Archive for August 2011

Fiftieth Day of Easter: Day of Pentecost, Year B   31 comments

Above:  Descent of the Holy Spirit

Our Advocate

MAY 20, 2018

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The Assigned Readings for This Sunday:

Acts 2:1-21 or Ezekiel 37:1-14

Psalm 104:25-35, 37

Romans 8:22-27 or Acts 2:1-21

John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

The Collect:

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

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Some Related Posts:

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

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/fiftieth-day-of-easter-day-of-pentecost-year-a/

A Prayer for Those With Only the Holy Spirit to Intercede for Them:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/a-prayer-for-those-with-only-the-holy-spirit-to-intercede-for-them/

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I have written more than once that judgment and mercy coexist in the Bible.  This assertion is obvious from a close reading of the sacred anthology.  This day the emphasis belongs on mercy.

We read in John 16 that the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, is the Advocate.  This is a legal term; our Advocate is our defense attorney.  In other words, God stands with us, so why should we fear?

Nevertheless, many Christians have suffered persecution and martyrdom for twenty centuries.  Many still do.  And Jesus, from whose Greek title, Christ, we derive the label “Christian,” died on a cross.  So this divine companionship and defense does not guard every follower of God from physical or legal harm.  Yet the message of Christ has continued to spread, the blood of the martyrs continues to water the Church, and killing people cannot end the spread of Christianity.

Beyond all that, those who die faithful to God go to God in the afterlife.  No harm can touch them there.  This might seem like cold comfort or no comfort in this life, but it is something.  The world is imperfect, and only God can repair it.

Yet may we rejoice that we have an Advocate.  May the quality of our lives reflect this gratitude.

KRT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/our-advocate/

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Forty-Third Day of Easter: Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year B   19 comments

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Eternal Life

MAY 13, 2018

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Acts 1:15-17, 21-26 (New Revised Standard Version):

In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about one hundred twenty persons) and said,

Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus– for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry. So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us– one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.

So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed and said,

Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.

And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.

Psalm 1 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked,

nor lingered in the way of sinners,

nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

2 Their delight is in the law of the LORD,

and the meditate on his law day and night.

They are like trees planted by streams of water,

bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither,

everything they do shall prosper.

4 It is not so with the wicked;

they are like the chaff which the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when judgment comes,

nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.

For the LORD knows the ways of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked is doomed.

1 John 5:9-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has testified to his Son. Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony in their hearts. Those who do not believe in God have made him a liar by not believing in the testimony that God has given concerning his Son. And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

John 17:6-19 (New Revised Standard Version):

Looking up to heaven, Jesus prayed,

I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

The Collect:

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

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Some Related Posts:

Forty-Third Day of Easter:  Seventh Day of Easter, Year A:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/forty-third-day-of-easter-seventh-sunday-of-easter-year-a/

1 John 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/sixth-day-of-epiphany/

Feast of St. Matthias (February 24):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/12/feast-of-st-matthias-apostle-and-martyr-february-24/

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The Jesus of the Gospel of Mark speaks from time to time (mostly briefly) yet acts more often than he says much.  In contrast, the Jesus of the Johannine Gospel holds forth, often in private, at length.  This latter understanding of our Lord becomes apparent in this Sunday’s Gospel reading, part of Christ’s great intercessory prayer.

More interesting to me, however, is the concept of eternal life, which, according to John 17:3, is knowing God (the Father) and Jesus Christ (God the Son).  And we read in 1 John 5:11 that “God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”  So eternal life is life in Christ; its definition does not depend on time or the afterlife.

Simply put, there is no eternity without God.  There can be an afterlife without God; the term for that is Hell.  God, of course, is the final judge, and I do not presume to make judgments as to a person’s fate in the afterlife.  Who knows what happens between anyone and Jesus after one dies?

As a Christian–an intellectually honest one–I affirm the necessity of Christ.  I also testify to grace, the bounds of which exceed my imagination.  In other words, God does not fit into any proverbial box, and I try not to put God into one.  I do know a few things for sure, though:  God does exist, God does care about us actively, and I am not God.  Also, the historical person named Jesus of Nazareth was God incarnate.  Three of these four statements are great mysteries; may we accept and embrace them.  As to the non-mysterious statement (“I am not God.”), that is obvious.

KRT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/eternal-life-2/

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Thirty-Sixth Day of Easter: Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year B   20 comments

Above:  A Vineyard

Love of God–For Gentiles

MAY 6, 2018

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Acts 10:44-48 (New Revised Standard Version):

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said,

Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?

So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.

Psalm 98 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Sing to the LORD a new song,

for he has done marvelous things.

With his right hand and his holy arm

has he won for himself the victory.

The LORD has made known his victory;

his righteousness has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.

He remembers his mercy and faithfulness to the house of Israel,

and all the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

Shout with joy to the LORD, all you lands;

lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing.

Sing to the LORD with the harp,

with the harp and the voice of song.

With trumpets and the sound of the horn

shout with joy before the King, the LORD.

Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it,

the lands and those who dwell therein.

Let the rivers clap their hands,

and let the hills ring out with joy before the LORD,

when he comes to judge the earth.

10 In righteousness shall he judge the world

and the peoples with equity.

1 John 5:1-6 (New Revised Standard Version):

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth.

John 15:9-17 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said to his disciples,

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

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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Some Related Posts:

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

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-sixth-day-of-easter-sixth-sunday-of-easter-year-a/

John 15:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-third-day-of-easter/

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-fourth-day-of-easter/

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The Gospel reading this week continues the “Jesus as true” vine theme and picks up 1 John’s recurring “love one another” motif.  If all this seems redundant, it is.  But maybe it needs to be repetitive, for we human beings, generally speaking, seem quite often to have a difficult time loving one another.

Jesus, in John 15, says, “Abide in my love.”  This is self-sacrificial, unconditional love.  That is very hard to do, but the commandment stands.  This love, as Peter found out in Acts 10, extends to Gentiles.  God invites all of us to the party.  Some (the predestined) receive their invitations quite early, but the Holy Spirit delivers the invitations to the rest.

I have caught myself embracing embarrassing and sinful attitudes about who is acceptable in my religious inner circle.  But God does not check our pedigrees.  So may we not erect any barrier to anyone who truly and sincerely seeks to follow Christ.  And may God forgive us and give us grace to change our attitudes and ways when we do.

As the old Vacation Bible School song says,

Jesus loves the little children,

all the children of the world.

Red and yellow, black and white,

they are precious in his sight.

Jesus loves the children of the world.

KRT

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Twenty-Ninth Day of Easter: Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year B   17 comments

Above:  The Baptism of the Eunuch, by Rembrandt van Rijn

“Perfect love casts out fear….”

APRIL 29, 2018

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Acts 8:26-40 (New Revised Standard Version):

An angel of the Lord said to Philip,

Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.

(This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip,

Go over to this chariot and join it.

So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked,

Do you understand what you are reading?

He replied,

How can I, unless someone guides me?

And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this:

Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,

and like a lamb silent before its shearer,

so he does not open his mouth.

In his humiliation justice was denied him.

Who can describe this generation?

For his life is taken away from the earth.

The eunuch asked Philip,

About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?

Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said,

Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?

He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

Psalm 22:24-30 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

24 My praise is of him in the great assembly;

I will perform my vows in the presence of those who worship him.

25 The poor shall eat and be satisfied,

and those who seek the LORD shall praise him:

“May your heart love for ever!”

26 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD,

and all the families of the nations shall bow before him.

27 For kingship belongs to the LORD;

he rules over the nations.

28 To him alone who sleep in the earth bow down in worship;

all who go down to the dust fall before him.

29 My soul shall live for him;

my descendants shall serve him;

they shall be known as the LORD’s for ever.

30 They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn

the saving deeds that he has done.

1 John 4:7-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

John 15:1-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

The Collect:

Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Twenty-Ninth Day of Easter:  Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/twenty-ninth-day-of-easter-fifth-sunday-of-easter-year-a/

Acts 8:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/nineteenth-day-of-easter/

1 John 4:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/third-day-of-epiphany/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/fourth-day-of-epiphany/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/fifth-day-of-epiphany/

John 15:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-second-day-of-easter/

O Love That Casts Out Fear:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/27/o-love-that-casts-out-fear/

Feast of St. Philip, Deacon and Evangelist (October 11):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-st-philip-deacon-and-evangelist-october-11-2/

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There is a classic scholarly work about racism in Southern United States religion; the title of the book is In His Image, But….  As a student of U.S., Southern, and religious history, I know well the arguments people have made, quoting the Bible, to justify slavery (to 1865) and enforced segregation (well into the Twentieth Century).  Many of the arguments for segregation were recycled from the days of slavery.

Of all the assigned readings for this Sunday, 1 John 4:7-21 stands out most in my mind.  This reading continues an earlier theme in that letter:  We ought to love one another.  Here, in 1 John, we read:

…those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. (4:21b)

Racial and ethnic differences are frequently quite obvious to any sighted person.  This, I suppose, helps explain why racism has been and remains common (even though many racists prefer to speak on code words).  Yet, to quote, 1 John 4 again, we cannot love God, whom we have not seen and cannot see, if we hate our fellow human beings, whom he have seen and can see.

St. Philip the Deacon reached out to the Ethiopian eunuch, a visibly different man, and helped him to become grafted onto the vine of Jesus.  Psalm 22 reminds us that all the Earth belongs to God.  Many people are quite different from anyone of us, and not all cultural differences will melt away.  Nor should they; variety is the spice of life.  We will retain our separate cultural and subcultural identities, which is healthy so long as we remember that we have one common identity in God, namely in Jesus, if we are Christians.

“Perfect love casts our fear,” we read in 1 John 4:18.  Out of fear we have one another, bomb each other, dehumanize and demonize one another, and behave in other inhumane ways toward each other.  The activities do not reflect the love of Jesus or bring glory to God.

May we know whose we are (God’s) and act accordingly, loving ourselves as bearers of the divine image and our fellow human beings as the same.  May we love our neighbors as ourselves.  It is that simple and that challenging.

KRT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/love-casts-out-fear/

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