Archive for the ‘St. Paul the Apostle’ Tag

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

Above:  Tares

Image in the Public Domain

Trust in God

JULY 30, 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 44:1-8

Psalm 86:11-17 (LBW) or Psalm 119:57-64 (LW)

Romans 8:26-27

Matthew 13:24-30 (36-43)

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Pour out upon us, O Lord,

the spirit to think and to do what is right,

that we, who cannot even exist without you,

may have the strength to live according to your will;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

OR

O God, you see how busy we are with many things. 

Turn us to listen to your teachings

and lead us to choose the one thing which will not be taken from us,

Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 26

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Grant us, Lord, the Spirit to think

and to do always such things as are pleasing in your sight,

that we, who without you cannot do anything that is good,

may by you be enabled to live according to your will;

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), 70

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Second Isaiah’s insistence upon strict monotheism is consistent with Psalmists’ trust in God, especially during difficult times.  St. Paul the Apostle’s encouraging words tell us that the Holy Spirit comes to our aid in our weakness and intercedes for us.

I have been writing lectionary-based posts for more than a decade.  In that time, I have covered the Parable of the Weeds (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43) a few times.

All these posts are available at this weblog.

To turn to the topic at hand, trust in God is a theme in the Parable of the Weeds.  We may trust God to remove the darnel.  If we are fortunate, we are not poisonous weeds.  If we are unfortunate, we are darnel, and God will remove us in time.

All the readings speak of trust in God during perilous times.  Romans 8:26-27 exists in the context of what precedes it immediately:  suffering and hardship as birth pangs of a renewed creation.  Isaiah 44:6-8 exists in the context of the waning months of the Babylonian Exile.  Psalm 86 speaks of

a brutal gang hounding me to death

–verse 14, The Jerusalem Bible (1966).

Matthew 13 refers to poisonous weeds that initially resemble wheat in the Parable of the Weeds.  Who is wheat and who is darnel may not always be possible or easy to tell.  (I do know, however, that I habitually fail doctrinal purity tests.  Many people classify me as darnel.  So be it.)  Given the outward similarity of wheat and darnel, whom should one trust?  And, as we read in Psalm 11i:61,

…the nets of the wicked ensnare me.

The Revised New Jerusalem Bible (2019)

Fortunately, we are not alone.  The Holy Spirit comes to our aid in our weakness and intercedes for us.  Do we trust that this is true?  Do we trust in God?

I can answer only for myself.  My answer to this question is,

Yes, usually.

What is your answer, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 17, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL BARNETT, ANGLICAN CANON OF WESTMINSTER, AND SOCIAL REFORMER; AND HIS WIFE, HENRIETTA BARNETT, SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF EDITH BOYLE MACALISTER, ENGLISH NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT EMILY DE VIALAR, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE APPARITION

THE FEAST OF JANE CROSS BELL SIMPSON, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MARK HOPKINS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, EDUCATOR, AND PHYSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINTS TERESA AND MAFALDA OF PORTUGAL, PRINCESSES, QUEENS, AND NUNS; AND SAINT SANCHIA OF PORTUGAL, PRINCESS AND NUN

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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

Above:  St. Paul the Apostle

Image in the Public Domain

The Renewal of All Things

JULY 23, 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 55:10-11

Psalm 65

Romans 8:18-25

Matthew 13:1-9 (18-23)

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Almighty God, we thank you for planting in us the seed of your word. 

By your Holy Spirit help us to receive it with joy,

live according to it,

and grow in faith and hope and love;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

or

Lord God, use our lives to touch the world with your love. 

Stir us, by your Spirit, to be neighbors to those in need,

serving them with willing hearts;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 25

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O almighty and most merciful God,

of your bountiful goodness keep us, we pray,

from all things that may hurt us that we,

being ready in both body and soul,

may cheerfully accomplish whatever things you want done;

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), 69

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When reading the assigned lessons in preparation for drafting a post, I often notice that one lesson is an outlier.  Today I choose to focus on the outlier.  The theme of God sowing, complete with the Matthean version of the Parable of the Sower/the Four Soils, is a topic about which I have written and posted more than once.  You, O reader, may access my analysis of that parable by following the germane tags attached to this post.  I also refer you to this post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

Romans 8:18-25 flows from what precedes it immediately:  Christians are heirs–sons, literally–of God, through Jesus, the Son of God.  The gendered language is a reflection of St. Paul the Apostle’s cultural setting, in which sons, not daughters, inherited.  As “sons of God,” we Christians bear witness with the Holy Spirit that we are members of the household of God.

Literally, Christians are “sons of God” or have received the “spirit of sonship” in verses 14, 15, and 23.  We are “children of God” in verses 16, 17, and 21, though.  (I checked the Greek texts.)  These distinctions are obvious in translations that do not neuter the Greek text.  I check genders (male, female, and neuter) via the Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002).  My historical training tells me that before I can interpret a document in context, I must know what the document says.

Romans 8:18-30, from which we extract 8:18-25, tells of the renewal of all things.  In the midst of suffering, the future glory of the human race in God still awaits.  The renewal of creation itself awaits.  The sufferings are birth pangs.  Meanwhile, Christians must wait with patience and expectation.

For obvious reasons, I leave comments about birth pangs to women who have given birth.

St. Paul the Apostle understood suffering for Christ.  St. Paul the Apostle mustered optimism in dark times, by grace.  This has always astounded me.  I, having endured suffering less severe than that of St. Paul the Apostle, have found depression and pessimism instead.

I write this post during dark times for the world.  The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage around the world.  Authoritarian forces endanger representative governments around the world.  Polarization has increased to the point that opposite camps have their own facts.  (Objective reality be damned!)  I have found more causes for depression and pessimism than for optimism.

Yet St. Paul the Apostle, speaking to us down the corridors of time, tells us that these are birth pangs of a better world.  I hope that is correct.  I pray that these are not birth pangs of a dystopia.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 18, 2023 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JACQUES ELLUL, FRENCH REFORMED THEOLOGIAN AND SOCIOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT CELESTINE V, BISHOP OF ROME

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

THE FEAST OF GEORG GOTTFRIED MULLER, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER

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

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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

Above:  A Yoke

Image in the Public Domain

Yokes

JULY 16, 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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Zechariah 9:9-12

Psalm 45:1-2 (3-13), 14-22 (LBW) or Psalm 119:137-144 (LW)

Romans 7:15-25a

Matthew 11:25-30

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God of glory, Father of love, peace comes from you alone. 

Send us as peacemakers and witnesses to your kingdom,

and fill our hearts with joy in your promises of salvation;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 25

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Grant, Lord, that the course of this world

may be so governed by your direction

that your Church may rejoice

in serving you in godly peace and quietness;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 68

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Zechariah 9:9-12 depicts a future scene, in which the Messiah, an ideal king, approaches Jerusalem at the culmination of history–the Day of the LORD.  This is the scene Jesus reenacted during his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, without being a regnant type of Messiah.

The image of YHWH as king exists in the assigned readings from Psalms.

In Romans 7:15-25a we read St. Paul the Apostle’s confession of his struggles with sins.  We may all relate to those struggles.

My tour of the readings brings me to Matthew 11:25-30 and the topic of yokes.

Literally, a yoke was a wooden frame, loops of ropes, or a rod with loops of rope, depending on the purpose.  (See Numbers 19:2; Deuteronomy 21:3; and Jeremiah 28:10.)  A yoke fit over the neck of a draft animal or the necks of draft animals.  Alternatively, a captive or a slave wore a yoke.  (See Jeremiah 28:10; 1 Kings 12:9; 2 Chronicles 10:4; and 1 Timothy 6:1).  Also, a yoked pair of oxen was a yoke.  (See 1 Samuel 11:7; 1 Kings 19:21; Luke 14:19).

Metaphorically, a yoke had a variety of meanings, depending on the circumstances.  It often symbolized servitude and subjection.  Forced labor was an unjust yoke (1 Kings 11:28; 12:11, 14).  Slavery was a yoke (Sirach 33:27).  Hardship was a yoke (Lamentations 3:27; Sirach 40:1).  The oppression and humiliation of one nation by another was the yoke of bondage (Jeremiah 27:8; 28:4; Hosea 11:7; Deuteronomy 28:48; and Isaiah 47:6).  To break out of subjugation or slavery was to break the yoke (Jeremiah 28:2; Isaiah 9:4; 14:25).  God promised to break the yoke of Egypt in Ezekiel 30:18.  To break away from God was to break God’s yoke (Jeremiah 2:20; 5:5; Sirach 51:39).  Sin was also a yoke (Lamentations 1:14).

The yokes of God and Christ carry positive connotations.  The yoke of obedience to God is easy.  It is also the opposite of the yoke of subordination and subjugation.  This positive yoke is the yoke in Matthew 11:28-30.  It is the yoke St. Paul the Apostle wore (Philippians 4:3).  It is the yoke in Psalm 119:137-144.

Draw near to me, you who are untaught, 

and lodge in my school.

Why do you say you are lacking in these things,

and why are your souls very thirsty?

I opened my mouth and said,

Get these things for yourselves without money.

Put your neck under the yoke,

and let your souls receive instruction;

it is to be found close by.

See with your eyes that I have labored little

and found for myself much rest.

Get instruction with a large sum of silver

and you will gain by it much gold.

May your soul rejoice in his mercy,

and may you not be put to shame when you praise him.

Do your work before the appointed time,

and in God’s time he will give you your reward.

–Sirach 51:23-30, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

You, O reader, will serve somebody or something.  That is not in question.  Whom or what you will serve is a germane question.  Why not serve God, the greatest king?  In so doing, you will find your best possible state of being.  The path may be difficult–ask St. Paul the Apostle, for example–but it will be the best path for you.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 14, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS MAKEMIE, FATHER OF AMERICAN PRESBYTERIANISM AND ADVOCATE FOR RELIGIOUS TOLERATION

THE FEAST OF SAINT CARTHAGE THE YOUNGER, IRISH ABBOT-BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA DOMINICA MAZZARELLO, CO-FOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF MARY HELP OF CHRISTIANS

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEODORE I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINTS VICTOR THE MARTYR AND CORONA OF DAMASCUS, MARTYRS IN SYRIA, 165

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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

Above:  Icon of Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

Loyalty to God

JULY 9, 2023

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Jeremiah 28:5-9

Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18 (LBW) or Psalm 119:153-160 (LW)

Romans 6:1b-11

Matthew 10:34-42

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O God, you have prepared for those who love you

joys beyond understanding. 

Pour into our hearts such love for you that,

loving you above all things,

we may obtain your promises,

which exceed all that we can desire;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 25

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O God, because you have prepared for those who love you

such good things as surpass our understanding,

pour into our hearts such love towards you that we,

loving you above all things,

may obtain your promises,

which exceed all that we can desire;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 67

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Jeremiah 28:1-17 is the story of Hananiah, a false prophet who offered false hope in the waning years of the Kingdom of Judah.  Hananiah had predicted that God would terminate the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian threat.  Jeremiah confronted him and accused him of encouraging disloyalty to God.

Psalms 89 and 119, like Jeremiah, extol and encourage loyalty to God in the midst of disloyalty to God.

St. Paul the Apostle encourages us down the corridors of time to be

dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus.

–Romans 6:11b, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

When we return to Matthew 10:37-38, we read of the priority of loving Jesus most of all and of taking up one’s cross and following him.  Heeding this advice entails reordering one’s priorities if they are askew.

Those who are loyal to God will stand out compared to those who are disloyal to God.  Given the human tendency to promote conformity, some negative consequences will befall those who are loyal to God.  Those dispensing the negative consequences may include co-religionists.  That is especially unfortunate.

I offer one caution, O reader.  Do not mistake serial contrariness against “the world” for loyalty to God.  “The world” does not get everything wrong.  Instead, follow the coherent moral standards summarized in the Golden Rule.  How would a world in which the Golden Rule was the accepted standard function, in contrast to the one in which we live?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 5, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES WILLIAM SCHAEFFER, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HISTORIAN, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT CATERINA CITTADINI, FOUNDER OF THE URSULINE SISTERS OF SOMASCO

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDMUND IGNATIUS RICE, FOUNDER OF THE INSTITUTE OF THE BROTHERS OF THE CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS OF IRELAND AND THE CONGREGATION OF PRESENTATION BROTHERS

THE FEAST OF FRIEDRICH VON HÜGEL, ROMAN CATHOLIC INDEPDENDENT SCHOLAR AND PHILOSOPHER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS HONORATUS OF ARLES AND HILARY OF ARLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; AND SAINTS VENANTIUS OF MODON AND CAPRASIUS OF LERINS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

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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 24, Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Last Judgment, by Fra Angelico

Image in the Public Domain

Deeds and Creeds

OCTOBER 16, 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 19:1-26 or Ruth 3

Psalm 142

Revelation 20:11-15

John 14:15-31

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NSFW Alert:  “Feet” in Ruth 3 are not feet.  No, they are genitals.  The Hebrew Bible contains euphemisms.  In the case of Ruth 3, we have a scene that is unfit for inclusion in a book of Bible stories for children.

The Reverend Jennifer Wright Knust offers this analysis of the Book of Ruth:

To the writer of Ruth, family can consist of an older woman and her beloved immigrant daughter-in-law, women can easily raise children on their own, and men can be seduced if it serves the interests of women.

Unprotected Texts:  The Bible’s Surprising Contractions About Sex and Desire (2011), 33

Speaking or writing of interpretations you may have read or heard, O reader, I turn to Genesis 19.  Open an unabridged concordance of the Bible and look for “Sodom.”  Then read every verse listed.  You will find that the dominant criticism of the people of Sodom was that they were arrogant and inhospitable.  The willingness to commit gang rape against angels, men, and women seems inhospitable to me.

The author of Psalm 142 described the current human reality.  That author descried Christ’s reality in John 14:15-31.  Christ was about to die terribly.  Yet that same Christ was victorious in Revelation 20.

The standard of judgment in Revelation 20:14 may scandalize many Protestants allergic to any hint of works-based righteousness:

…and every one was judged according to the way in which he had lived.

The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

This is not a new standard in the Bible.  It exists in the Hebrew Bible.  Matthew 25:31-46 its people over the head, so to speak, with this standard.  The Letter of James keeps hitting people over the head with it for five chapters.  Deeds reveal creeds.  The standard of divine judgment in Revelation 20:14 makes sense to me.

So, what do I believe?  What are my creeds?  What are your creeds, really?  I refer not to theological abstractions, but to lived faith.  Theological abstractions matter, too.  (I am not a Pietist.)  Yet lived faith matters more.  Do we live according to the love of God?  God seems to approve of doing that.  Do we hate?  God seems to disapprove of doing that.

As St. Paul the Apostle insisted, faith and works are a package deal.  The definition of faith in the Letter of James differs from the Pauline definition.  Faith in James is intellectual.  Therefore, joining faith with works is essential, for faith without works is dead.  In Pauline theology, however, faith includes works.  If one understands all this, one scotches any allegation that the Letter of James contradicts Pauline epistles.

Deeds reveal creeds.  If we value one another, we will act accordingly.  If we recognize immigrants as people who bear the image of God, we will resist the temptation of xenophobia, et cetera.  Knowing how to act properly on our creeds may prove challenging sometimes.  Practical consideration may complicate matters.  Political actions may or may not be the most effective methods to pursue.

By grace, may we–collectively and individually–act properly, so that our deeds may reveal our creeds, to the glory of God and for the benefit of our fellow human beings.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 28, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBERT THE GREAT AND HIS PUPIL, SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIANS

THE FEAST OF DANIEL J. SIMUNDSON, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HENRY AUGUSTINE COLLINS, ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BARNBY, ANGLICAN CHURCH MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SOMERSET CORRY LOWRY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/28/deeds-and-creeds-vi/

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Devotion for Proper 18, Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Tower of Babel, from Metropolis (1927)

A Screen Capture

Glorifying God

SEPTEMBER 4, 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 11:1-9 or Acts 28:16-31

Psalm 135:1-14

Revelation 6:1-17

John 9:1-41

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The gospel of Christ will always stand in judgment of the things that are happening in the political, economic, and social spheres of communities and nations.  And if this is so, then martyrdom is not as far away as we think.  The word “martyr” in Greek is the same word from which we get the word “witness.”

–Ernest Lee Stoffel, The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), 49-50

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To be a witness to God can be risky.  The risk may or may not involve violence, injury or death.  However, even under the best of circumstances, to ignore or minimize that risk is foolish.  Risk may even come from conventionally religious people–from powerful ones, perhaps.

I detect an element of humor in John 9:1-41.  (Reading the Bible in such a way as to miss humor is far too common.)  By the time a reader arrives at the end of the story, one may imagine steam pouring out of the ears of some of the Pharisees, if this story were in the form of a Looney Tunes cartoon.  This would make for a wonderful scene in verse 27, with the healed man’s question, 

Do you want to become his disciples yourselves?

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

At the end of that story, the healed man found himself expelled from the synagogue.  His plight must have resonated with members of the Johannine Jewish Christian community, on the margins of their Jewish communal life.  Therefore, some Jews referred to other Jews as “the Jews.”

At the end of the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul the Apostle lived under house arrest in Rome.  Ultimately, he did via beheading.

God may have struck down many enemies and oppressors of Israel, but many of the faithful have suffered and/or died for the faith, too.

The story of the Tower of Babel is a myth.  Anyone consulting it in search for a reliable source of linguistic origins is on a doomed mission.  That is not to say, however, that the story contains no truth.

This is a story about the folly of self-importance–collective self-importance, in this case.  Verse 5 reads:

The LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the people had built.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

That verse conveys the insignificance of human achievements relative to God.

The desire to make a name for ourselves–collectively and individually–is a great value in many societies.  It is not, however, a value the Bible champions.  Psalm 135 reads, in part:

Hallelujah.

Praise the name of the LORD;

give praise, you servants of the LORD,

who stand in the house of the LORD,

in the courts of the house of our God.

Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good;

sing hymns to His name, for it is pleasant.

For the LORD has chosen Jacob for Himself,

Israel, as His treasured possession.

–Verses 1-4, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

If we–collectively or individually–have a name that should last for generations, centuries, and millennia, God will give it to us.  That name may not persist in human memory, though.

Some of them left a name behind them, 

so that their praises are still sung.

While others have left no memory

and disappeared as though they had not existed.

They are now as though they had never been,

and so too, their children after them.

–Ecclesiasticus 44:8-9, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

So be it.

To seek to glorify God and to maintain divine standards of political, economic, and social justice can be dangerous.  At minimum, the risk is social marginalization and scorn.  Much of this contempt may come from conventionally devout people who should know better.  To serve God or to serve Caesar.  To glorify God or to glorify oneself?  To worship God or to worship country?  The decisions are ours to make?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 23, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE ALMSGIVER, PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES KINGSLEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST, NOVELIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD GRUBB, ENGLISH QUAKER AUTHOR, SOCIAL REFORMER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JAMES D. SMART, CANADIAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF PHILLIPS BROOKS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF MASSACHUSETTS, AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/23/glorifying-god-vii/

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Devotion for Proper 17, Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Logo of the Moravian Church

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

The Victory of Suffering Love

AUGUST 28, 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 8:13-22; 9:12-17 or Acts 28:1-10

Psalm 134

Revelation 5:1-14

John 8:48-59

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Revelation 5:1-14 provides the keynote for this blog post.  This scriptural text is one I cannot read without hearing the finale of Handel’s Messiah thundering inside my cranium.

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by his blood, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.

Ernest Lee Stoffel, writing in The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), summarized verses 6-14 with five words:

THE VICTORY OF SUFFERING LOVE.

Stoffel elaborated:

What is this really saying?  I believe it is saying the suffering love of God is the key that will help us live with our suffering and ourselves.  There is something in the universe that has not been defeated by pain and evil and sin.  That something is the crucified love of the Creator.  I have to believe that love is the key to the world’s destiny, and that it will triumph over my pain and sin.  I believe I can give my pain and sin to that love, which is also wisdom….

–43-44

I go off the Humes lectionary briefly to bring in a germane text:

“I have told you all this

so that you may find peace in me.

In the world you will have hardship,

but be courageous:

I have conquered the world.”

–John 16:33, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Divine, suffering love has triumphed and conquered.  This love figuratively hung up its bow of war in the beautiful mythology of Genesis 9:12-17.  This divine love called and accompanied St. Paul the Apostle.  This love has long inspired people to bless the Lord.

What should a person or a faith community do with the “victory of suffering love” in the context of heartbreaking, preventable human suffering?  I write this post during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The news is mostly grim.  The temptation to curse God, fate, or whatever, then to curl up in a ball of despair is great.  Yes, vaccines are available, to an extent.  Yes, more vaccines are in the process of gaining official approval.  And yes, people continue to die needlessly, before they can receive a vaccination.  We, as a species, will spend a long time digging our way out of the wreckage of this pandemic.  Furthermore, many people will never recover from the economic carnage.  Many people will always have health-related effects of COVID-19.  And the dead will remain deceased.  None of this had to happen.

Do we trust that the crucified love of the Creator has remained unconquered?  Do we trust that Jesus has conquered the world?  Depending on the time of day, I may or may not so trust.  Yet I know that I must take my fears and doubts to the foot of the cross of Christ and deposit them there.  Having faith is not living free of doubts.  No, having faith entails wrestling with them and even with God.  Having faith entails never giving up the idol of false certainly and resisting the allure of easy answers to difficult questions.

God is faithful.  God is faithful when we neglect to be faithful.  God is faithful when we strive unsuccessfully to be faithful.  God is faithful when we are faithful.  May we stand, sit, or assume any posture we can in the presence of God wherever we are.  And may we bless the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth, whose love remains unconquered.  May we cooperate with that love.  May it conquer our despair and grief.  May it heal the world.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 22, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN JULIAN, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF ALEXANDER MEN, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1990

THE FEAST OF SAINT LADISLAO BATTHÁNY-STRATTMANN, AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PHYSICIAN AND PHILANTHROPIST

THE FEAST OF LOUISE CECILIA FLEMING, AFRICAN-AMERICAN BAPTIST MISSIONARY AND PHYSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT VINCENT PALLOTTI, FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY FOR THE CATHOLIC APOSTALATE, THE UNION OF CATHOLIC APOSTOLATE, AND THE SISTERS OF THE CATHOLIC APOSTOLATE

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/22/the-victory-of-suffering-love/

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Devotion for Proper 16, Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Ancient City of Laodicea

Image Source = Google Earth

Wealth as an Idol

AUGUST 21, 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 8:1-13 or Acts 26:1, 9-23, 27-29, 31-32

Psalm 132:1-5, 11-18

Revelation 3:14-22

John 8:31-47

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Laodicea was a wealthy city, a center of the refining of gold, the manufacture of garments, and the manufacture of a popular salve for eyes.  The church in that city was also wealthy, not on Christ.  Jesus said to keep his commandments.  St. Paul the Apostle relied on Christ.

As I have written many times, deeds reveal creeds.  To quote Proverbs, as a man thinks, he is.  And as one thinks, one does.  God is like what God had done and does, in Jewish theology.  Likewise, we are like what we have done and do.

Are we like the Laodicean congregation?  Are we lukewarm?  Are we comfortable, resting on our own laurels and means?  Do we have the luxury of being that way?  (FYI:  “We” can refer either to congregations or to individuals.)

Wealth is not the problem.  No, wealth is morally neutral.  Relationships to wealth are not morally neutral.  To the extent that a person or a congregation may rely on wealth, not God, one makes wealth an idol.

There was once a man who owned a large tract of land.  He enjoyed boasting about how much land he owned.  One day, the landowner was bragging to another man:

I can get in my truck early in the morning and start driving around the edge of my property.  Late in the day, I haven’t gotten home yet.

The other man replied,

I used to have a truck like that, too.

The Bible burst the proverbial balloons of those who trust in their wealth, not in God.  Aside from Revelation 3:14-22, one may think readily of the Gospel of Luke and various Hebrew prophets, for example.  One may also quote 1 Timothy 6:10 (The Jerusalem Bible, 1966):

The love of money is the root of all evils and there are some who, pursuing it, have wandered away from the faith, and so given their souls to any number of fatal wounds.

One may also quote Luke 6, in which the poor are blessed (verse 20), but the rich are having their consolation now (verse 24).

Wealth is morally neutral.  Relationships to it are not.  May we always trust in God and acknowledge our duties to one another, in mutuality, under God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 21, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MIROCLES OF MILAN AND EPIPHANIUS OF PAVIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ALBAN ROE AND THOMAS REYNOLDS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1642

THE FEAST OF EDGAR J. GOODSPEED, U.S. BAPTIST BIBLICAL SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN YI YON-ON, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN KOREA, 1867

THE FEAST OF W. SIBLEY TOWNER, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/21/wealth-as-an-idol/

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This is post #1000 of ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS.

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