Rule, by Norman Rockwell

Image in the Public Domain

The Golden Rule

SEPTEMBER 29 and 30, 2022

OCTOBER 1, 2022

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The Collect:

Benevolent, merciful God:

When we are empty, fill us.

When we are weak in faith, strengthen us.

When we are cold in love, warm us,

that we may love our neighbors and

serve them for the sake of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 18:1-8, 28-36 (Thursday)

2 Kings 19:8-20, 35-37 (Friday)

Isaiah 7:1-9 (Saturday)

Psalm 37:1-9 (All Days)

Revelation 2:8-11 (Thursday)

Revelation 2:12-29 (Friday)

Matthew 20:29-34 (Saturday)

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Put your trust in the LORD and do good;

dwell in the land and feed on its riches.

–Psalm 37:3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The readings for these three days tell of the mercy–pity, even–of God.  In 2 Kings and Isaiah God delivers the Kingdom of Judah from threats.  The core message of Revelation is to remain faithful during persecution, for God will win in the end.  Finally, Jesus takes pity on two blind men and heals them in Matthew 20.

On the other side of mercy one finds judgment.  The Kingdom of Israel had fallen to the Assyrians in 2 Kings 17 and 2 Chronicles 32.  The Kingdom of Judah went on to fall to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 2 Kings 25 and 2 Chronicles 36.  The fall of Babylon (the Roman Empire) in Revelation was bad news for those who had profited from cooperation with the violent and economically exploitative institutions thereof (read Chapter 18).

In an ideal world all would be peace and love.  We do not live in an ideal world, obviously.  Certain oppressors will insist on oppressing.  Some of them will even invoke God (as they understand God) to justify their own excuse.  Good news for the oppressed, then, will necessarily entail bad news for the oppressors.  The irony of the situation is that oppressors.  The irony of the situation is that oppressors hurt themselves also, for whatever they do to others, they do to themselves.  That is a cosmic law which more than one religion recognizes.  Only victims are present, then, and some victims are also victimizers.

Loving our neighbors is much better, is it not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALCUIN OF YORK, ABBOT OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF JOHN JAMES MOMENT, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LUCY ELIZABETH GEORGINA WHITMORE, BRITISH HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/the-golden-rule-2/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 7, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

23105v

 

Above:  Marble Street, Ruins of Ephesus, in Turkey, Between 1950 and 1960

Photographer = Osmo Visuri

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-23105

Faith in Time of Adversity

JUNE 22 and 23, 2020

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The Collect:

Teach us, good Lord God, to serve you as you deserve,

to give and not to count the cost,

to fight and not to heed the wounds,

to toil and not to seek for rest,

to labor and not to ask for reward,

except that of knowing that we do your will,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40

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The Assigned Readings:

Micah 7:1-17 (Monday)

Jeremiah 26:1-12 (Tuesday)

Psalm 6 (Both Days)

Revelation 2:1-7 (Monday)

Revelation 2:8-11 (Tuesday)

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Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am weak;

Lord, heal me, for my bones are racked.

–Psalm 6:2, Common Worship (2000)

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Faith under pressure can waver, but may it hold until the end.

The assigned readings for these days come from places of difficulty. The audience of the Book of Revelation consisted of persecuted Christians and Christians about to endure persecution. Perhaps the faith of the persecuted Christians at Ephesus had begun to waver. Maybe that was what Revelation 2:4 meant. The prophet Jeremiah faced persecution for prophesying against the officult cult in a vassal kingdom which lacked the separation of religion and state. And the prophet Micah wrote that

The faithful have vanished from the land….

–Micah 7:2a, The Revised English Bible (1989)

then catalogued a variety of offenses, such as murder, corruption, and general dishonesty. Then he continued:

But I shall watch for the LORD,

I shall wait for God my saviour;

my God will hear me.

My enemies, do not exult over me.

Though I have fallen, I shall rise again;

though I live in darkness, the LORD is my light.

Because I have sinned against the LORD,

I must bear his anger, until he champions my cause

and gives judgement for me,

until he brings me into the light,

and with gladness I see his justice.

–Micah 7:7-9, The Revised English Bible (1989)

I understand why faith wavers in the context of great adversity. That is when keeping faith can prove especially difficult. After all, many of us have a certain false notion in our minds. If we do what is right, we will be safe, if not prosperous, we think—perhaps even if we know better. Good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people, we tell ourselves—perhaps even if we know better. When adversity befalls us we might ask what wrong we have done—even when we know better. Reality challenges false assumptions.

But, as I have learned the hard way, faith can also become stronger in times of adversity and enable one to survive them intact, even stronger spiritually. I have alternated between wavering and becoming stronger spiritually during a certain very difficult time in my life, but I emerged stronger—singed, but stronger.

May you, O reader, find adversity—when it comes—a time of spiritual growth overall.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 23, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DESIDERIUS/DIDIER OF VIENNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT GUIBERT OF GORZE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN BAPTIST ROSSI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS COPERNICUS, SCIENTIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/faith-in-time-of-adversity/

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Week of Proper 28: Monday, Year 2   9 comments

Above:  Christ Healing the Blind Man, by Eustache Le Sueur

The Imperative of Active Love

NOVEMBER 14, 2022

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Revelation 1:1-3; 2:1-5 (Revised English Bible):

This is the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him so that he might show his servants what must soon take place.  He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who in telling all that he saw has borne witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Happy is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and happy those who listen if they take to heart what is here written; for the time of fulfillment is near.

To the angel of the church at Ephesus write:

These are the words of the One who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven gold lamps:  I know what you are doing, how you toil and endure.  I know you cannot abide wicked people; you have put to the test those who claim to be apostles but are not, and you have found them to be false.  Endurance you have; you have borne up in my cause and have never become weary.  However, I have this against you:  the love you felt at first you have now lost.  Think from what a height you have fallen; repent, and do as once you did.  If you do not, I will come to you remove your lamp from its place.

Psalm 1 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked,

nor lingered in the way of sinners,

nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

2 Their delight is in the law of the LORD,

and the meditate on his law day and night.

They are like trees planted by streams of water,

bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither,

everything they do shall prosper.

4 It is not so with the wicked;

they are like the chaff which the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when judgment comes,

nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.

For the LORD knows the ways of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked is doomed.

Luke 18:35-43 (Revised English Bible):

As Jesus approached Jericho a blind man sat at the roadside begging.  Hearing a crowd going past, he asked what was happening, and was told that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by.  Then he called out,

Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.

The people in front told him to hold his tongue; but he shouted all the more,

Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.

Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him.  When he came up Jesus asked him,

What do you want me to do for you?

He answered,

Sir, I want my sight back.

Jesus said to him,

Have back your sight; your faith has healed you.

He recovered his sight instantly and followed Jesus, praising God.  And all the people gave praise to God for what they had seen.

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The Collect:

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.

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Some Related Links:

Week of Proper 28:  Monday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/24/week-of-proper-28-monday-year-1/

A Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/11/911-a-prayer-of-st-francis-of-assisi/

A Franciscan Blessing:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/a-franciscan-blessing/

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Procedural Comments on the Monday-Saturday Posts for the Weeks of Propers 28 and 29:

The Canadian Anglican lectionary I am following leads me through Revelation for the last two weeks of the church year every other year.  This being the first post of that series, I make some procedural comments here and now.

Religious imagination is important, for the most effective way to communicate some religious truths is imaginatively, as in poetry and other symbolic language.  Word pictures can be more vivid than dry explanations.  I recognize and embrace this fact.  You, O reader, also need to know that I am not an avid consumer of prophesy-themed content, much of which is full of bologna (to use a polite term) anyway.  My training is in history and the analysis of texts.  So, when I approach a part of the Bible, I want to know, in context, what the message was or the messages were to the original audience.  Then I extrapolate to today.

That said, here is some of what we know:

  1. The author was one John of Patmos, an exile who did not write the Gospel of John.  He probably composed the Revelation, or Apocalypse, of John in the 90s C.E., a time of sporadic persecutions throughout the Roman Empire.
  2. The main purposes of the book were to encourage persecuted Christians and Christians who might face persecution, and to remind them of the contrast between Christianity and the dominant Greco-Roman culture.
  3. The Apocalypse’s language is symbolic.  Fortunately, we can decode it.  “Babylon,” for example, is the Roman Empire.  And sometimes the text decodes language, as in 1:20.
  4. Revelation is an essentially positive book, one which tells us that God will win and evil will face destruction.
  5. Protestant Reformers Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli detested Revelation.  They would have removed it from the New Testament, had that been possible.

Now I proceed to my comments specific to this day’s assigned readings.

KRT

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The blind man in Luke 18:35-43 called out for Jesus as people told him to be quiet.  But the man refused to obey them.  His persistence paid off, for the got our Lord’s attention and regained his sight.  Those who told the man to be quiet–to cease to be inconvenient and annoying–did not act out of love for him.

Active love is of the essence in today’s post.  The message to the church at Ephesus commended it for holding to orthodoxy during persecution yet condemned it for waning in either devotion to Christ or care for each other or both.  The church did, however, have an opportunity to repair its ways, thereby avoiding dispossession by Jesus.  This message reminds me of Matthew 25:31-46, in which the test of devotion is active love.

The lesson remains as germane for us today as it was for ancient Christians.  None of us can do everything, but each of us can do something, at least some of the time.  The challenge is to do what we can as opportunities present themselves.  Fortunately, helping others can assume many forms.  Some women grow their hair long then sell it for use in wigs for women who have lost their hair because of chemotherapy.  And certain professions are inherently human service-oriented.  I have heard of medical professionals who prefer to work in an Emergency Room setting out of a religious obligation.  Furthermore, volunteer opportunities abound, providing opportunities outside time on the clock.  And comedy can help people through difficult times; sometimes we need to laugh.

Purely intellectualized orthodoxy is not helpful; it must find compassionate expression.  Likewise, good deeds themselves are inadequate; love must animate them for the maximum effect.  (See 1 Corinthians 13.)  If I, for example, affirm that each person bears the image of God, I make an orthodox doctrinal statement rooted in Genesis 1:27.  (I do affirm it, by the way.)  But, if I do not act on that proposition, it is useless.  How ought that item of orthodox doctrine inform my life?  I cannot, in good conscience, approve of racism if I really believe that each person bears the image of God.  (I have an interest in civil rights.)

May our love for God and our fellow human beings deepen and become more active as time passes.  I wonder how much the world will improve as that happens.  By grace, may we and those who succeed us on this planet learn the answer.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/the-imperative-of-active-love/