Archive for December 2014

Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Good Shepherd, Roman Catacombs

Above:  Good Shepherd, Roman Catacombs

Image in the Public Domain

Shepherds, Part II

APRIL 26-28, 2021

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The Collect:

O Lord Christ, good shepherd of the sheep,

you seek the lost and guide us into your fold.

Feed us, and we shall be satisfied;

heal us, and we shall be whole.

Make us one with you, for you live and reign with the Father

and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 16:1-13 (Monday)

1 Chronicles 11:1-9 (Tuesday)

Micah 7:8-20 (Wednesday)

Psalm 95 (All Days)

1 Peter 5:1-5 (Monday)

Revelation 7:13-17 (Tuesday)

Mark 14:26-31 (Wednesday)

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Come, let us bow down and kneel,

bend the knee before the LORD our maker,

for He is our God,

and we are the people He tends, the flock in His care.

–Psalm 95:6-7a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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The pericopes for these three days combine happy and somber thoughts.  Certainly the martyrs would not have become martyrs had their human “shepherds” been good ones.  Also, the prayer to God to shepherd the people (in Micah 7) came from a time of national peril.  The glory days of King David, whom the author of 1 Chronicles whitewashed, were not as wonderful as many people claimed, but they were better than the times of Micah.

Zechariah 13:7, in the literary context of the Day of the Lord and in the historical context of the Maccabean wars, reads:

This is the word of the LORD of Hosts:

Sword, awake against my shepherd,

against him who works with me.

Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered,

and I shall turn my hand against the lambs.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

This shepherd’s suffering will open the way for the purification and survival of one-third of his flock; the other two-thirds will perish.  Mark 14:27 has Jesus quote part of this passage in reference to himself in the context of the climactic Passover week.  The quote works mostly well that way, except for the perishing of two-thirds of the flock.  Nevertheless, this use of Zechariah 13:7 fits well with our Lord and Savior’s saying that the good shepherd would lay down his life for his sheep.

I try to be a grateful sheep of his flock.  My success rate is mixed, but I hope that it is improving, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY SAYERS, NOVELIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/shepherds-part-ii/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Good Shepherd, Ravenna

Above:  A Good Shepherd Mosaic from Ravenna, Italy

Image in the Public Domain

Shepherds, Part I

APRIL 22-24, 2021

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The Collect:

O Lord Christ, good shepherd of the sheep,

you seek the lost and guide us into your fold.

Feed us, and we shall be satisfied;

heal us, and we shall be whole.

Make us one with you, for you live and reign with the Father

and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 30:25-43 (Thursday)

Genesis 46:28-47:6 (Friday)

Genesis 48:8-19 (Saturday)

Psalm 23 (All Days)

Acts 3:17-36 (Thursday)

Acts 4:1-4 (Friday)

Mark 6:30-34 (Saturday)

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The LORD is my shepherd;

I lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures;

He leads me to water in places of repose;

He renews my life;

He guides me in right paths

as befits His name.

Though I walk through a valley of deepest darkness,

I fear no harm, for You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff–they comfort me.

You spread a table for me in full view of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;

my drink is abundant.

Only goodness and steadfast love shall pursue me

all the days of my life;

and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for many years.

–Psalm 23, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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The theme for these three days is shepherds.

Shepherds functioned as interesting metaphors.  They were essential to the economy yet were far from respectable and pleasant smelling.  Nevertheless, monarchs were metaphorical shepherds of their kingdoms.  And Jesus, of course, became known as the Good Shepherd.

Jacob/Israel was a shepherd and a trickster.  Laban, his father-in-law, tricked him, so Jacob/Israel returned the favor, won his independence from Laban, and became wealthy.  The patriarch, due to a lie most of his sons told him, mourned one son, Joseph, whom he thought was dead.  Happily, Joseph was alive in Egypt.  Jacob/Israel, reunited with Joseph, blessed his grandchildren via that son, surprising Joseph by announcing that the second grandson’s descendants would be more prominent than those of the first.  The name of Ephraim became synonymous with the Kingdom of Israel (northern), which, like the Kingdom of Judah (southern), had plenty of bad kings.

Many earthly “shepherds,” Biblical prophets proclaimed, fell short of the divinely set standards of proper governance.  A proper “shepherd,” they said, opposed idolatry, economic injustice, and judicial corruption.  He looks after the interests of people who have nobody else to protect them, the prophets said.

A shepherd needs the sheep at least as much as the sheep need him.  What is a shepherd without sheep?  Who is a leader without followers?  What is a creator without a creation?  Such an interpretation troubles some, I know, but I did not create the metaphor.  No, I merely explore its implications faithfully and intellectually honestly.

Jesus, our Good Shepherd, has pity on us, for we are like sheep without a shepherd.  We are inclined to go astray easily, so we need the proper guidance.  May we heed it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY SAYERS, NOVELIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/shepherds-part-i/

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Devotion for Wednesday After the Third Sunday of Easter, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

STA_5037

Above:  The Right Reverend Keith Whitmore, Assisting Bishop of Atlanta, at St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church, Morrow, Georgia, November 23, 2014

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Two Banquets

APRIL 21, 2021

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The Collect:

Holy and righteous God, you are the author of life,

and you adopt us to be your children.

Fill us with your words of life,

that we may live as witnesses of the resurrection of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 9:1-6

Psalm 150

Mark 16:9-18

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Hallelujah!

Praise God in his holy Temple;

praise him in the firmament of his power.

Praise him for his mighty acts;

praise him for his excellent greatness.

–Psalm 150:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Proverbs 9 contains two editorial layers, of which verses 1-6 and 13-18 constitute the older.  This layer contrasts two banquets–those of Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly.  Lady Wisdom beckons her guests to walk in the way of understanding.  Her opposite number, Lady Folly, is a prostitute who invites her guests to sate their carnal appetites.

Lady Wisdom (“Sophia” in Greek) is the personified wisdom of God.  In Hebrew wisdom literature (especially Proverbs, the Wisdom of Solomon, and Sirach/Ecclesiasticus) the personification of divine power is masculine yet the personification of divine wisdom is feminine.  Aspects of Sophia are evident in the Logos of God from John 1.  There the Logos is Jesus, of course.

Just as Lady Wisdom invites her guests to a sacred banquet in Proverbs 9:1-6, the resurrected Jesus (Christus Victor) invites guests to a sacramental ritual–the Holy Eucharist.  This is no mere memorial meal; no, it is the real deal, the actual Jesus via Transubstantiation.  If we are what we eat and drink, how much will frequent Communion transform us and lead us to walk in the way of understanding?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY SAYERS, NOVELIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/two-banquets-2/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After the Third Sunday of Easter, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

16052v

Above:  F. W.  de Klerk and Nelson Mandela in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1993

Photographer = Carol M. Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-16052

Renouncing Hatred

APRIL 19 and 20, 2021

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The Collect:

Holy and righteous God, you are the author of life,

and you adopt us to be your children.

Fill us with your words of life,

that we may live as witnesses of the resurrection of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 30:1-11a (Monday)

Hosea 5:15-6:6 (Tuesday)

Psalm 150 (Both Days)

1 John 3:10-16 (Monday)

2 John 1-6 (Tuesday)

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For this is the message we have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another….Whoever does not love abides in death.  All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them.

–1 John 3:11, 15, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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But now, dear lady, I ask you, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning, let us love one another.  And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment just as you have heard it from the beginning–you must walk in it.

–2 John 5-6, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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If one is truly as one thinks, the logic of 1 John 3 (as well as Jesus in Matthew 5:21 forward) is impeccable.  Actions flow flow from attitudes, after all.  The call from 1 John 3 and 2 John is for Christians to build up each other and to seek the best for each other–to love one another actively.  Such love often entails doing that which the other person needs but does not desire, but the commandment is love one another, not to please one another.

The pericopes from Hosea 5 and Jeremiah 30, taken together, point toward the familiar theological formulation of the failure to keep the covenant as the root cause for the demise of the Kingdoms of Israel (northern) and Judah (southern).  Ritual actions are wonderful when people perform them properly, not as talismans meant to protect them from the consequences of their sinful actions for which they are not repentant.  Idolatry, judicial corruption, and economic exploitation were ubiquitous.  People needed to address those problems first, not attempt to hide behind sacred rituals, which they profaned with their lack of sincerity.

The commandment to love one another–a core component of the Law of Moses–is difficult to keep.  It tells us to lay selfishness aside and to sacrifice ourselves for others.  It stands on the bedrock of complete dependence on God and of mutual dependence among human beings.  There are no self-made people in the Kingdom of God.  The rule of the Kingdom of God is not to tell people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.  No, in the Kingdom of God we pull each other up and tend to our own responsibilities, for whatever we do, even in private, affects others for good or for ill.

The difficult commandment to love one another also requires us to cease nursing grudges.  If we cannot forgive someone just yet and know that we should do so, we can rely rely on grace to help us to do that in God’s time.  We are flawed creatures, something God knows well, so moral perfectionism makes no sense to me.  The best good deeds we can muster by our own power call into the Lutheran category of civil righteousness–laudable yet insufficient to save us from our sins.  We ought, therefore, to forgive ourselves for being mere mortals; God has.

I ponder the statement that those who hate are not of God.  Then I consider the numerous incidents of hatred (from ancient times to current events) among people who have claimed to be of God.  In particular I recall the narrative of an African-American slave who escaped (with help from conductors of the Underground Railroad) to freedom in Canada, then British North America.  One of his owners had been a Southern Baptist deacon and a brutal man.  The former slave recalled the fact that this master had died.  Then the free man, a professing Christian, wrote that he did not know whether the deacon had gone to Heaven or to Hell, but that he did not want to share the same destination with this former master.  That sentiment makes sense to me, for the deacon’s actions belied his profession of Christian faith.

A good spiritual practice is to, by grace, seek to identify all hatred one has and to renounce it–give it up, stop feeding it.  If all of it will not depart immediately, at least the process has begun.  In such a case, one should trust God to deal with that which is too great a matter for one.

May more people renounce hatred and its vile fruits then glorify God together.

Let everything that has breath

praise the Lord.

Hallelujah!

–Psalm 150:6, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY SAYERS, NOVELIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/renouncing-hatred/

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Devotion for Saturday Before the Third Sunday of Easter, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Life of Brian 01

Above:  Palestinian Jewish Zealots in Life of Brian (1979)

A Screen Capture I Took via PowerDVD

Empires and the Kingdom of God

APRIL 17, 2021

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The Collect:

Holy and righteous God, you are the author of life,

and you adopt us to be your children.

Fill us with your words of life,

that we may live as witnesses of the resurrection of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Acts 3:1-10

Psalm 4

Luke 22:24-30

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Know that the LORD does wonders for the faithful;

when I call upon the LORD, he will hear me.

–Psalm 4:3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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One of the greatest scenes in cinema comes from Life of Brian (1979).  Jewish rebels have gathered to ask one vital question:

What have the Romans ever done for us?

Some of the rebels name benefits of Roman rule, prompting Reg, the leader, to say:

All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?

Imperialism brings many benefits to the conquered and the occupied, but it does so at a high cost to those populations.  The operative question, then, is:

What does Roman occupation cost us?

If the accurate answer is freedom, the cost is too high.  If exploitation and tyranny are the costs for tangible benefits, one is correct to recognize which side gains more from the arrangement.

One purpose of the Kingdom of God in the Bible is to criticize earthly kingdoms and empires built on violence and exploitation.  The critique works well, especially with regard to the various Egyptian Empires, the Kingdom of Israel (united), the Kingdom of Israel (northern), the Kingdom of Judah (southern), the Assyrian Empire, the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, the Seleucid Empire, and the Roman Empire.  In the Kingdom of God the greatest person is the servant of all, not the one who rules, oppresses, and exploits.  Those who help people who can never repay them are especially great in the Kingdom of God.

I prefer the Kingdom of God, which, according to my understanding, has become partially realized, with the promise of complete realization in the future.  Until then we who follow God can participate in the Kingdom of God as we have it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY SAYERS, NOVELIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/empires-and-the-kingdom-of-god/

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Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before the Third Sunday of Easter, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Persian Empire

Above:  The Persian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

Angels and Antichrists

APRIL 15 and 16, 2021

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The Collect:

Holy and righteous God, you are the author of life,

and you adopt us to be your children.

Fill us with your words of life,

that we may live as witnesses of the resurrection of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 9:1-19 (Thursday)

Daniel 10:2-19 (Friday)

Psalm 4 (Both Days)

1 John 2:18-25 (Thursday)

1 John 2:26-28 (Friday)

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Answer me when I call, defender of my cause;

you set me free when I am hard-pressed;

have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

–Psalm 4:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The congregation in 1 John had suffered from schism.  Gnostics or proto-Gnostics, who denied that Jesus was God incarnate, had departed from the church (and apparently deprived it of many large potential contributions).  The author of 1 John labeled these schismatics antichrists, meaning that they were not merely mistaken, but were evil and in league with Satan.

In Daniel 10 we read of a vision of an angel.  According to that chapter, an angel speaks to Daniel, who has interceded on behalf of his people.  This angel has been struggling with the guardian angel of the Persian Empire, who has delayed him for three weeks.  Fortunately, though, St. Michael the Archangel, having  come to the friendly angel’s aid, has made the visit to Daniel possible.

These readings, taken together, indicate a worldview substantially different from mine, for I am largely a product of the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment.  I understand scientific materialism, laws of nature, and the basics of rationalist philosophy.  I am, in fact, no mystic.  I am, actually, a Modernist, in the sense of being the opposite of a Postmodernist.  Thus I struggle with these pericopes.

I do, however, glean some meaning from them.  There is a higher reality, I affirm.  My understanding of it does not include national guardian angels, but I acknowledge that God exists and cares about us and justice.  Thus prayers for justice are worthwhile and can lead to changes for the better.  However, I also detect a negative aspect in these readings.  True, sometimes people who oppose one are evil, but to apply that label wrongly places them outside the range of repentance and persuasion.  One might think of the allegedly evil as legitimate targets of hatred and destruction.  But what does engaging in that kind of invective and activity make one?  I encourage opposing evil (actual or imagined) in such as way that one does not become evil in actuality.  Trusting in God is a fine start.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY SAYERS, NOVELIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/angels-and-antichrists/

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Devotion for Wednesday After the Second Sunday of Easter, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

The Gospel According to St. Matthew 1964

Above:  A Sadducee Questions Jesus in The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)

A Screen Capture I Took via PowerDVD

Reacting or Responding to Jesus

APRIL 14, 2021

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The Collect:

Almighty God, with joy we celebrate the day of our Lord’s resurrection.

By the grace of Christ among us,

enable us to show the power of the resurrection in all that we say or do,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 32

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 26:1-15

Psalm 135

Mark 12:18-27

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Hallelujah!

Praise the Name of the LORD;

give praise, you servants of the LORD.

–Psalm 135:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Isaiah 26:4 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures, 1985) reads:

Trust in the LORD for ever and ever,

For in Yah the LORD you have an everlasting Rock.

Yet the Sadducees of Mark 12:18-27 trusted in their temporal wealth and related social status.  They did not affirm the resurrection of the dead (as Isaiah 26:19 might do) yet asked Jesus a question predicated on that doctrine.

Attempting to justify one’s opinions by asking insincere questions which waste the time of the recipient of those queries is a bad thing to do.  It is sophistry unworthy of people who are supposed to respect the sacred worth of others.  Often this sophistry originates from a place of defensiveness.  Jesus, for example, must have made some Sadducees nervous.  Does he make us nervous also?  Do we seek to dodge and weave away from him?  Or do we seek to learn from Jesus?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE EIGHTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF MARIA STEWART, EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB, FOUNDER OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT OLYMPIAS, ORTHODOX DEACONESS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/reacting-or-responding-to-jesus/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After the Second Sunday of Easter, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Fiery Furnace

Above:  Fiery Furnace

Image in the Public Domain

God and Kosmos

APRIL 12 and 13, 2021

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The Collect:

Almighty God, with joy we celebrate the day of our Lord’s resurrection.

By the grace of Christ among us,

enable us to show the power of the resurrection in all that we say or do,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 32

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The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 3:1-30 (Monday)

Daniel 6:1-28 (Tuesday)

Psalm 135 (Both Days)

1 John 2:3-11 (Monday)

1 John 2:12-17 (Tuesday)

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O LORD, your Name is everlasting;

your renown, O LORD, endures from age to age.

–Psalm 135:13, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The readings from Daniel 3 and 6 tell of faithful Jews in deadly peril due to their fidelity to God, who delivered them.  After each deliverance a violent monarch became the earthly protector of the faithful.  Details of how this worked are not the content of warm and fuzzy lessons for children’s Sunday School.

1 John 2:15 says:

Do not love the world or the things in the world.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

“The world” refers not to the created order but to the evil order in which faithful people face persecution.

Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe?  The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone.  Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me.  I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace.  In the world you face persecution.  But take courage; I have conquered the world!”

–John 16:31-33, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The extraordinary context for that portion of the Johannine Gospel is that Jesus was about to die.  In the Gospel of John he said that immediately prior to his betrayal and crucifixion.  The worst which people did to him was terrible indeed, but God was more powerful, as the Resurrection revealed.

The call to reject the world which Christ has conquered is not a command to eschew all aspects of culture, popular and otherwise, many of which are beneficial and others of which are harmless.  No, it is a mandate to establish and stick to proper priorities; God must come first.  So may we recognize and respect the image of God within others and act accordingly.  May we reject the fear which leads people to harm each other instead of building each other up.

And now, my friends, all that is true, all that is noble, all that is just and pure, all that is lovable and attractive, whatever is excellent and admirable–fill your thoughts with these things.

–Philippians 4:8, The Revised English Bible (1989)

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE EIGHTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF MARIA STEWART, EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB, FOUNDER OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT OLYMPIAS, ORTHODOX DEACONESS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/god-and-kosmos/

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Devotion for Friday and Saturday Before the Second Sunday of Easter, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Nebudchadnezzar's Dream

Above:  Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream

Image in the Public Domain

Yahweh, Unconquered

APRIL 9 and 10, 2021

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The Collect:

Almighty God, with joy we celebrate the day of our Lord’s resurrection.

By the grace of Christ among us,

enable us to show the power of the resurrection in all that we say or do,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 32

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The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 2:1-23 (Friday)

Daniel 2:24-49 (Saturday)

Psalm 133 (Both Days)

Acts 4:23-31 (Friday)

John 12:44-50 (Saturday)

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Oh, how good and pleasant it is

when brethren live together in unity!

It is like fine oil upon the head

that runs down upon the beard,

Upon the beard of Aaron,

and runs down upon the collar of his robe.

It is like the dew of Hermon

that falls upon the hills of Zion.

For there the LORD has ordained the blessing:

life for evermore.

–Psalm 133, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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I have read the Book of Daniel closely in both the Jewish and Protestant twelve-chapter version and the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox fourteen-chapter version.  In neither version does the internal chronology make sense.  That is fine, for we are not reading history.  No, we are reading theology.

How can one life faithfully at home or abroad within a violent empire and under the rule of foreigners?  That issue is one question which unites the pericopes for these two days.  In the ancient world of the Old Testament a common assumption was that the fall of a kingdom or empire indicated the defeat of its gods also.  Thus warfare was cosmic and political.  Yet Daniel 2 argues that nobody has conquered Yahweh.  Kingdoms and empires come and go, but God remains unvanquished.  Ultimately the Kingdom of God, present in part already, will become fully evident.  In the meantime, God is present to strengthen the faithful as necessary.  We even have the example of Jesus, God incarnate, who identifies with us.

No, we are not reading history in the Book of Daniel.  We are reading excellent theology instead.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE EIGHTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF MARIA STEWART, EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB, FOUNDER OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT OLYMPIAS, ORTHODOX DEACONESS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/yahweh-unconquered/

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Devotion for Thursday Before the Second Sunday of Easter, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Daniel Refusing the King's Food

Above:  Daniel Refusing the King’s Food

Image in the Public Domain

Positive Identity

APRIL 8, 2021

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The Collect:

Almighty God, with joy we celebrate the day of our Lord’s resurrection.

By the grace of Christ among us,

enable us to show the power of the resurrection in all that we say or do,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 32

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The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 1:1-21

Psalm 133

Acts 2:42-47

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Oh, how good and pleasant it is

when brethren live together in unity!

It is like fine oil upon the head

that runs down upon the beard,

Upon the beard of Aaron,

and runs down upon the collar of his robe.

It is like the dew of Hermon

that falls upon the hills of Zion.

For there the LORD has ordained the blessing:

life for evermore.

–Psalm 133, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Psalm 133, probably of Northern and pre-Exilic origin, sets the tone for this devotion.  The brethren, whomever they are at a particular time and place, can live together in unity under a variety of circumstances.  This unity depends on who they are, not where or when they are.  This unity depends on common values, such as taking care of each other as effectively as possible and eating and drinking certain things but not others.  In Daniel 1 the issue of dietary laws was one of identity, something which means more to members of minorities than to members of majorities, I suppose.  In such a circumstance the unity of the brethren serves the purpose of preserving cherished traditions and the identity founded upon them.  Likewise, in Acts 2, the nascent Church was a tiny Jewish sect, so members needed to take care of each other more than did those of the majority local culture.

Identities come in two varieties–positive and negative.  The former affirms what one is first and foremost.  The latter, however, denounces what is not first and foremost.  A negative identity reacts against others and sometimes leads to hatred and violence based on those differences.  An example of a negative identity in the Bible is identifying oneself as among the “pure,” unlike the great masses of “impure” Gentiles.

In Acts 2 and Daniel 1, however, we read of people with positive identities.  They seek to remain true to themselves and God where they are.  Their tactics build up, not tear down.  Tribalism and self-righteousness do not rule; no, love does.  Thus those with positive identity attract others to God.

May you, O reader, and I embrace and continue to hold fast to a positive identity in God and therefore glorify God and lead others to do the same.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE EIGHTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF MARIA STEWART, EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB, FOUNDER OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT OLYMPIAS, ORTHODOX DEACONESS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/positive-identity/

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