Archive for October 2010

Fiftieth Day of Easter: Day of Pentecost, Year A   30 comments

Above:  Tree of Jesse, from the Recipian Bible, 12th Century C.E.

(The doves around Jesus’s head represent the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit.)

“For the Common Good”

MAY 28, 2023


The Assigned Readings for This Sunday:

Acts 2:1-21 or Numbers 11:24-30

Psalm 104:25-35, 37

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13 or Acts 2:1-21

John 20:19-23 or John 7:37-39

The Collect:

Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


The Apostle Paul provided a partial list of manifestations of the Holy Spirit:

  1. the utterance of wisdom
  2. the utterance of knowledge
  3. faith
  4. healing
  5. the working of miracles
  6. prophecy
  7. the discernment of spirits
  8. tongues
  9. the interpretation of tongues

And he cautioned people to use them for the common good, not building up oneself.  A spiritual gift ought not to become an occasion of the illusion of spiritual spirituality over those who lack that gift, he wrote, for the variety of gifts is essential to the proper functioning of the church.  And the greatest gift is love, or charity as some Biblical translators render the original Greek word.

(An Aside:  Some of my coreligionists insist that to pray one needs a “prayer language.”  My prayer language is English, which God understands very well.)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church identifies seven gifts of the Holy Spirit:

  1. wisdom
  2. understanding
  3. counsel
  4. fortitude
  5. knowledge
  6. piety
  7. fear of the Lord (see paragraph 1831).

And the Catholic Catechism lists the fruits of the Holy Spirit, “perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory,: identifying twelve of them:

  1. charity
  2. joy
  3. peace
  4. patience
  5. kindness
  6. goodness
  7. generosity
  8. gentleness
  9. faithfulness
  10. modesty
  11. self-control
  12. chastity (see paragraph 1832).

I believe that each of us enters this world with much potential to do much good.  We can fulfill this potential if we obey God, making wise decisions which liberate us to live into our divine vocations.  Trying to decide wisely does not guarantee success, of course, but that is at least better than not caring at all.  And our vocations from God might not be what we think they are.

As I survey world history I wonder how much better the world would be if more of us had spent more time nurturing joy, patience, kindness, generosity, fortitude, and other great virtues.  Leaving one’s corner of the world (or, on a grander scale, the world) is insufficient to grant salvation; only God can do that.  But this is a noble and achievable goal God empowers us to complete.

One might say, however, “What does it matter?  The world is a screwed-up place, and will be so for a long time.”  Yes, the world is screwed-up, but it can be less so.  I do not think of the world as the enemy camp, the bastion of Satan (in whom I do not believe anyway, although I accept the reality of evil).  Instead, I think of the world as my neighborhood, for which I am partially responsible.  I am partially to blame for its screwed-up nature.  If I am not part of the solution, I am part of the problem.  And I want to be part of the solution.  I can do my part, you can do your part, another person can do his or her part, et cetera, and together we can accomplish much good.

Empowered by God, may we do so.




Forty-Ninth Day of Easter   8 comments

Above:  Saint John the Evangelist

Dying Later Yet Glorifying God Now

May 27, 2023


Acts 28:16-20, 30-31 (Revised English Bible):

When we entered Rome Paul was allowed to lodge privately, with a soldier in charge of him.  Three days later he called together the local Jewish leaders, and when they assembled, he said to them,

My brothers, I never did anything against our people or against the customs of our forefathers; yet I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans.  They examined  me would have liked to release me because there was no capital charge against me; but the Jews objected, and I had no option but to appeal to Caesar; not that I had any accusation to bring against my own people.  This is why I have asked to talk to you; it is for loyalty to the hope of Israel that I am in chains.

He stayed there two full years at his own expense, with a welcome for all who came to to him; he proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught the facts about the Lord Jesus Christ quite openly and without hindrance.

Psalm 11 (Revised English Bible):

In the LORD I take refuge.  How can you say to me,

Flee like a bird to the mountains;

for see, the wicked string their bows

and fit the arrow to the bowstring,

to shoot from the darkness at honest folk?

When foundations are undermined,

what can the just person do?

The LORD is in his holy temple;

the LORD’s throne is in heaven.

His gaze is upon mankind, his searching eye tests them.

The LORD weighs just and unjust,

and he hates all who love violence.

He will rain fiery coals and brimstone on the wicked;

scorching winds will be the portion they drink.

For the LORD is just and loves just dealing;

his face is turned towards the upright.

John 21:20-25 (Anchor Bible):

Then Peter turned around and noticed that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following (the one who had leaned back against Jesus’ chest during the supper and said,

Lord, who is the one will betray you?)

Seeing him, Peter was prompted to ask Jesus,

But Lord, what about him?

Jesus replied,

Suppose I would like him to remain until I come, how does that concern you?  Your concern is to follow me.

This is how the word got around among all the brothers that this disciple was not going to die.  As a matter of fact, Jesus never told him that he was going to die; all he said was:

Suppose I would like him to remain until I come [how does that concern you?

It is this same disciple who is the witness to these things; it is he who wrote these things; and his testimony, we know, is true.

Still, there are many other things that Jesus did.  Yet, were they ever to be written down in detail, I doubt that there would be room enough in the whole world for the books to record them.

The Collect:

O Lord, when your Son ascended into heaven he sent down upon the Apostles the Holy Spirit, as he had promised, that they might comprehend the mysteries of the kingdom:  Distribute among us also, we pray, the gifts of the selfsame Spirit, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Paul arrived in Rome, spent a few years, and taught openly–until he died by beheading during the reign of the Emperor Nero.  John the Evangelist had many opportunities to become a martyr, suffered much violence and many humiliations, and yet died of natural causes as an elderly man.  The call of God to some people includes martyrdom, sooner or later.  For others the spiritual vocation permits dying of natural causes.  Common to all the above, however, is glorifying God in one’s life.  The consequences this will have on one depends on where and when one lives.

Yet there will be a personal cost.  That much is certain.  We will have to give something up.  We will become obligated to live disciplined lives and permit God to reorganize our priorities.  And we will need to lay any rivalries aside.


Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 9, 2010

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2023, Episcopal Church Lectionary, May 27

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Forty-Eighth Day of Easter   12 comments

“Follow Me.”

May 26, 2023


Acts 25:13-25 (Revised English Bible):

Some days later King Agrippa and Bernice arrived an Caesarea on a courtesy visit to Festus.  They spent some time there, and during their stay Festus raised Paul’s case with the king.

There is a man here,

he said,

left in custody by Felix; and when I was in Jerusalem the chief priests and elders of the Jews brought a charge against him, demanding his condemnation.  I replied that it was not Roman practice to hand a man over before he had been confronted with his accusers and given an opportunity of answering the charge.  So when they had come here with me I lost no time, but took my seat in court the very next day and ordered the man to be brought before me.  When his accusers rose to speak, they brought none of the charges I was expecting; they merely had certain points of religion, and about someone called Jesus, a dead man whom Paul alleged to be alive.  Finding myself out of depth in such discussions, I asked if he was willing to go to Jerusalem an stand trial on these issues.  But Paul appealed to be remanded in custody for his imperial majesty’s decision, and I ordered him to be detained until I could send him to the emperor.

Psalm 103:1-2, 19-22 (Revised English Bible):

Bless the LORD, my soul;

with all my being I bless his holy name.

Bless the LORD, my soul,

and forget none of his benefits.

The LORD has established his throne in heaven,

his kingly power over the whole world.

Bless the LORD, you his angels,

mighty in power, who do his bidding and obey his command.

Bless the LORD, all you his hosts;

his ministers who do his will.

Bless the LORD, all created things,

everywhere in his dominion.

Bless the LORD, my soul.

John 21:15-19 (Anchor Bible):

When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus addressed Simon Peter,

Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?

He said,

Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.

Jesus told him,

Then feed my lambs.

A second time Jesus repeated the question,

Simon, son of John, do you love me?

He said,

Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.

Jesus told him,

Then tend my sheep.

For the third time Jesus asked,

Simon, son of John, do you love me?

Peter was hurt because Jesus had asked for the third time,

Do you love me?

So he said to him,

Lord, you know everything; you know well that I love you.

Jesus told him,

Then feed my little sheep.  Truly I assure you, when you were a young man, you used to fasten your own belt and set off for wherever you wished.  But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.

(What he said indicated the sort of death by which Peter was to glorify God.)  After these words, Jesus told him,

Follow me

The Collect:

O loving Father, grant that your Church, being gathered by your Holy Spirit, may be dedicated more fully to your service, and live united in your love, according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Peter had denied Jesus three times before the crucifixion.  And he affirmed Jesus three times after the resurrection.  Yet there is more taking place in the reading from the Johannine Gospel.

The verbs for “love” vary slightly in the Greek language.  Commentaries I have consulted note this fact without assigning any significance to it, stating that these are synonyms, while noting that ancient and modern scholars have understood the different Greek words as being important.  Anyhow, the first two times Jesus and Peter converse Jesus asks if Peter has agape love for him, and Peter replies that he has phileo love for Jesus.  Agape is unconditional, sacrificial love–the kind of love God has for us.  Agape comes from the agapan, which is what John uses in the text.  (Agapan can mean “to prefer or to esteem.”)  Phileo is friendship and affection, which indicates passion, not preference.  The third time, however, Jesus asked if Peter had phileo love for him, and Peter replied that he had phileo love for Jesus.

So, if one assumes that differing Greek words indicate more than the use of synonyms, here is what the Johannine Gospel depicts.  The first two times Jesus asked Peter, “Do you prefer me to fishing and fishing boats?” and Peter’s replies indicated passion in the sense of friendship and brotherly love.  The third time, however, Jesus and Peter referred to phileo love.

Yet, as scholars of the Fourth Gospel indicate, that work uses agape (and its linguistic variations) and phileo (and its linguistic variations) interchangeably.

As a devotional exercise, however, I ask you, O reader, a spiritual question:  Do you have mere affection for Jesus, or do you prefer him to the alternatives in your life?  Follow the question wherever the Holy Spirit leads.

(Thanks to Father Raymond E. Brown’s commentary on John in sorting out Greek words, by the way.)

Both Peter and Paul became martyrs–Peter by crucifixion.  Considering himself unworthy to die as Jesus did, he was crucified upside-down.

The account from Acts becomes more understandable if one knows who these people were.  Herod Agrippa II was a client king within the Roman Empire.  Think of the British rule in India through 1947; London ruled parts of the subcontinent directly and others through natives.  Rome followed the same practice in the Holy Land.  Herod Agrippa II (reigned 53-100) was a great-grandson of Herod the Great (d. 4 B.C.E.), who had ordered the infamous massacre of the Holy Innocents.  Herod Agrippa II “ruled” part of his great-grandfather’s territory and was incestuous with Bernice, his sister, who went on to become the mistress of the Roman Emperor Titus (reigned 79-81).  Also, this Herod appointed the high priest.

Festus was the new Roman governor of Judea.  The author of Luke-Acts depicts him as a conscientious man who tried to follow the letter of the law, rule honorably, and clean up messes inherited from Felix, his predecessor.  Paul did not convince either Festus or Herod Agrippa II of the rightness of his cause, but, as Herod observed, Paul could have been freed if he had not asserted his right as a Roman citizen to appeal to the Emperor, who, unfortunately, was Nero (reigned 54-68).  (Yet Paul had a divine mandate to go to Rome.)  At Rome Paul met his death by beheading, although Acts ends before that event.

Paul preferred Jesus to the alternatives in his life.  And, at his end, so did Peter.


Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 9, 2010

Forty-Seventh Day of Easter   12 comments

God With Us

May 25, 2023


Acts 22:30; 23:6-11 (Revised English Bible):

The following day, wishing to be quite sure what charge the Jews were bringing against Paul, he [the commandant] released him and ordered the chief priests and the entire Council to assemble.  He then brought Paul down to stand before them.

Well aware that one section of them were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, Paul called out in the Council,

My brothers, I am a Pharisee, a Pharisee born and bred; and the issue in this trial is our hope of the resurrection of the dead.

At these words the Pharisees and the Sadducees fell out among themselves, and the assembly was divided.  (The Sadducees deny that there is any resurrection or angel or spirit, but the Pharisees believe in all three.)  A great uproar ensued; and some of the scribes belonging to the Pharisaic party openly took sides and declared,

We find no fault with this man; perhaps an angel or spirit has spoken to him.

In the mounting dissension, the commandant was afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces, so he ordered the troops to go down, pull him out of the crowd, and bring him into the barracks.

The following night the Lord appeared to him and said,

Keep up your courage!  You have affirmed the truth about me in Jerusalem, and you must do the same in Rome.

Psalm 16:5-11 (Revised English Bible):

LORD, you are my allotted portion and my cup;

you maintain my boundaries:

the lines fall for me in pleasant places;

I am well content with my inheritance.

I shall bless the LORD who has given me counsel:

in the night he imparts wisdom to my inmost being.

I have set the LORD before me at all times:

with him at my right hand I cannot be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad

and my spirit rejoices,

my body too rests unafraid;

for you will not abandon me to Sheol

or suffer your faithful servant to see the pit.

You will show me the path of life;

in your presence is the fullness of joy,

at your right hand are pleasures for evermore.

John 17:20-26 (Anchor Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Yet it is not for these alone that I pray but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they all may be one, just as you, Father, in me and I in you, that they also may be [one] in us.  Thus the world may be brought to completion as one.  Thus the world may come to know that you sent me and that you loved them even as you loved me.  Father, they are your gift to me; and where I am, I wish them to be one with me, that they may see my glory which you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.  O Father most just, while the world did not know you (though I knew you), these men came to know that you sent me.  And to them  I made known your name; and I will continue to make it known so that the love you had for me may be in them and I may be in them.

The Collect:

O Lord, when your Son ascended into heaven he sent down upon the Apostles the Holy Spirit, as he had promised, that they might comprehend the mysteries of the kingdom:  Distribute among us also, we pray, the gifts of the selfsame Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


As I ponder these readings I conclude that the most eloquent statement concerning their central theme comes from Robert Lowery (1826-1899).  So I share with you the words of one of his hymns, which I found in With One Voice:  A Lutheran Resource for Worship (1995), a supplement to the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978).


1.  My life flows on in endless song;

above earth’s lamentation,

I catch the sweet, though far-off hymn

that hails a new creation.


No storm can shake my inmost calm

while to that Rock I’m clinging.

Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,

how can I keep from singing?

2.  Through all the tumult and the strife,

I hear that music ringing.

It finds an echo in my soul.

How can I keep from singing?


3.  What though my joys and comforts die?

The Lord my Savior liveth.

What though the darkness gather found?

Songs in the night he giveth.


4.  The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,

a fountain ever springing!

All things are mine since I am his!

How can I keep from singing?


(And there is another verse with references to persecutions from the era of McCarthyism in the United States.–KRT)

In prison cell and dungeon vile

our thoughts to them are winging,

when friends by shame are undefiled

how can I keep from singing?


Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 9, 2010

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2023, Episcopal Church Lectionary, May 25

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Forty-Sixth Day of Easter   7 comments

Consecrated in Truth

May 24, 2023


Acts 20:28-38 (Revised English Bible):

[Paul concluded,]

Keep guard over yourselves and over all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has given you charge, as shepherds of the church of the Lord, which he won for himself by his own blood.  I know that when I am gone, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.  Even from your own number men will arise who will distort the truth in order to get disciples to break away and follow them.  So be on the alert; remember how with tears  I never ceased to warn each one of you night and day for three years.

And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which has power to build you up and give you your heritage among all those whom God has made his own.  I have not wanted to anyone’s money or clothes for myself; you all know that these hands of mine earned enough for the needs of myself and my companions.  All along I showed you that it is our duty to help the weak in this way, by hard work, and that we should keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, who himself said, ‘Happiness lies more in giving than receiving.’

As he finished speaking, he knelt down with them all and prayed.  There were loud cries of sorrow from them all, as they folded Paul in their arms and kissed him; what distressed them most was his saying that they would never see his face again.  Then they escorted him to the ship.

Psalm 68:28-35 (Revised English Bible):

God, set your might to work,

the divine might which you have wielded for us.

Kings will bring you gifts

for the honour of your temple in Jerusalem.

Rebuke those wild beasts of the reeds,

that herd of bulls, the bull-calf warriors of the nations,

who bring bars of silver and prostrate themselves.

Scatter these nations which delight in war.

Envoys will come from Egypt;

Nubia will stretch out her hands to God.

You kingdoms of the world, sing praises to God,

make music to the Lord,

to him who rides on the heavens, the ancient heavens.

Listen!  He speaks in the mighty thunder.

Ascribe might to God, whose majesty is over Israel,

Israel’s pride and might throned in the skies.

Awesome is God in your sanctuary;

he is Israel’s God.

He gives might and power to his people.

Praise be to God.

John 17:11b-19 (Anchor Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

O Father most holy, keep them safe with your name which you have given to me [that they may be one, just as we]. As long as I was with them, I kept them safe with your name which you have given to me.  I kept watch and not one of them perished, except the one destined to perish–in order to have the Scripture fulfilled.  But now I am coming to you, that they may share my joy to the full.  I have given them to your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world [anymore than I belong to the world].  I am not asking you to take them out of the world but to keep them safe from the Evil One.  They do not belong to the world, anymore than I belong to the world.  Consecrate them in the truth–’Your word is truth’; for as you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.  And it is for them that I consecrate myself, in order that they too may be consecrated in truth.

The Collect:

O God, by the glorification of Jesus Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit you have opened for us the gates of your kingdom:  Grant that we, who have received such great gifts, may live more fully the riches of our faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


We who claim the name of Jesus need to be consecrated to truth and not to be “savage wolves” or subject to them.  Who are these wolves?  They are legion, with a host of agendas.  These include hating then destroying or seeking to destroy those whose only offense is to be different, especially theologically or culturally.  Some “savage wolves” prey upon the innocence of children or youth, using power to exploit the vulnerable.  Other “savage wolves” preach that we need not try to help the needy and powerless, despite the witness of Jesus and the Jewish prophets.  Still others deny the natural rights of those they dislike for one reason or another.  More mundane “savage wolves” use their positions of formal or informal authority or influence to bolster their weak egos and/or satisfy their self-serving needs, often on a congregational level.  (It is a rare congregation which lacks at least one such wolf.)

Our model is Jesus, or at least our model is supposed to be Jesus.  He came to serve, not to be served.  He was selfless and obedient to God.  And we should be, also.  We can be, by grace.


Posted originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 9, 2010

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2023, Episcopal Church Lectionary, May 24

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Forty-Fifth Day of Easter   7 comments

“The Son of Man came to serve…..”

Doing the Lord’s Work

May 23, 2023


Acts 20:17-27 (Revised English Bible):

He [Paul] did, however, send from Miletus to Ephesus and summon the elders of the church.  When they joined him, he spoke to them as follows.

You know how, from the day that I first set foot in the province of Asia, I spent my whole time with you, serving the Lord in all humility amid the sorrows and trials that came upon me through the intrigues of the Jews.  You know that I kept back nothing that was for your good:  I delivered the message to you, and taught you, in public and in your homes; with Jews and Gentiles alike I insisted on repentance before God and faith in our Lord Jesus.  Now, as you see, I am constrained by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem.  I do not know what will befall me there, except that in city after city the Holy Spirit assures me that imprisonment and hardships await me.  For myself, I set no store by life; all I want is to finish the race, and complete the task which the Lord Jesus assigned to me, that of bearing my testimony to the gospel of God’s grace.

One thing more:  I have gone about among you proclaiming the kingdom, but now I know that none of you will ever see my face again.  That being so, I here and now declare that no one’s fate can be laid at my door; I have held back nothing; I have disclosed to you the whole purpose of God.

Psalm 68:9-10, 17-20 (Revised English Bible):

You, God, send plenteous rain;

when your own land languishes you restore it.

There your people settled;

in your goodness, God, you provide for the poor.

There are myriads of God’s chariots,

thousands upon thousands,

when the Lord came in holiness from Sinai.

You went up to your dwelling-place on high

taking captives into captivity;

everyone brought you tribute;

no rebel could live in the presence of the LORD God.

Blessed is the Lord:

he carries us day by day,

God our salvation.

Our God is a God who saves;

to the LORD God belongs all escape from death.

John 17:1-11a (Anchor Bible):

After these words Jesus looked up to heaven and said:

Father, the hour has come: glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you–inasmuch as you granted him power over all men that he might grant eternal life to all you have given him.  And eternal life consists in this:  that they know you, the one true God and Jesus Christ, the one whom you sent.  I glorified you on earth by completing the work you have given me to do; so now glorify me, Father, in your presence with that glory which I had with you before the world existed.  I revealed your name to the men whom you gave me out of the world.  They were yours and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.  Now they have come to know that from you comes all that you have given to me.  For the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them.  And they knew in truth that I came forth from you, and they believed that you sent me.  It is on their behalf that I pray.  I do not pray for the world but for those whom you have given me, since they really belong to you (just as all that is mine is yours and all that is yours is mine), and it is in them that I have been glorified.  I am no longer in the world; but while I am coming to you, they are still in the world.

The Collect:

O God, by the glorification of Jesus Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit you have opened for us the gates of your kingdom:  Grant that we, who have received such great gifts, may dedicate ourselves more diligently to your service, and live more fully the riches of our faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


So, what is the good news?  Jesus suffered and died partially because that was the trajectory of his life.  Paul obeyed God, knowing that hardships and imprisonments awaited him.  And before that, many Hebrew prophets obeyed God at great cost.  Discipleship can be a difficult vocation and costly proposition.

Yet it overlaps with eternal life, which is knowing God via Jesus.  Living for oneself might lead to ease and comfort, but living for God is a high calling.  Also, one must do the right thing for the correct reason, so obeying God in hope of a heavenly reward is inferior to doing to the right thing because it is the right thing to do.  Obedience to God is its own reward.  And that should be enough.


Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 9, 2010

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2023, Episcopal Church Lectionary, May 23

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Forty-Fourth Day of Easter   9 comments

Christ the Victorious

“I have conquered the world.”–Jesus

May 22, 2023


Acts 19:1-8 (Revised English Bible):

While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul travelled through the inland regions till he came to Ephesus, where he found a number of disciples.  When he asked them,

Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?

they replied,

No, we were not even told that there is a Holy Spirit.

He asked,

Then what baptism were you given?

They answered,

John’s baptism.

Paul said,

The baptism that John gave was a baptism in token of repentance, and he told the people to put their trust in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.

On hearing this they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus; and when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them and they spoke in tongues of ecstasy and prophesied.  There were about a dozen men in all.

During the next three months he attended the synagogue and with persuasive argument spoke boldly about the kingdom of God.  When some proved obdurate and would not believe, speaking evil of the new way before the congregation, he withdrew from them, taking the disciples with him, and continued to hold discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.  This went on for two years with the result that the whole population of the province of Asia, both Jews and Gentiles, heard the word of the Lord.

Psalm 68:1-8 (Revised English Bible):

May God arise and his enemies he scattered,

and those hostile to him flee at his approach.

You disperse them like smoke;

you melt them like wax near fire.

The wicked perish at the presence of God,

but the righteous are joyful;

they exult before God

with gladness and rejoicing.

Sing praises of God, raise a psalm to his name;

extol him who rides on the clouds.

The LORD is his name, exult before him,

a father to the fatherless, the widow’s defender–

God in his holy dwelling-place.

God gives the friendless a home

and leads the prisoner out in all safety,

but rebels must remain in the scorching desert.

God, when at the head of your people

you marched out through the barren waste,

earth trembled, rain poured from the heavens

before God the Lord of Sinai, before God the God of Israel.

John 16:28-33 (Anchor Bible):


his disciples exclaimed,

at last you are speaking plainly, without figures of speech!  Now we know that you know everything–you do not even need that a person ask you questions.  Because of this we believe that you came forth from God.

Jesus answered them,

So now you believe?  Why, an hour is coming–indeed has already come–for you to be scattered, each on his own, leaving me all alone because the Father is with me.  I have said this to you so that in me you find peace.  In the world you find something, but have courage: I have conquered the world.

The Collect:

O God, by the glorification of Jesus Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit you have opened for us the gates of your kingdom:  Grant that we, who have received such great gifts , may dedicate ourselves more diligently to your service, and give more fully the riches of our faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


I have conquered the world.

The Johannine Gospel places these words in Jesus’ mouth shortly before his apprehension, torture, and execution.  This seems an unusual statement to make immediately before such an event.  Yet, given the narrative of John’s Gospel, it makes sense.  In that book the glorification of Jesus was his crucifixion and he was in control all along.  This is the fully human and fully divine Jesus with an accent on divinity.

Christianity conquered the Roman Empire, which executed Jesus, who rose from the dead and defeated death.  And no power has been able to extinguish the Christian message.  Many have tried, and none have succeeded.  Legend states that as Julian the Apostate, the last non-Christian Roman Emperor died, he said,

You have conquered, O Galilean.



Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 9, 2010

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2023, Episcopal Church Lectionary, May 22

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Forty-Third Day of Easter: Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year A   21 comments

Above: Praying Hands, by Albrecht Durer

The Power of Prayer

MAY 21, 2023


Acts 1:6-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

When the apostles had come together, they asked Jesus,

Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?

He replied,

It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said,

Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.

Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35 (New Revised Standard Version):

Let God rise up, let his enemies be scattered;

let those who hate him flee before him.

As smoke is driven away, so drive them away;

as wax melts before the fire,

let the wicked perish before God.

But let the righteous be joyful;

let them exult before God;

let them be jubilant with joy.

Sing to God, sing praises to his name;

lift up a song to him who rides upon the clouds–

his name is the LORD–

be exultant before him.

Father of orphans and protector of widows

is God in his holy habitation.

God gives the desolate a home to live in;

he leads out the prisoners to prosperity,

but the rebellious live in a parched land.

O God, when you went out before your people,

when you marched through the wilderness,

the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain

at the presence of God, the God of Sinai,

at the presence of God, the God of Israel.

Rain in abundance, O God, you showered  abroad;

you restored your heritage when it languished;

your flock found a dwelling in it;

in your goodness, O God, you provided for the needy.

Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth;

sing praises to the Lord.

O rider in the heavens the ancient heavens;

listen, he sends out his voice, his mighty voice.

Ascribe power to God,

whose majesty is over Israel;

and whose power is in the skies.

Awesome is God in his sanctuary,

the God of Israel;

he gives power and strength to his people.

Blessed by God!

1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.

John 17:1-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus looked up to heaven and said,

Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.

The Collect:

O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.


First a definition of prayer is appropriate.  The best and most succinct definition comes from the catechism in the Book of Common Prayer (1979).  Prayer, it says, “is responding to God, by thought and by deeds, with or without words.”  Furthermore, Christian prayer is “response to God the Father, through Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit.”

A few thoughts about prayer, mostly in relation to the assigned lections, come to mind.

  1. Primary among these is that a number of Biblical readings indicate that God listens to prayers, sometimes reversing a decision.  Hence we are not mere peons in the eyes of God.
  2. Then I suggest that implicit in the lection from Luke is an assumption that one is in tune with God, hence the statements about God answering our prayers in the affirmative.  Sometimes the best (for us) answer to our prayers is, “No, I have a better plan for you.”
  3. Prayer has the power also to transform the one who prays.  Ponder this:  If you pray for, not pray about, someone whom you despise, that person might or might not change.  Yet your way of thinking about that individual will probably change.  You can become a better and more spiritual person.
  4. Also, silent prayer is at least as important as spoken prayer.  Much of the time it is appropriate to be quiet in the presence of God, to watch, and to listen.  This is quite transformational.
  5. Finally, there is no one method by which all people must pray.  Growing up in the Baptist Belt of the U.S. South, I became familiar with a style of prayer which entails a cadence and great deal of talking.  This type of praying has never appealed to me.  My preference turns toward a combination of corporate liturgical prayer, private liturgical prayer, informal chattiness, and periods of listening.  Furthermore, I have long been uncomfortable praying aloud in public without a Prayer Book.  Informal prayer is an inherently private matter for me; I want no eavesdroppers.   I have gleaned from conversations I have had from people the late, great, and frequently funny Molly Ivins would have described as “Shi’ite Baptists” that they think that I do not really pray because I pray differently than they do.  Actually, I know that there is a link between personality type and prayer style preference; a large body of literature exists on the subject.  In prayer one size does not fit all.


Written on June 21, 2010

Forty-Second Day of Easter   9 comments

Above:  A Carthusian Monk at Prayer

Intimacy with God

May 20, 2023


Acts 18:23-28 (Revised English Bible):

After some time there [Antioch] he [Paul] set out again on a journey through the Galatian country and then through Phrygia, bringing new strength to all the disciples.

There arrived at Ephesus a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, powerful in his use of the scriptures.  He had been instructed in the way of the Lord and was full of spiritual fervour; and in his discourses he taught accurately the facts about Jesus, though the only baptism he knew was John’s.  He now began to to speak boldly in the synagogue, where Priscilla and Aquila heard him; they took him in hand and expounded the way to him in greater detail.  Finding that the wanted to go across to Achaia, the congregation gave him their support, and wrote t the disciples there to make him welcome.  From the time of his arrival, he was very helpful to those who had by God’s grace become believers, for he strenuously confuted the Jews, demonstrating publicly from the scriptures that the Messiah is Jesus.

Psalm 93 (Revised English Bible):

The LORD has become King,

clothed with majesty;

the LORD is robed, girded with might.

The earth is established immovably;

your throne is established from of old.

from all eternity you are God.

LORD, the great deep lifts up,

the deep lifts up its voice;

the deep lifts up its crashing waves.

Mightier than the sound of great waters,

mightier than the breakers of the sea,

mighty on high is the LORD.

Your decrees stand firm,

and holiness befits your house,

LORD, throughout the ages.

John 16:23b-28 (Anchor Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Truly I assure you, if you ask anything of the Father, He will give it to you in my name.  Until now you have asked nothing in my name.  Ask and you shall receive that your joy may be full.  I have said this to you about the Father in plain words.  On that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say that I shall have to petition the Father for you.  For the Father loves you Himself because you have loved me and have believed that I came forth from God.  [I came forth from the Father] and I have come into the world.  Now I am leaving the world and I am going back to the Father.

The Collect:

O loving Father, grant that your Church, being gathered by your Holy Spirit, may be dedicated more fully to your service, and live united in love, according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


The reading from John speaks of intimacy with God via Jesus.  Implicit in this understanding is that one will make only proper petitions of God since one has pious priorities, so God will respond favorably to these requests.  The deepest and most meaningful aspect of this gospel lection, though, is spiritual intimacy with God, who although other and beyond metaphor, has drawn near to human beings.  We can relate to God and have a partial understanding of God because God has made this possible.  And we have the historical example of God incarnate in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

Through Jesus we have direct access to God.  So no mediators are necessary, which is not to say that they do not exist.  We humans ask those whom we can see to pray for us.  Growing up United Methodist, I thought nothing of doing this yet objected to asking saints, members of the Church Triumphant, to pray for me.  Yet there is no difference between asking a person on Earth to pray for me and requesting a saint in Heaven to intercede on my behalf.  And I have done both.

Intimacy with God and an offshoot, understanding the essentials of faith, deepen with time.  This day’s reading from Acts introduces us to Apollos, an early Christian evangelist.  At this point in the story he had a partial understanding of baptism.  Yet Priscilla and Aquila informed him of what he did not yet know.  One lesson I draw from this is that we humans need to support each other in our journeys in faith, encouraging one another in kindness and love of God, not beating each other about the proverbial head and neck with doctrine.


Posted originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 9, 2010

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2023, Episcopal Church Lectionary, May 20

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Forty-First Day of Easter   10 comments

A Street in Ancient Corinth

On Sadness and Disappointment

May 19, 2023


Acts 18:1-8 (Revised English Bible):

After this he [Paul] left Athens and went to Corinth.  There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, and his wife Priscilla; they had recently arrived from Italy because Claudius had issued an edict that all Jews should leave Rome.  Paul approached them and, because he was of the same trade, he made his home with them; they were tentmakers and Paul worked with them.  He also held discussions in the synagogue sabbath by sabbath, trying to convince both Jews and Gentiles.

Then Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, and Paul devoted himself entirely to preaching, maintaining before the Jews that the Messiah is Jesus.  When, however, they opposed him and resorted to abuse, he shook out the folds of his cloak and declared,

Your blood be on your own heads!  My conscience is clear!  From now on I shall go to the Gentiles.

With that he left, and went to the house of a worshipper of God named Titius Justus, who lived next door to the synagogue.  Crispus, the president of the synagogue, became a believer in the Lord, as did all his household; and a number of Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.

Psalm 98:1-3 (Revised English Bible):

Sing a new song to the LORD,

for he has done marvellous deeds;

for his right hand and his holy arm have won him victory.

The LORD has made his victory known;

he has displayed his saving righteousness to all the nations.

He has remembered his love for Jacob,

his faithfulness towards the house of Israel.

All the ends of the earth have seen

the victory of our God.

John 16:20-23a (Anchor Bible):

[Jesus said,]

Truly, I assure you, you will weep and go into mourning while the world will rejoice; you will be sad but your sadness will be turned into joy.  When a woman is in labor, she is sad that her hour has come.  But once the baby is born, her joy makes her forget the suffering, because a child has been born into the world! So it is with you too–you are sad now; but I shall see you again, and your hearts will rejoice with a joy that no one can take from you.  And on that day you will have no more questions to put to me.

The Collect:

O loving Father, grant that your Church, being gathered by your Holy Spirit, may be dedicated more fully to your service, and live united in love, according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Sadness and disappointment are unavoidable parts of life.  We all unfulfilled dreams.  People have disappointed us gravely, and sometimes we have failed ourselves.  At other times those we considered “our kind of people” have rejected us.

Consider the cases of Jesus and Paul.  Jesus was a few hours away from his excruciating death at the hands of the Roman Empire and aided and abetted by Jewish religious authorities.  This was quite an emotional burden to carry.  Yet he knew that what they did was not the end.  A resurrection followed.  And Paul, a Jew, faced violent rejection by some of his fellow Jews, but found Gentiles generally more receptive.  The grief and disappointment were difficult to take, but they were not the end.

As a Christian I depend primarily upon Jesus, without whom there would be no Christianity.  And as a Gentile I stand on the shoulders of Paul, a transformational figure in the faith.  They won.  Is that not reason to rejoice?


Posted originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 9, 2010

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2023, Episcopal Church Lectionary, May 19

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