Archive for the ‘St. Paul the Apostle’ Tag

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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Devotion for Proper 15, Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Stamps of Saint Teresa of Calcutta

Image in the Public Domain

The Idol of Success

AUGUST 14, 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 7:11-24 or Acts 24:1, 10-23, 27

Psalm 131

Revelation 3:7-13

John 8:12-30

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We Gentiles need to be very careful to push back against any Anti-Semitic interpretations of our assigned readings from Revelation 3, John 8, and Acts 24.  We may need someone to remind us that the struggle within the Gospel of John was intra-Jewish.   So was the conflict between the Jewish Christian community that produced it and the Jews around them.  We may need a reminder that St. Paul the Apostle was Jewish, too.

The church at Philadelphia was Gentile.  It was also small, poor, and at odds with many local Jews.  Conflict produced invective.

Being small may or may not be beautiful.  What is beautiful is being faithful.  And Christ promises to honor that faithfulness.

–Ernest Lee Stoffel, The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), 34

If we stop thinking about importance in human terms, we will do well spiritually.  Large does not equal important, in the eyes of God.  Neither does wealthy.  Neither does successful.  Neither does being free.  Neither does being popular.

St. Teresa of Calcutta said that God calls us to be faithful, not successful.  Many people have worshiped at the altar of success, long a popular idol.  The heresy of Prosperity Theology has appealed to many people for a very long time.  Yet the prophet Jeremiah, by human standards, was a failure.  So was Jesus.

Does anyone reading this post want to argue that Jeremiah and Jesus were failures?  Not I.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 20, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FABIAN, BISHOP OF ROME, AND MARTYR, 250

THE FEAST OF SAINTS EUTHYMIUS THE GREAT AND THEOCRISTUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF GREVILLE PHILLIMORE, ENGLISH POET, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF HARRIET AUBER, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF RICHARD ROLLE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC SPIRITUAL WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/20/the-idol-of-success/

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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 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 Proper 23, Year C (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Parable of the Unjust Steward, by Jan Luyken

Image in the Public Domain

Perplexing Readings

OCTOBER 10, 2021

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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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1 Samuel 15:1-23 or Jeremiah 31:27-34

Psalm 109:1-5, 21-27, 30-31

Romans 11:1-21

Luke 16:1-15

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We have some perplexing readings this Sunday.  Seldom does a lectionary load a Sunday with difficult lessons.

  1. The attack on the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15 was to avenge an Amalekite attack on Israelites centuries prior, in Exodus 17:8-16.
  2. According to Deuteronomy 20:16-18 and 25:17-19, King Saul and his forces, engaged in a holy war (Is there such a thing?), should have killed all enemies, taken no prisoners, and taken no booty.  They took booty and spared the life of King Agag, though.  This, according to 1 Samuel 15, led to God’s final rejection of Saul, who had blamed others for his violation of the law.  (Are we not glad that leaders everywhere no longer deflect blame for their errors?  That is a sarcastic question, of course.)
  3. The tone in Psalm 109 is relentlessly unforgiving.
  4. We read in Romans 11:1-21 that Gentile believers are, by the mercy of God, a branch grafted onto the Jewish tree.  Yet the Gentile branch is not exempt from the judgment of God.  The Gentile branch also has a long and shameful record of anti-Semitism.
  5. The Parable of the Unjust Steward/Corrupt Manager is a challenging text.  The titular character is not a role model, after all.  Yet he is intelligent and able to secure his future by committing favors he can call in when he needs to do so.  One point is that we should be astute, but not corrupt.  Naïveté is not a spiritual virtue.
  6. Money is a tool.  It should never be an idol, although it frequently is.  Greed is one of the more common sins.

I admit my lack of comfort with 1 Samuel 15 and its background.  As Amy-Jill Levine says, people did things differently back then.

I also know well the desire for divine vindication, as well as the unwillingness to forgive.  And, when I want to forgive, I do not always know how to do so.  This reminds me of the predicament of St. Paul the Apostle in Romans 7:19-20.

Each of us is susceptible to many forms of idolatry.  Something or someone becomes an idol when one treats something of someone as an idol.  Function defines an idol.

And what about that parable?  In the context of the Gospel of Luke, one needs also to consider teachings about wealth–blessed are the poor, woe to the rich, et cetera.  The theme of reversal of fortune is germane.  Also, the order not to exalt oneself, but to be kind to those who cannot repay one (Luke 14:7-14) constitutes a counterpoint to the dishonest/corrupt/astute manager/steward.  Remember, also, that if the fictional manager/steward had been honest, he would have kept his job longer, and we would not have that parable to ponder as we scratch our heads.

Obeying the Golden Rule, being as innocent as doves, and being as wise as serpents seems like a good policy.  May we heed the law of God written on our hearts, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 27, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WASHINGTON DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF NEW JERSEY; AND HIS SON, WILLIAM CROSWELL DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ALBANY; HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANTONY AND THEODOSIUS OF KIEV, FOUNDERS OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONASTICISM; SAINT BARLAAM OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT; AND SAINT STEPHEN OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF CHRISTINA ROSSETTI, POET AND RELIGIOUS WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS REMACLUS OF MAASTRICHT, THEODORE OF MAASTRICHT, LAMBERT OF MAASTRICHT, HUBERT OF MAASTRICT AND LIEGE, AND FLORIBERT OF LIEGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT LANDRADA OF MUNSTERBILSEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; AND SAINTS OTGER OF UTRECHT, PLECHELM OF GUELDERLAND, AND WIRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARIES

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZITA OF TUSCANY, WORKER OF CHARITY

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2020/04/27/perplexing-readings/

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

Above:  The Parable of the Rich Fool, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Abundance, Overabundance, and Scarcity

SEPTEMBER 5, 2021

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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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1 Samuel 3:1-20 or Jeremiah 18:1-11

Psalm 104:1-6, 14-24

Romans 7:12-25

Luke 12:13-21

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Abundance is of God.  Scarcity is a human creation.

The society in which Jesus lived consisted mostly of poor people.  A small portion of the population controlled most of the wealth.  The middle class was very small.  The society in which Jesus lived resembled many contemporary societies in these ways.  The rich fool in the parable hoarded much more food than he needed; he should have kept what he needed for himself and shared the rest.  That was his moral obligation to the poor, according to the Law of Moses and the testimony of the Hebrew prophets.  The rich fool was not bereft of teaching of the law and the testimony of the prophets.  He chose to disregard them.

Assuming that one (1) recognizes the voice of God, and (2) understands what that voice tells one to do, obeying that voice may prove challenging, as St. Paul the Apostle knew.  Temptation is strong, after all.  The temptation to trust in that which is tangible is hardwired into human psychology.  Human psyches frequently stand between us and our potential in God.  This overarching problem is both psychological and spiritual.  It holds back individuals and societies, to common detriment.  However, assuming that one does not recognize the voice of God or what that voice tells one to do, one is like the rich fool in the parable.  Obliviousness to God is a spiritual and societal affliction.

In Augustinian terms, sin is disordered love.  God is worthy of the most love.  People, hobbies, et cetera, are worthy of less love.  To love anyone or anything more than one ought to do is to have disordered love and to commit idolatry, to draw love away from God.  Hoarding, as in the parable, is a psychological and a spiritual ailment.

Life does not consist of the abundance of possessions, Jesus teaches us.I know hoarding when I see it, based on other people’s houses in which I have been present, as well as on some reality television programs.  I have never been a hoarder.  Nevertheless, I know the negative consequences of having collected too many possessions.  I also know the joys of downsizing.  I know the sensation of having become the possession of the inanimate objects, as well as the joys of removing many of them, revealing walls and floors.  I rejoice in seeing uncluttered surfaces and walls with a few, spaced-out pictures on them.  I understand that overabundance is antithetical to abundant life.  Overabundance leads one to serve possessions and to swear fealty to them, not to God.

Abundance is of God.  There is enough of everything for all people to have what they need.  Scarcity is a sinful, human creation.  It is the inevitable result of overabundance, rooted in idolatry.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 22, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GENE BRITTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF DONALD S. ARMENTROUT, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HADEWIJCH OF BRABERT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF KATHE KOLLWITZ, GERMAN LUTHERAN ARTIST AND PACIFIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT VITALIS OF GAZA, MONK, HERMIT, AND MARTYR, CIRCA 625

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2020/04/22/abundance-overabundance-and-scarcity/

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