Archive for October 2010

Fortieth Day of Easter: Feast of the Ascension   8 comments

Jesus:  Gone, Yet Still Present

May 26, 2022

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Acts 1:1-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father.

This,

he said,

is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.

So when they had come together, they asked him,

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.

Psalm 47 (New Revised Standard Version):

Clap your hands, all you peoples;

shout to God with loud songs of joy.

For the LORD, the Most High, is awesome,

a great king over all the earth.

He subdued peoples under us,

and nations under our feet.

He chose our heritage for us,

the pride of Jacob whom he loves.

God has gone up with a shout,

the LORD with the shout of a trumpet.

Sing praises to God, sing praises;

sing praises to our King, sing praises.

For God is the king of all the earth;

sing praises with a psalm.

God is king over the nations;

God sits on his holy throne.

The princes of the peoples gather

as the people of the God of Abraham.

For the shields of the earth belong to God;

he is highly exalted.

Ephesians 1:15-23 (New Revised Standard Version):

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Luke 24:44-53 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said to his disciples,

These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you– that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.

Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them,

Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. See, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

The Collect:

Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

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I am convinced that words are inadequate to describe some Biblical events, and that the Ascension is among these.  Something happened, but I am not certain it was a literal ascension.  I believe, however, that, when it (whatever it was) was over, Jesus no longer physically present on the Earth.

In fiction and non-fiction narratives the teacher or mentor must exit before the students can come into their own.  Obi-Wan Kenobi had to die before Luke Skywalker could become a Jedi Knight in the original Star Wars trilogy.  And, in real life, Jesus had to leave the Earth before the Apostles could become leaders of the Christian movement and the figures we read about in Acts. Yet the Apostles were not alone; in about a week and a half they would receive the Holy Spirit, to which we have access today.

Jesus is present with us, although not in the historical sense.  Historical Jesus left the stage almost 2000 years ago.  Yet the Christ of faith has been with Christians for nearly two millennia.  And we have a call to be Jesus to each other.  I have had this experience when I have needed it the most.  You might have known divine love in this form, also.  So, Jesus is still with us.  Thanks be to God!

KRT

Posted originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 6, 2010

Thirty-Ninth Day of Easter   6 comments

Above:  Areopagus, Athens, Greece

Image Source = ajbear AKA KiltBear

Glorifying God

May 25, 2022

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Acts 17:15, 22-18:1 (Revised English Bible):

He [Paul] argued in the synagogue with the Jews and gentile worshippers, and also in the city square [at Athens] every day with casual passers-by.

Paul stood up before the Council of the Areopagus and began:

Men of Athens, I see that in everything that concerns religion you are uncommonly scrupulous.  As I was going round looking at the objects of your worship, I noticed among other things an altar bearing the inscription ‘To an Unknown God.’  What you worship but do not know–this is what I now proclaim.

The God who created the world and everything in it, and who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands.  It is not because hie lacks anything that he accepts service at our hands, for he is himself the universal giver of life and breath–indeed of everything.  He created from one stock every nation of men to inhabit the whole earth’s surface.  He determined their eras in history and the limits of their territory.  They were to seek God in the hope that, groping after him, they might find him; though indeed he is not far from each one of us, for in him we live and move, in him we exist; as some of your own poets have said, ‘We are also his offspring.’  Being God’s offspring, then, we ought not to suppose that the deity is like an image in gold or silver or stone, shaped by human craftsmanship and design.  God has overlooked the age of ignorance; but now he commands men and women everywhere to repent, because he has fixed the day on which he will have the world judged, and justly judged, by a man whom he has designated; of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.

When they heard about the raising of the dead, some scoffed; others said,

We will hear you on this subject some other time.

So Paul left the assembly.  Some men joined him and became believers, including Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus; and also a woman named Damaris, with others besides.

After this he left Athens and went to Corinth.

Psalm 148:1-2, 11-14 (Revised English Bible):

Praise the LORD.

Praise the LORD from the heavens;

praise him in the heights above.

Praise him, all his angels;

praise him, all his hosts.

Let kings and all commoners,

princes and rulers over the whole earth,

youths and girls,

old and young together,

let them praise the name of the LORD,

for his name is high above all others,

and his majesty above earth and heaven.

He has exalted his people in the pride of power

and crowned with praise his loyal servants,

Israel, a people close to him.

Praise the LORD.

John 16:12-15 (Anchor Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.  When he comes, however, being the Spirit of Truth, he will guide you along the way to all truth.  For he will not speak on his own, but will speak only what he hears and will declare to you the things to come.  He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will declare to you.  Everything that the Father has is mine; that is why I said: ‘It is from me that he receives what he will declare to you.’

The Collect:

Lord God Almighty, for no merit on our part you have brought us out of death into life, out of sorrow into joy:  Put no end to your gifts, fulfill your marvelous acts in us, and grant us who have been justified by faith the strength to persevere in that faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Often, when asked why are Christians, people say that they want to go to Heaven and not to Hell.  Heaven is preferable to Hell, but if this is principally why one identifies as a Christian one’s religion is mostly or entirely self-serving.  Embedded in the Incarnation is the premise that Jesus came not to be served, but to serve.  The crucifixion is most emblematic and indicative of this service.  And Paul did not understand his Christianity as self-serving, for he suffered greatly because of his faith and actions which flowed from it.

Also, by serving and glorifying God we are supposed to draw people to God and encourage those already united with God in faith.  Thus gifts of the Holy Spirit have a communal purpose; they build up the faith community, not the individual.

The Westminster Catechisms (Larger and Shorter) state that man’s chief and highest end is “to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”  This is the most concise statement on that subject.  Enjoyment of God can take many forms, but indicates (regardless of its form) a spiritual state.  This can come only from God, who draws us more closely into the divine presence and transforms us.  St. Augustine of Hippo said, “Love God and do as you please.”  Certainly, if we love God as St. Augustine understood that thought, we will take delight only in what pleases God, so we will be able to follow our delights without fear of them leading us astray.  Now all we have to do is reach that pinnacle, by grace, of course.

KRT

Posted originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 6, 2010

Thirty-Eighth Day of Easter   13 comments

Above:  Yosemite Morning

From Worse to Better

May 24, 2022

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Acts 16:16-34 (Revised English Bible):

Once, on our way to the place of prayer, we met a slave-girl who was possessed by a spirit of divination and brought large profits to her owners by telling fortunes.  She followed Paul and the rest of us shouting,

These men are servants of the Most High God, and are declaring to you a way of salvation.

She did this day after day, until, in exasperation, Paul rounded on the spirit.

I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her,

he said, and it came out instantly.

When the girl’s owners saw that their hope of profit had one, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them to the city authorities in the main square; bringing them before the magistrates, they alleged,

These men are causing a disturbance in our city; they are Jews, and they are advocating practices which it is illegal for us Romans to adopt and follow.

The mob joined in the attack; and the magistrates had the prisoners stripped and gave orders for them to be flogged.  After a severe beating they were flung into prison and the jailer was ordered to keep them under close guard.  In view of these orders, he put them into the inner prison and secured their feet in the stocks.

About midnight Paul and Silas, at their prayers, were singing praises to God, and the other prisoners were listening, when suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the jail were shaken; the doors burst open and all the prisoners found their fetters unfastened.  The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open and, assuming that the prisoners had escaped, drew his sword intending to kill himself.  But Paul shouted,

Do yourself no harm; we are all here.

The jailer called for lights, rushed in, and threw himself down before Paul and Silas, trembling with fear. He then escorted them out and said,

Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

They answered,

Put your trust in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household,

and they imparted the word of the Lord to him and everyone in his house.  At that late hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds, and there and then he and his whole family were baptized.  He brought them up into his house, set out a meal, and rejoiced with his whole household in his new-found faith in God.

Psalm 138 (Revised English Bible):

I shall give praise to you, LORD, with my whole heart;

in the presence of the gods I shall sing psalms to you.

I shall bow down towards your holy temple;

for your love and faithfulness I shall praise your name,

for you have exalted your promise above the heavens.

When I called, you answered me

and made me bold and strong.

Let all the kings of the earth praise you, LORD,

when they hear the words you have spoken;

let them sing of the LORD’s ways,

for great is the glory of the LORD.

The LORD is exalted, yet he cares for the lowly

and from afar he takes note of the proud.

Though I am compassed about by trouble,

you preserve my life,

putting forth your power against the rage of my enemies,

and with your right hand you save me.

The LORD will accomplish his purpose for me.

Your love endures for ever, LORD;

do not abandon what you have made.

John 16:4b-11 (Anchor Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

At the beginning I did not tell you this because I was with you; but now I am going to Him who sent me.  Yet not one of you asks, me ‘Where are you going?’  Just because I have said this to you, your hearts are full of sadness.  Still I am telling you the truth:  it is for your own good that I go away.  For if I do not go away, the Paraclete can never come to you; whereas, if I do go, I shall send him to you.  And when he does come, he will prove the world wrong about sin, about justice, and about judgment.  first, about sin–in that they refuse to believe in me.  Then, about justice–in that I am going to the Father and you can see me no longer.  Finally, about judgment–in that the Prince of this world has been condemned….

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given your Church the great joy of the resurrection of Jesus Christ: Give us also the greater joy of the kingdom of your elect, when the flock of your Son will share in the final victory of its Shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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The situation looked grim.  Authorities were about to apprehend Jesus, torture him, and put him to death.  Yet, in the context in the Johannine Gospel, Jesus comforted this apostles and foretold his victory, his departure,  and the coming of the Holy Spirit.  (FYI:  The Fortieth Day of Easter is the Ascension and the Fiftieth Day is Pentecost, hence the positioning of this reading at this point in the Episcopal Easter lectionary.)

The situation looked grim.  Paul, empowered by the same Holy Spirit, had committed a good deed, delivering a young woman from economic exploitation.  In retribution her owners had Paul and Silas arrested, beaten, and imprisoned on false charges.  As bad as this situation was, it set up the opportunity for Paul and Silas to save the life of their jailer and to bring him and his family to Christ.  Imagine the fear the jailer, a low-level government employee, must have felt.  It was sufficient for him to prefer suicide to the alternative.  Yet, at that moment, he found new life.

I have experienced very dark times in my life.  More than once I have preferred death to life, although I was too afraid to attempt suicide.  More than once I have cursed a day on which I woke up because I feared what life might hold for me.  That was true in 2007; I write this in 2010.  Out of those dark times came great blessings.  Although I take no joy in those events from my life in 2007 I rejoice in the blessings which have flowed from them.

Human life consists in part of peaks and valleys, deserts and rich fields, light and darkness.  It is easy during happy times to ignore God and rely on oneself, but more difficult to do during hard times.  When we exit the valley we need to carry with us the knowledge of dependence on God, of which God has reminded us.

KRT

Posted originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 6, 2010

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2022, Episcopal Church Lectionary, May 24

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Thirty-Seventh Day of Easter   11 comments

A 1628 Reconstruction of the World Map According to Posidonius (Circa 150-130 B.C.E.)

Serving God

May 23, 2022

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Acts 16:11-15 (Revised English Bible):

We sailed from Troas and made a straight run to Samothrace, the next day a Neapolis, and there to Philippi, a leading city in that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony.  Here we stayed for some days, and on the sabbath we went outside the city gate by the riverside, where we thought there would be a place of prayer; we sat down and talked to the women who had gathered there.  One of those listening was called Lydia, a dealer in purple fabric, who came from the city of Thyatira; she was a worshipper of God, and the Lord opened her heart to respond to what Paul said.  She was baptized, and her household with her, and then she urged us,

Now that you have accepted me as a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my house.

And she insisted on our going.

Psalm 149 (Revised English Bible):

Sing to the LORD a new song,

his praise in the assembly of his loyal servants!

Let Israel rejoice in their maker;

let the people of Zion exult in their king.

Let them praise his name in the dance,

and sing to him psalms with tambourine and lyre.

For the LORD accepts the service of his people;

he crowns the lowly with victory.

Let his loyal servants exult in triumph;

let them shout for joy as they prostrate themselves.

Let the high praises of God be on their lips

and a two-edged sword in their hand

to wreak vengeance on the nations

and punishment on the heathen,

binding their kings with chains,

putting their nobles in irons,

carrying out the judgement decreed against them–

this is glory for all his loyal servants.

Praise the LORD.

John 15:26-16:4a (Anchor Bible):

[Jesus continued, ]

When the Paraclete comes, the Spirit of truth who comes forth from the Father and whom I shall send to you from the Father, he will bear witness on my behalf.  You should bear witness because you have been with me from the beginning.  I have said this to you to prevent your faith from being shaken.  They are going to put you out of the Synagogue.  In fact, the hour is coming when the man who puts you to death will think that he is serving God!  And they will do such things [to you] because they never knew the Father nor me.  However, I have said this to you so that, when the[ir] hour comes, you may remember that I told you so.

The Collect:

Almighty God, you show the light of your truth to those who are in error, to the intent that they may return to the way of righteousness: Grant that those who are admitted into the fellowship of Christ’s religion that they may avoid those things that are contrary to their profession, and follow all such things as are agreeable to it; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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The psalm troubles me.  Although it begins nicely, it concludes in violence.  This is incompatible with the love and service of God, as I understand them.  No, for my cues I turn to the Johannine Gospel lection, which describes accurately what happened to many early Christians and expresses in spirit what numerous followers of Jesus experience today.  “In fact, the hour is coming when the man who puts you to death will think that he is serving God!”  “Sacred” violence is not the answer, yet the pages of the Bible teem with it.

No, the reading from Acts reflects an aspect of service to God.  Hospitality, born of mutual support, can indicate love from God.  Certainly, it does so much more than wreaking vengeance of the nations.

KRT

Posted originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 6, 2010

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2022, Episcopal Church Lectionary, May 10, May 23

Tagged with , ,

Thirty-Sixth Day of Easter: Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year A   18 comments

Above:  A Depiction of the Holy Spirit as a Dove (from St. Charles’s Church, Vienna, Austria)

If You Love Jesus…

MAY 17, 2020

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Acts 17:22-31 (New Revised Standard Version):

Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said,

Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him– though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For `In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said,

For we too are his offspring.

Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.

Psalm 66:8-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

Bless our God, O peoples,

let the sound of his praise be heard,

who has kept us among the living,

and has not let our feet slip.

For you, O God, have tested us;

you have tried us as silver is tried.

You brought us into the net;

you laid burdens on our backs;

you let people ride over our heads;

we went through fire and through water;

yet you have brought us out of a spacious place.

I will come into your house with burnt offerings;

I will pay you my vows,

those that my lips uttered

and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.

I will offer to you burnt offerings of fatlings,

with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams;

I will make an offering of bulls and goats.

Come and hear, all you who fear God,

and I will tell what he has done for me.

I cried aloud to him,

and he was extolled with my tongue.

If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,

the Lord would not have listened.

But truly God has listened;

he has given heed to the words of my prayer.

Blessed by God,

because he has not rejected my prayer

or removed his steadfast love from me.

1 Peter 3:13-22 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you– not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

John 14:15-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said to his disciples,

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.

The Collect:

O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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We cannot love God, whom we cannot see, unless first we love our fellow human beings, whom we can see.  This is an old standard, one I use to determine whether an action one commits in the name of God is consistent with God.

And what is the standard of love, which many older translations render as charity?  The answer to that question comes from the Apostle Paul, who wrote the following in 1 Corinthians 13, as the Confraternity Version (1941) renders it:

And I point out to you a yet more excellent way.  If I should speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have charity, I have become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.  And I have prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith as to remove mountains, yet do not have charity, I am nothing.  And if I distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, yet do not have charity, it profits me nothing.

Charity is patient, is kind; charity does not envy, is not pretentious, is not puffed up, is not ambitious, is not self-seeking, is not provoked; thinks no evil, does not rejoice over wickedness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Charity never fails, whereas prophecies will disappear, and tongues will cease, and knowledge will be disappeared.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when that which is perfect has come, that which is imperfect will be done away with.  When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I spoke as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child.  Now that I have become a man, I have put away the things of a child.  We now see through a mirror in an obscure manner, but then face to face.  Now I know in part, but then I shall know even as I have been known.  So there abide faith, hope, and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

So, when I read about people killing their daughters for become pregnant outside of wedlock or their sons for watching soccer matches on television then quoting back religion to justify murder, I believe these acts are inconsistent with God, who is love.  Such love, or charity, if you prefer that translation, can take the form of tough love sometimes.  I recognize this fact readily.  Yet it can never become manifest as an honor killing.

May we love each other actively, emphasizing the benefits to the others around us.

Note where we are in the Easter season with this post.  There are two weeks left the season, which ends with the Day of Pentecost.  The designers of the Revised Common Lectionary have placed this Gospel reading on this day to start the short countdown to Pentecost.  This example demonstrates one strength of a lectionary, for organization is an advantage in planning the Christian year.

KRT

Written on June 20, 2010

Thirty-Fifth Day of Easter   11 comments

Timothy and His Grandmother, by Rembrandt van Rijn (1648)

Demands of Love Upon Oneself

May 21, 2022

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Acts 16:1-10 (Revised English Bible):

He [Paul] went on to Derbe and then to Lystra, where he found a disciple named Timothy, the son of a Jewish Christian mother and a gentile father, well spoken of by the Christians at Lystra and Iconium.  Paul wanted to take with him when he left, so he had him circumcised out of consideration for the Jews who lived in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Gentile.  As they made their way from town to town they handed on the decisions taken by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem and enjoined their observance.  So, day by day, the churches grew stronger in faith and increased in numbers.

They travelled through the Phrygian and Galatian region, prevented by the Holy Spirit from delivering the message in the province of Asia.  When they approached the Mysian border they tried to enter Bithynia, but, as the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them, they passed through Mysia and reached the coast at Troas.  During the night a vision came to Paul: a Macedonian stood there appealing to him,

Cross over to Macedonia and help us.

As soon as he had seen this vision, we set about getting a passage to Macedonia, convinced that God had called us to take the good news there.

Psalm 100 (Revised English Bible):

Let all the earth acclaim the LORD!

Worship the LORD in gladness;

enter his presence with joyful songs.

Acknowledge that the LORD is God;

he made us and we are his,

his own people, the flock which he shepherds.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

his courts with praise.

Give thanks to him and bless his name;

for the LORD is good and his love is everlasting,

his faithfulness endures to all generations.

John 15:18-21 (Anchor Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

If the world hates you, bear in mind that it has hated me before you.  If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but the reason why the world hates you is that you do not belong to the world, for I chose you out of the world.  Remember what I told you:  ‘No servant is more important than his master.’  If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they have kept my word, they will keep yours, too.  But they will do all these things to you because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me….

The Collect:

Lord God Almighty, for no merit on our part you have brought us out of death, out of sorrow into joy: Put no end to your gifts, fulfill your marvelous acts in us, and grant us who have been justified by faith the strength to persevere in that faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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I grew up in a series of United Methodist parsonages.  This is no secret, for one can find this fact in more than one place on this blog alone.  Growing up, my sister, Barbara, and I  had to observe certain rules others did not keep.  My family and I lived in a proverbial glass house, so we had to observe some rules I consider silly.  For example, we were not supposed to play in yard on Sunday afternoon at the Vidette United Methodist Church parsonage (in Vidette, Georgia, 1980-1982), in case someone saw this and thought it improper.  The provincial mindsets of some of my father’s parishioners when I grew up and the demands these imposed on me help explain why I remain a lay member, not compelled to curtail my daily life due to such petty issues, in 2010.  Although there is a place for considering the sensibilities of others, there is also a time to dismiss certain standards, community or otherwise.

Timothy had a much greater issue, however.  If I were he, I would refuse adult circumcision for obvious reasons, saying, “The concerns of the Jews and Judaizers be damned!  This is my body!”  But Timothy was better man than I.

And Jesus faced lethal consequences for his love; this day’s discourse from the Johannine Gospel is from shortly before his apprehension by the authorities, and therefore close in time to his crucifixion.  So, consider the power of his words in that context.

True love and kindness is far more than warm, fuzzy feelings.  Rather, they are active, and they arouse hostility in many people.  True love and kindness can get a person killed, imprisoned, or otherwise persecuted.  They can make one despised.  They can inconvenience one greatly.  But, without putting ourselves out improperly, let us love and be kind.

KRT

Posted originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 6, 2010

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2022, Episcopal Church Lectionary, May 21

Tagged with , ,

Thirty-Fourth Day of Easter   10 comments

President Lyndon Baines Johnson and the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1966

Sometimes Brotherly Love is Unpopular

May 20, 2022

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Acts 15:22-31 (Revised English Bible):

Then, with the agreement of the whole church, the apostles and elders resolved to choose representatives and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas.  They chose two leading men in the community, Judas Barsabbas and Silas, and gave them this letter to deliver:

From the apostles and elders to our brothers of gentile origin in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia.  Greetings!

We have heard that some of our number, without any instructions from us, have disturbed you with their talk and unsettled your minds.  In consequence, we have resolved unanimously to send you our chosen representatives with our well-beloved Barnabas and Paul, who have given up their lives to the cause of our Lord Jesus Christ; so we are sending Judas and Silas, who will, by word of mouth, confirm what is written in this letter.  It is the decision of the Holy Spirit, and our decision, to lay no further burden upon you beyond these essentials:  you are to abstain from meat that has been sacrificed to idols, from blood, from anything that has been strangled, and fr0m fornication.  If you keep yourselves free from these things you will be doing well.  Farewell.

So they took their leave and travelled down to Antioch, where they called the congregation together and delivered the letter.  When it was read, all rejoiced at the encouragement it brought….

Psalm 57:6-11 (Revised English Bible):

Some have prepared a net to catch me as I walk,

but they themselves were brought low;

they have dug a pit in my path

but have themselves fallen into it.

My heart is steadfast, God,

my heart is steadfast.

I shall sing and raise a psalm.

Awake, my soul,

awake, harp and lyre;

I shall awake at dawn.

I shall praise you among the peoples, Lord,

among the nations I shall raise a psalm to you,

for your unfailing love is as high as the heavens;

your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

God, be exalted above the heavens;

let your glory be over all the earth.

John 15:12-17 (Anchor Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

This is my commandment: Love one another as I have loved you.  No man can have greater love than this: to lay down this life for those he loves.  And you are the ones I love when you do what I command you.  No longer do I call you servants for a servant does not understand what his master is doing.  Rather, I have called you my beloved, for I revealed to you everything I heard from the Father.  It was not you who chose me; it was I who chose you.  And I appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will remain–so that the Father will give you whatever you ask Him in my name.  This I command you:  Love one another.

The Collect:

Grant, Almighty God, that the commemoration of our Lord’s death and resurrection may continually transform our lives and be manifested in our deeds; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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As I continue in my writing of devotionals I experience a recurring sense of deja-vu.  Certain themes recur frequently.  So some devotionals sound like other devotionals because of repetition in the source material.

I am writing this devotional on April 4, 2010, which is both Easter Sunday and the forth-second anniversary of the political murder of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.  As I write this devotional I am listening to the Alternative Radio program on WUGA, Athens, Georgia.  The series consists of a series of voices seldom heard on mainstream media, much less reactionary talk radio.  This evening’s program is the audio of Dr. King’s April 1967 speech, “A Time to Break Silence,” the text of which I will copy and paste at the end of this post.  In this speech King condemned the Vietnam War and preached the gospel of Jesus Christ.  As I listen to the audio (available online) I conclude that if King were alive today and giving the identical speech about current events, the FOX News Channel would be all over him like a cheap suit.  Indeed, the reactionary and mainstream media were all over him like a cheap suit in 1967.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Love of one’s neighbors and labeled enemies is consistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Love of the other is consistent with his ethics, also.  So, why are we so slow to obey this commandment and so quick to engage in the idolatry of wartime nationalism? May God deliver us from ourselves and each other.

KRT

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“A Time to Break Silence”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Riverside Church, New York, New York

April 4, 1967

I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join with you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent statement of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.

Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation’s history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement well and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don’t mix, they say. Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people, they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.

In the light of such tragic misunderstandings, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church — the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate — leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.

I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Hanoi or to the National Liberation Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia.

Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Neither is it an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they can play in a successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reason to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides.

Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the NLF, but rather to my fellow Americans, who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents.

The Importance of Vietnam

Since I am a preacher by trade, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor — both black and white — through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.

Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.

My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettoes of the North over the last three years — especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked — and rightly so — what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.

For those who ask the question, “Aren’t you a civil rights leader?” and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this further answer. In 1957 when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: “To save the soul of America.” We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself unless the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear. In a way we were agreeing with Langston Hughes, that black bard of Harlem, who had written earlier:

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath–
America will be!

Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.

As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964; and I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission — a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for “the brotherhood of man.” This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men — for Communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the “Vietcong” or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this one? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?

Finally, as I try to delineate for you and for myself the road that leads from Montgomery to this place I would have offered all that was most valid if I simply said that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of sonship and brotherhood, and because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned especially for his suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them.

This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.

Strange Liberators

And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond to compassion my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them too because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.

They must see Americans as strange liberators. The Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence in 1945 after a combined French and Japanese occupation, and before the Communist revolution in China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. Even though they quoted the American Declaration of Independence in their own document of freedom, we refused to recognize them. Instead, we decided to support France in its reconquest of her former colony.

Our government felt then that the Vietnamese people were not “ready” for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long. With that tragic decision we rejected a revolutionary government seeking self-determination, and a government that had been established not by China (for whom the Vietnamese have no great love) but by clearly indigenous forces that included some Communists. For the peasants this new government meant real land reform, one of the most important needs in their lives.

For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam the right of independence. For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their abortive effort to recolonize Vietnam.

Before the end of the war we were meeting eighty percent of the French war costs. Even before the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, they began to despair of the reckless action, but we did not. We encouraged them with our huge financial and military supplies to continue the war even after they had lost the will. Soon we would be paying almost the full costs of this tragic attempt at recolonization.

After the French were defeated it looked as if independence and land reform would come again through the Geneva agreements. But instead there came the United States, determined that Ho should not unify the temporarily divided nation, and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the most vicious modern dictators — our chosen man, Premier Diem. The peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly routed out all opposition, supported their extortionist landlords and refused even to discuss reunification with the north. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by U.S. influence and then by increasing numbers of U.S. troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem’s methods had aroused. When Diem was overthrown they may have been happy, but the long line of military dictatorships seemed to offer no real change — especially in terms of their need for land and peace.

The only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received regular promises of peace and democracy — and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us — not their fellow Vietnamese –the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move or be destroyed by our bombs. So they go — primarily women and children and the aged.

They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals, with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one “Vietcong”-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them — mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children, degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.

What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?

We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation’s only non-Communist revolutionary political force — the unified Buddhist church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men. What liberators?

Now there is little left to build on — save bitterness. Soon the only solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call fortified hamlets. The peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these? Could we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise. These too are our brothers.

Perhaps the more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those who have been designated as our enemies. What of the National Liberation Front — that strangely anonymous group we call VC or Communists? What must they think of us in America when they realize that we permitted the repression and cruelty of Diem which helped to bring them into being as a resistance group in the south? What do they think of our condoning the violence which led to their own taking up of arms? How can they believe in our integrity when now we speak of “aggression from the north” as if there were nothing more essential to the war? How can they trust us when now we charge them with violence after the murderous reign of Diem and charge them with violence while we pour every new weapon of death into their land? Surely we must understand their feelings even if we do not condone their actions. Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed them to their violence. Surely we must see that our own computerized plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts.

How do they judge us when our officials know that their membership is less than twenty-five percent Communist and yet insist on giving them the blanket name? What must they be thinking when they know that we are aware of their control of major sections of Vietnam and yet we appear ready to allow national elections in which this highly organized political parallel government will have no part? They ask how we can speak of free elections when the Saigon press is censored and controlled by the military junta. And they are surely right to wonder what kind of new government we plan to help form without them — the only party in real touch with the peasants. They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again and then shore it up with the power of new violence?

Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.

So, too, with Hanoi. In the north, where our bombs now pummel the land, and our mines endanger the waterways, we are met by a deep but understandable mistrust. To speak for them is to explain this lack of confidence in Western words, and especially their distrust of American intentions now. In Hanoi are the men who led the nation to independence against the Japanese and the French, the men who sought membership in the French commonwealth and were betrayed by the weakness of Paris and the willfulness of the colonial armies. It was they who led a second struggle against French domination at tremendous costs, and then were persuaded to give up the land they controlled between the thirteenth and seventeenth parallel as a temporary measure at Geneva. After 1954 they watched us conspire with Diem to prevent elections which would have surely brought Ho Chi Minh to power over a united Vietnam, and they realized they had been betrayed again.

When we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must be remembered. Also it must be clear that the leaders of Hanoi considered the presence of American troops in support of the Diem regime to have been the initial military breach of the Geneva agreements concerning foreign troops, and they remind us that they did not begin to send in any large number of supplies or men until American forces had moved into the tens of thousands.

Hanoi remembers how our leaders refused to tell us the truth about the earlier North Vietnamese overtures for peace, how the president claimed that none existed when they had clearly been made. Ho Chi Minh has watched as America has spoken of peace and built up its forces, and now he has surely heard of the increasing international rumors of American plans for an invasion of the north. He knows the bombing and shelling and mining we are doing are part of traditional pre-invasion strategy. Perhaps only his sense of humor and of irony can save him when he hears the most powerful nation of the world speaking of aggression as it drops thousands of bombs on a poor weak nation more than eight thousand miles away from its shores.

At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless on Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called enemy, I am as deeply concerned about our troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure while we create hell for the poor.

This Madness Must Cease

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.

This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words:

“Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism.”

If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. It will become clear that our minimal expectation is to occupy it as an American colony and men will not refrain from thinking that our maximum hope is to goad China into a war so that we may bomb her nuclear installations. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horribly clumsy and deadly game we have decided to play.

The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways.

In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war. I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do immediately to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict:

  1. End all bombing in North and South Vietnam.
  2. Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation.
  3. Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in Laos.
  4. Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any meaningful negotiations and in any future Vietnam government.
  5. Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva agreement.

Part of our ongoing commitment might well express itself in an offer to grant asylum to any Vietnamese who fears for his life under a new regime which included the Liberation Front. Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done. We most provide the medical aid that is badly needed, making it available in this country if necessary.

Protesting The War

Meanwhile we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must continue to raise our voices if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative means of protest possible.

As we counsel young men concerning military service we must clarify for them our nation’s role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative of conscientious objection. I am pleased to say that this is the path now being chosen by more than seventy students at my own alma mater, Morehouse College, and I recommend it to all who find the American course in Vietnam a dishonorable and unjust one. Moreover I would encourage all ministers of draft age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors. These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.

There is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter the struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing. The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy- and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. Such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.

In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the presence of U.S. military “advisors” in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counter-revolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia and why American napalm and green beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken — the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. n the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.

This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against communism. War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and through their misguided passions urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not call everyone a Communist or an appeaser who advocates the seating of Red China in the United Nations and who recognizes that hate and hysteria are not the final answers to the problem of these turbulent days. We must not engage in a negative anti-communism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove thosse conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.

The People Are Important

These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression and out of the wombs of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.” We in the West must support these revolutions. It is a sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has the revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgement against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores and thereby speed the day when “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain.”

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept — so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force — has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John:

Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says : “Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.”

We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The “tide in the affairs of men” does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: “Too late.” There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on…” We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.

We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world — a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter — but beautiful — struggle for a new world. This is the callling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.

As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:

Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth and falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah,
Off’ring each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever
Twixt that darkness and that light.

Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet ’tis truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong:
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow
Keeping watch above his own.

Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 6, 2010

Thirty-Third Day of Easter   8 comments

St. James of Jerusalem, a Pivotal Figure at the Council of Jerusalem

Divine Love, Commandments, and Gentiles, or: The Artificiality of Aspects of Organized Religion

May 19, 2022

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Acts 15:6-21 (Revised English Bible):

The apostles and elders met to look into this matter, and, after a long debate, Peter rose to address them.

My friends,

he said,

in the early days, as you yourselves know, God made his choice among you: from my lips the Gentiles were to hear and believe the message of the gospel.  And God, who can read human hearts, showed his approval by giving the Holy Spirit to them as he did to us.  He made no difference between them and us; for he purified their hearts by faith.  Then why do you now try God’s patience by laying on the shoulders of these converts a yoke which neither we nor our forefathers were able to bear?  For our belief is that we are saved in the same way as they are: by the grace of the Lord Jesus.

At that the whole company fell silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul s they described all the signs and portents that God had worked among the Gentiles through them.

When they had finished speaking James summed up:

My friends,” he said, “listen to me.  Simon had described how it first happened that God, in his providence, chose from among the Gentiles a people to bear his name.  This agrees with the words of the prophets: as scripture has it,

Thereafter I will return and rebuild the fallen house of David;

I will rebuild its ruins and set it up again,

that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,

all the Gentiles whom I have claimed for my own.

Thus says the Lord, who is doing this as he made it known long ago.

In my judgment, therefore, we should impose no irksome restrictions on those of the Gentiles who are turning to God; instead we should instruct them by letter to abstain from things polluted by contact with idols, from fornications, from anything that has been straightened and from blood.  Moses, after all, has never lacked spokesmen in every town for generations past; he is read in the synagogues sabbath by sabbath.

Psalm 96 (Revised English Bible):

Sing a new song to the LORD.

Sing to the LORD, all the earth.

Sing to the LORD and bless his name;

day by day proclaim his victory.

Declare his glory among the nations,

his marvellous deeds to every people.

Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;

he is more to be feared than all gods.

For the gods of the nations are idols every one;

but the LORD made the heavens.

Majesty and splendour attend him,

might and beauty are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the LORD, you families of nations,

ascribe to the LORD glory and might;

ascribe to the LORD the glory due to his name.

Being an offering and enter his courts;

in holy attire worship the LORD;

tremble before him, all the earth.

Declare among the nations,

The LORD is king;

the world is established immovably;

he will judge the peoples with equity.

Let the heavens rejoice and the earth be glad,

let the sea resound and everything in it,

let the fields exult and all that is in them;

let all the trees of the forest shout for joy

before the LORD when he comes,

when he comes to judge the earth.

He will judge the world with justice

and peoples by his faithfulness.

John 15:9-11 (Anchor Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Remain on in my love.  And you will remain in my love if you keep my commandments, just as I have kept  my Father’s commandments and remain in His love.  I have said this to you that my joy may be yours and your joy may be fulfilled.

The Collect:

O God, you continually increase your Church by the birth of new sons and daughters in Baptism: Grant that they may be obedient all the days of their life to the rule of faith which they received in that Sacrament; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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We human beings seem to be inherently cliquish, with some notable exceptions.  Sometimes God speaks to us and commands us to do something; let us call it X for the sake of this devotional.  X is supposed originally to be a sign of obedience to and reverence for God.  Yet, over time, certain people transform X into a sign of exclusivity and seek to impose it on others, who seek God honestly yet find X burdensome.  Perhaps those who impose this burden as a condition of membership think they are doing God’s work.  Yet they are doing so such thing.

Circumcision was a daunting prospect for a Hellenistic male.  Many Gentiles, dissatisfied with varieties of polytheism, believed in the God of Judaism, yet remained on the periphery because they were Gentiles.  Many of them loved God yet did not look forward to circumcision.  And who can blame them?  Some Jews did.  Peter, a convert to the idea of proclaiming the good news of Jesus to the Gentiles as equals, defended the goyim when Judaizers confronted him.

As Peter said, God shows no partiality, and anyone who keeps God’s commandments is acceptable to God.  Circumcision is not an issue in this framework.  Yet loving God fully and one’s neighbor as oneself are issues.  This is the summary of the law of God.  And, as Jesus said, keep his commandments.  I have paraphrased his short version of divine law.

So, why do we lay such burdens on people and seek exclusive identities.  I propose an oft-repeated thought: often we define ourselves by what we are not.  (I am guilty of this, so I write to myself first and to others second.)  We need to define ourselves primarily by what we are.  We are bearers of the image of God, who is pure love.  If we really love one another, we will look upon others as bearers of the divine image and fellow brothers and sisters in the human family.  This understanding embraces our common humanity.  History tells me that when governments to war, frequently they launch propaganda campaigns to dehumanize the enemy, thereby making it easier to convince people that killing the “others” is moral.  (The U.S. government did this to the Germans during World War I, for example.  And the Nazis did it to the Jews and many non-Germans before and during World War II.)

Yet God loves everyone–Jews and Gentiles, Americans and Germans, Germans and non-Germans, et cetera.  Anyone who loves God actively is acceptable to God, and labels are irrelevant.  Dare we speak this truth?

KRT

Posted originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 6, 2010

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2022, Episcopal Church Lectionary, May 19

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Thirty-Second Day of Easter   6 comments

A Big Vine

Coming to God, Remaining There, and Falling Away

May 18, 2022

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Acts 15:1-6 (Revised English Bible):

Some people who had come down from Judaea began to teach the brotherhood that those who were not circumcised in accordance with Mosaic practice could not be saved.  That brought them into fierce dissension and controversy with Paul and Barnabas, and it was arranged that these two and some others from Antioch should go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.

They were sent on their way by the church, and travelled through Phoenicia and Samaria, telling the full story of the conversion of the Gentiles, and causing great rejoicing among all the Christians.

When they reached Jerusalem they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, and they reported all that God had accomplished through them.  But some of the Pharisaic party who had become believers came forward and declared,

Those Gentiles must be circumcised and told to keep the law of Moses.

The apostles and elders met to look into this matter.

Psalm 122 (Revised English Bible):

I rejoiced when they said to me,

Let us go to the house of the LORD.

Now we are standing

within your gates, Jerusalem:

Jerusalem, a city built

compactly and solidly.

There the tribes went up, the tribes of the LORD,

to give thanks to the name of the LORD,

the duty laid on Israel.

For there the thrones of justice were set,

the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:

May those who love you prosper;

peace be within your ramparts

and prosperity in your palaces.

For the sake of these my brothers and my friends,

I shall say,

Peace be within you.

For the sake of the house of the LORD our God

I shall pray for your wellbeing.

John 15:1-8 (Anchor Bible):

[Jesus said,]

I am the real vine and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off any of the branches that does not bear fruit, but any that bears fruit he trims clean to make it bear more fruit.  You are clean already, thanks to the word I have spoken to you.  Remain in me as I remain in you.  Just as a branch cannot bear fruit by itself without remaining on the vine, so neither can you bear fruit without remaining in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches.  He who remains in me and I in him is the one who bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.  If a man does not remain in me, he is like a branch, cast off and withered, which they collect and throw into the fire to be burned.

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you.  My Father has been glorified in this: in your bearing much fruit and becoming my disciples….

The Collect:

God of infinite mercy, you renew the faith of your people by the yearly celebration of these fifty days:  Stir up in us the gifts of your grace, that we may know more deeply that Baptism has cleansed us, the Spirit has quickened us, and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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The vineyard is a common analogy in the Bible.  The usual pattern is that God owns the vineyard, which is the people of God.  In this day’s reading from John Jesus is the vine, with his followers as the branches.  The analogy reinforces the great spiritual truth that human autonomy is an illusion.

From the Acts reading I pick the thread that becoming a branch of the vine does not depend on keeping ancient practices–in this case, circumcision.  What began as a sign of grace (God making Abraham the father of many nations) became a stumbling block because people wedded to tradition made it that.  Yet the safeguarding of ancient tradition did not bind grace.

Although raised United Methodist, and therefore Wesleyan-Arminian, I have come to believe in Single Predestination.  This theological proposition holds that God has predestined some people to Heaven but nobody to Hell, and that the witness of the Holy Spirit is available to the remainder to bring them to God.  Yet, as my Arminian upbringing reminds me, free will can help bring a person to God and allow him or her to find an exit–to commit apostasy.  Only those who have known God can fall away from God.  So I focus on the word “remain” from the Johannine reading.

Many people who leave Christianity do so because the Church has wounded them.  Often the Church shoots the wounded, so to speak.  So we Christians need to do a better job of following Jesus, not contenting ourselves with making flattering statements about him.

KRT

Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 6, 2010

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2022, Episcopal Church Lectionary, May 18

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Thirty-First Day of Easter   10 comments

Christ Pantocrator

Let Us Be On Our Way

May 17, 2022

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Acts 14:19-28 (Revised English Bible):

Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came on the scene and won over the crowds.  They stoned Paul, and dragged him out of the city, thinking him dead.  The disciples formed a ring around him, and he got to his feet and went into the city.  Next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.

After bringing the good news to that town and gaining many converts, they returned to Lystra, then to Iconium, and then to Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to be true to the faith.  They warned them that to enter the kingdom of God we must undergo many hardships.  They also appointed for them elders in each congregation, and with prayer and fasting committed them to the Lord in whom they had put their trust.

They passed through Pisidia and came into Pamphylia.  When they had delivered the message at Perga, they went down to Attalia, and from there sailed to Antioch, where they had originally been commended to the grace of God for the task which they had now completed.  On arrival there, they called the congregation together and reported all that God had accomplished through them, and how he had thrown open the gates of faith to the Gentiles.  And they stayed for some time with the disciples there.

Psalm 145:8-13 (Revised English Bible):

The LORD is gracious and compassionate,

long-suffering and ever faithful.

The LORD is good to all;

his compassion rests upon all his creatures.

All your creatures praise you, LORD,

and your loyal servants bless you.

They talk of the glory of your kingdom

and tell of your might,

to make known to mankind your mighty deeds,

the glorious majesty of your kingdom.

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,

as your dominion endures throughout all generations.

John 14:27-31 (Anchor Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

‘Peace’ is my farewell to you.  My ‘peace’ is my gift to you, and I do not give it to you as the world gives it.  Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be fearful.  You have heard me tell you, ‘I am going away,’ and ‘I am coming back to you.’  If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.  But now, I have told you even before it happens so that, when it does happen, you may believe.  I shall no longer speak [much] with you, for the Prince of the world is coming.  Actually, he has no hold on me; but the world must recognize that I love the Father and that I do exactly as the Father has commanded me.  Get up!  Let us leave her and be on our way.

The Collect:

O God, you continually increase your Church by the birth of new sons and daughters in Baptism:  Grant that they may be obedient all the days of their life to the rule of faith which they received in that Sacrament; through Jesus Christ our Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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As you read this devotion know that I wrote in on the evening of Good Friday 2010.  The material is appropriate to that date.  Paul’s evangelistic work put his life at risk, and Jesus was near to his arrest before the crucifixion.  Yet Paul continued with his work and Jesus went along to his fate (but not before speaking at length even more, as John liked to depict him doing).

The Johannine narrative of Jesus has him comforting his apostles, telling them not to let their hearts be troubled, shortly before his apprehension, torture, and execution.  The Jesus of John’s Gospel is in control; he is I AM.  I would be fearful if the might of the Roman Empire were about to fall upon me, and that fear would be rational, given the Empire’s history to that time.  Yet all these facts contribute the power of the Johannine depiction of Jesus.

And the Apostle Paul, after a stoning and near-death, continued with his work.  I might think after a stoning that I would need to find another line of work–something less dangerous–but Paul was a different character.  (Aren’t you glad Paul had as much perseverance as he did?)  Paul rose (with help from his fellow Christians) and went on his way.  Jesus rose and went on his way (with his apostles).  Each person has a vocation or set of vocations from God at any given moment.  When we experience difficulty because of our faithfulness to them we need to gather our strength then rise and go on our way, not give up.  And the support of religious fellow travelers, if available, proves helpful in the journey of faith.

KRT

Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 6, 2010

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2022, Episcopal Church Lectionary, May 17

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