Archive for the ‘Suffering’ Tag

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

Above:  Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

Human Agents of God

JULY 2, 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 20:7-13

Psalm 69:1-20 (LBW) or Psalm 91 (LW)

Romans 5:12-15

Matthew 10:24-33

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O God our defender,

storms rage about us and cause us to be afraid. 

Rescue your people from despair,

deliver your sons and daughters from fear,

and preserve us all from unbelief;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 25

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O Lord, whose gracious presence never fails to guide

and govern those whom you have nurtured

in your steadfast love and worship,

make us ever revere and adore your holy name;

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), 66

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Following God is frequently a guarantee that one will experience rejection, often from devout people.  The Golden Rule exists in most of the world’s religions.  Yet, O reader, practice the Golden Rule and notice how much criticism you receive from some adherents to some of these religions, including your own.

Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

Faith has the power to transform people.  Religion often reinforces positive and negative tendencies people have.  God or a deity frequently functions as a justification for what one wants to do anyway.  People often create God in their image.

Jeremiah did not create God in his image.  The Weeping Prophet struggled with God, complaining while obeying.  The authors of the assigned texts from the Hebrew Bible wrote of divine protection.  Divine protection kept Jeremiah alive yet did not prevent his involuntary exile in Egypt.  And Jesus died horribly via crucifixion.

Martyrs populate Christian calendars of saints.  This is consistent with various sayings of Jesus from the canonical Gospels.  Commandments to deny oneself, take up one’s cross, and follow Jesus dovetail with Matthew 10:24:

No disciple is above his teacher, no slave above his master.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Yet, in sovereignty, God makes unjust suffering work for a positive end.  Persecutions and martyrdoms water the church.  Redemption comes via the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  Often, social injustice prompts a backlash in favor of social justice.  The New Testament depicts the violent, oppressive Roman Empire as an involuntary tool of God.  God works with what is available.

As much as I enjoy forces of evil functioning involuntarily as agents of God, I assert that being a voluntary agent of God is superior.  I try to be one of these voluntary agents of God.  To the extent I succeed, I do so by grace.  May you, O reader, succeed by grace, in that effort, too.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 4, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CEFERINO JIMENEZ MALLA, SPANISH ROMANI MARTYR, 1936

THE FEAST OF ANGUS DUN, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF WASHINGTON, AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT BASIL MARTYSZ, POLISH ORTHODOX PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1945

THE FEAST OF SAINT JEAN-MARTIN MOYË, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MISSIONARY IN CHINA, AND FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE AND THE CHRISTIAN VIRGINS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN HOUGHTON, ROBERT LAWRENCE, AUGUSTINE WEBSTER, HUMPHREY MIDDLEMORE, WILLIAM EXMEW, AND SEBASTIAN NEWDIGATE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 1535

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for Proper 23, Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Ruth and Boaz, by Julian Schnorr von Carolsfield

Image in the Public Domain

Judgment and Mercy

OCTOBER 9, 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 18:16-33 or Ruth 2:1-13

Psalm 141

Revelation 19:11-21

John 14:1-14

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Divine judgment and mercy are in balance throughout the Bible.  The intercession of Abraham on the behalf of the people of Sodom (Genesis 18:16-33) proved to be in vain, but he did haggle God down.  That story expresses something positive about God.  When we turn to Revelation 19:11-21, we need to notice that the triumph of suffering, divine love in Christ (mercy, for sure) follows judgment on Babylon (code for the Roman Empire).

I offer a lesson that may be difficult:  Mercy for the oppressed may be judgment and punishment of the oppressors.  Furthermore, oppressors may not think of themselves as such.  They may be the heroes of their own stories.  They may think they are righteous, just.

All of us should squirm in discomfort when we think about the human capacity for self-delusion.  Human psychology can be a person’s worst enemy.  It can also be the worse foe of any community, nation-state, government, institution, corporation, et cetera.  Human psychology is the worst enemy of Homo sapiens and Planet Earth.

Thomas Jefferson, a slaveholder, wrote regarding the consequences of slavery for the United States of America:

I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his his justice cannot sleep forever.

The Apocalypse of John is about, among other topics, what will happen when divine judgment wakes up.  That warning remains germane at all times and in all places.  Exploitation, economic injustice, needless violence, and oppression are always present, to some degree.  They are evil.  God will vanquish them and inaugurate the fully realized Kingdom of God.

In the meantime, one duty of we who follow God is to leave the world better than we found it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 27, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JEROME, PAULA OF ROME, EUSTOCHIUM, BLAESILLA, MARCELLA, AND LEA OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANGELA MERICI, FOUNDRESS OF THE COMPANY OF SAINT URSULA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAROLINA SANTOCANALE, FOUNDRESS OF THE CAPUCHIN SISTERS OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION

THE FEAST OF CASPAR NEUMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PIERRE BATIFFOL, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, HISTORIAN, AND THEOLOGIAN

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/27/judgment-and-mercy-part-xxi/

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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 14, Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Ancient Sardis

Image Source = Google Earth

Alive in Christ

AUGUST 7, 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 7:1-10 or Acts 23:1-11

Psalm 128

Revelation 3:1-6

John 7:1-2, 14-24

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I do not apologize to Biblical literalists for pointing out that Genesis 6:19-21 and Genesis 7:2-3 contradict each other.  The explanation for the two sets of instructions is simple:  an editor “cut and pasted” different sources together.

Psalm 128 is overly simplistic.  Sometimes people suffer for keeping the faith.  Consider, O reader, the death threats against Jesus in John 7 and the suffering of St. Paul the Apostle in Acts 23.

The message of the church at Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6) remains relevant in many places, unfortunately.  A congregation may seem to be alive and thriving.  It may be full for worship services.  It may have many active programs.  It may even have a large and impressive physical structure.  Yet such a place is spiritually dead if it has forgotten to make Christ and divine grace central.

I have certain liturgical sensibilities.  Good, proper liturgy sets the spiritual table for me in corporate worship.  Some people from churches with less formal liturgies regard my liturgical preferences as dead formalism and as going through the motions.  They mistake simplicity of worship for sincerity of worship.

I have visited congregations with liturgical styles I regard as insufficient and uninspiring.  I have attended worship services at these churches.  Functionally, I have merely attended social events.  I have, of course, been sociable and well-behaved when doing so.  Through it all, though, I have wanted to be somewhere else.

Despite this, I affirm that congregations alive in Christ come in a variety of liturgical styles.  Liturgy reflects various factors, including personality, which has a bearing on one’s preferred liturgical style.

Being alive in Christ is another matter, though.  It takes congregations and their members through good times and difficult times.  It endures.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 19, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SARGENT SHRIVER AND EUNICE KENNEDY SHRIVER, U.S. HUMANITARIANS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DEICOLA AND GALL, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS; AND SAINT OTHMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AT SAINT GALLEN

THE FEAST OF ELMER G. HOMRIGHAUSEN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, AND PROFESSOR OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF HAROLD A. BOSLEY, UNITED METHODIST MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HENRY TWELLS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/19/alive-in-christ/

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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 3, Year D (Humes)   2 comments

Above:  Christ Banishes Tradesmen from the Temple

Image in the Public Domain

Suffering

NOT OBSERVED IN THE SEASON AFTER PENTECOST 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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Amos 6:1-7 or Proverbs 6:6-22

Psalm 118:1-14

1 Timothy 4:1-16

John 2:13-25

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These five readings, taken together, remind individuals, communities, and populations to obey God’s laws, keep its ethical mandate of mutuality under God, and not to be arrogant while idling in obliviousness to consequences of disobeying divine ethical standards.  The Assyrians were on their way in Amos 6.  False teachers were troublesome in 1 Timothy 4.  Sacred rituals were not talismans in John 2.

Keeping the ethical mandates from God is not a talisman either.  One who reads the Gospel of John should notice that Gospel’s placement of the “Temple Incident” (as scholars of the New Testament call it) at the beginning of Christ’s ministry.  Such a reader also notices that, according to the Gospel of John, different groups tried for years to kill Jesus throughout the Fourth Gospel.  If righteousness were a shield against negative consequences, Jesus would have been the safest person who ever lived.

Unfortunately, old, false ideas remain persistent.  (Old, true ideas persisting is positive, of course.)  The idea that one is suffering, therefore must have sinned, is false.  So is the proposition that one is prosperous and secure, therefore must have done something right and righteous.  How many times must one read the Gospel of John, ponder the life of Christ, and read accounts of martyrs before one understands this?

The rain falls on the just and the unjust.  Many of the wicked prosper.  Many of the righteous struggle and suffer.  It is not fair.  Life is not fair.  Nevertheless, actions do have consequences in this life and in the afterlife.  Sometimes we also suffer because of the actions of others.  The problem of suffering is too complex for simple answers.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 31, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIUSEPPINA NICOLI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND MINISTER TO THE POOR

NEW YEAR’S EVE

THE FEAST OF ROSSITER WORTHINGTON RAYMOND, U.S. NOVELIST, POET, HYMN WRITER, AND MINING ENGINEER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZOTICUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PRIEST AND MARTYR, 351

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https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/12/31/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d-humes/

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2020/12/31/suffering-part-vi/

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Devotion for Proper 28, Year C (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Archelaus

Image in the Public Domain

Two Kingdoms II

NOVEMBER 14, 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 31:1-9 or Lamentations 3:1-9, 14-33

Psalm 114

Romans 15:14-33

Luke 19:11-27

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As I have written many times, the judgment and mercy of God exist in a balance of justice/righteousness.  (As I have also written ad infinitum, justice and righteousness are the same word in the Bible.  I keep repeating myself.)  Mercy for the persecuted and oppressed may be judgment on the persecutors and oppressors.  Actions and inaction have consequences.  Not serving God has negative consequences.  Serving God may have some negative consequences in this life, but God rewards the faithful in the afterlife.

Now I will focus on the Gospel lesson.  The Parable of the Pounds may seem like a parallel version of the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), but it is not.  The Parable of the Talents is about personal spiritual responsibility.  The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IX (1995), labels Luke 19:11-27 as the “Parable of the Greedy and Vengeful King.”

Follow the proverbial bouncing balls with me, O reader.

Herod the Great (reigned 47-4 B.C.E.), a Roman client king, had died, leaving sons:

  1. Archelaus;
  2. Herod Antipas, full brother of Archelaus; and
  3. Philip (the Tetrarch), half-brother of Archelaus and Herod Antipas.

Archelaus wanted to succeed his father as a client king.  Before he departed for Rome, Archelaus had about 3000 people killed.  A delegation of 50 Jews also went to Rome, to argue against Archelaus’s petition to Emperor Augustus.  The emperor made Archelaus the Ethnarch of Idumea, Judea, and Samaria instead.  Archelaus was too brutal, even by Roman imperial standards.  Augustus deposed him in 6 C.E. and exiled the would-be-king to Gaul.

Herod Antipas served as the Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea from 4 B.C.E. to 39 C.E.  He ordered the execution of St. John the Baptist, who had objected to the incestuous marriage to Herodias.  (She was the former wife of Philip the Tetrarch, as well as as Herod Antipas’s half-niece.  Salome was, therefore, Herod Antipas’s step-daughter and great-half-niece.)

Philip was the Tetrarch of Northern Transjordan from 4 B.C.E. to 34 C.E.  His territory became Herod Agrippa I’s realm in 37 C.E.  (Herod Agrippa I was Philip’s half-nephew and Herodias’s brother.)  Herod Agrippa I held the title of king from 37 to 44 C.E.

The transfer of that territory to Herod Agrippa I made Herodias jealous.  So did the act by which Emperor Tiberius had granted Lysanius, the Tetrarch of Abilene, the title of king in 34 C.E.  (Lysanius was not a member of the Herodian Dynasty.)  Herodias and Herod Antipas traveled to Rome in 39 C.E. to request that Caligula grant Herod Antipas the title of king, too.  Herod Agrippa I sent emissaries to oppose that petition.  Caligula deposed Herod Antipas and exiled the couple to Gaul.  The emperor also added the territory of Herod Antipas to that of Herod Agrippa I.  Then, in 41 C.E., Emperor Claudius (I) added Judea and Samaria to the realm of Herod Agrippa I.  Herod Agrippa died in 44 C.E.

Jesus and his audience knew the story of Archelaus, the model for the would-be-king in the Parable of the Pounds/Greedy and Vengeful King.  Likewise, the original audience for the Gospel of Luke (written circa 85 C.E.) knew the story of Herod Antipas’s ill-fated quest for the title of king.  They brought that story to this parable, too.

Not every parable of Jesus features a stand-in for God.  The newly-appointed king in the parable was not a role model.  The parable presents us with a study in contrasts between two kingdoms–the kingdom of this world and the Kingdom of God.  The kingdom of this world depends on violence, exploitation, injustice, and artificial scarcity.  The Kingdom of God is the polar opposite of the kingdom of this world.

R. Alan Culpepper, writing about this parable in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IX (1995), 364, proposes that

The enemies of the kingdom of God will be punished no less severely than if they had opposed one of the Herods, but in God’s kingdom the greedy will be driven out of the Temple and the generous will be rewarded.

After all, we reap what we sow.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH; AND SAINT ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH AND “FATHER OF ORTHODOXY”

THE FEAST OF CHARLES SILVESTER HORNE, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHARLES FRIEDRICH HASSE, GERMAN-BRITISH MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF JULIA BULKLEY CADY CORY, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGISMUND OF BURGUNDY, KING; SAINT CLOTILDA, FRANKISH QUEEN; AND SAINT CLODOALD, FRANKISH PRINCE AND ABBOT

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2020/05/02/two-kingdoms-ii/

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Devotion for Proper 3, Year C (Humes)   2 comments

Above:  The King Uzziah Stricken with Leprosy, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Suffering

NOT OBSERVED DURING THE SEASON AFTER PENTECOST IN 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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2 Chronicles 26:3-5, 16-21 or Joshua 6:16-21

Psalm 78:1-4, 9-18, 30

Ephesians 4:1-16

Luke 5:12-26

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I…beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called….

–Ephesians 4:1, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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That is the theme uniting the assigned readings.  The call is both individual and collective, and always in the context of community.

The righteous and the unjust suffer.  Does God afflict faithless people with physical ailments.  My theology answers, “no.”  Much of the Hebrew Bible disagrees with me, of course.  My disgust with bigoted televangelists who have have attributed diseases and natural disasters (such as Hurricane Katrina, 2005) to the wrath of God informs my opinion.  Sometimes people are merely unfortunate.  On other occasions. some people suffer the consequences of their actions.  I do not that interpret that as God smiting people.  No, I understand that as people smiting themselves.

We will suffer as surely as we breathe.  May we, by grace, not suffer because of our sins, individually.  Given that we live in community, each of us will suffer because of the actions and inaction of others.  Not one of us can change that reality.  Each one of us can, however, trust God and follow Jesus.  Each of us can use our spiritual gifts properly, for the glory of God and for the common good.  Each of us can be a conduit of divine love.  If we do not think doing so will prompt certain others to target us, we deceive ourselves, unfortunately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 18, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEONIDES OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 202; ORIGEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN; SAINT DEMETRIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT CYRIL OF JERUSALEM, BISHOP, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAUL OF CYPRUS, EASTERN ORTHODOX MARTYR, 760

THE FEAST OF ROBERT WALMSLEY, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/03/18/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-humes/

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2020/03/18/suffering-part-v/

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Devotion for Proper 22, Year B (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Effects of Acid Rain on a Forest in the Czech Republic, 2006

Photographer = Lovecz

The Sins of the Fathers

OCTOBER 4, 2020

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Exodus 34:1-10 or 1 Kings 22:29-43

Psalm 62:1-8, 11-12

Hebrews 5:12-6:12

Mark 9:30-37

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The key mark of discipleship is servanthood.

St. Gregory of Nyssa (335-394)

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Some themes recur in the readings for this week:

  1. God is faithful.
  2. Trust in God.
  3. Do not commit apostasy.
  4. People reap what they sow.
  5. Christ is the exemplar of the type of service that defines greatness.

Exodus 34:7 requires unpacking.  The principle that God punishes or forgives members of subsequent generations based on the sins of an ancestor exists also in 1 Kings 21:29, Nehemiah 9:17, Deuteronomy 5:9, Numbers 14:18, Psalm 103:8, Joel 2:13, and Jonah 4:2.  Yet we read the opposite view–individual moral responsibility–in Ezekiel 18 and Jeremiah 31:29-30.  The Bible contradicts itself sometimes.

The best explanation for the opinion we read in Exodus 34:7 comes from Professor Richard Elliot Friedman:  effects of one’s actions are apparent generations later.  I recognize ways in which actions of two of my paternal great-grandfathers influence me indirectly.  This is one example of something, that, from a certain point of view, looks like intergenerational punishment and reward by God.

The decisions of others influence us.  Some of them even restrict our options.  We may suffer because of the decisions of those who have preceded us; we may suffer because of their sins.  This is the way of the world.  Yet we are morally responsible for ourselves and each other, not those who have died.  No, they are responsible for their sins, just as we are responsible for ours.

May we–individually and collectively–refrain from visiting the consequences of our sins on those who will succeed us.  We owe them that much, do we not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/07/25/the-sins-of-the-fathers-part-ii/

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