Archive for November 2015

Devotion for Tuesday After the Second Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Return of the Spies from the Land of Promise--Gustave Dore

Above:  Return of the Spies from the Land of Promise, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

Fidelity and Spiritual Community

MARCH 15, 2022

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The Collect:

God of the covenant, in the mystery of the cross

you promise everlasting life to the world.

Gather all peoples into your arms, and shelter us with your mercy,

that we may rejoice in the life we share in 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 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 14:10b-24

Psalm 105:1-15 [16-41] 42

1 Corinthians 10:1-13

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Remember the marvels God has done,

the wonders and the judgments of God’s mouth,

O offspring of Abraham, God’s servant,

 children of Jacob, God’s chosen.

–Psalm 105:5-6, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Yet the generation of Israelites who left Egypt as free people retained a slave mentality.  Members of that generation witnessed many astonishing acts of God on their behalf yet reacted fearfully when they learned that they might have to act faithfully, to do something, albeit with divine assistance.  They feared to enter Canaan, so their desire not to go there became their punishment from God.

As a cliché tells us, be careful what you wish for; you might get it.

St. Paul the Apostle, engaging in the tradition of interpreting biblical stories metaphorically, used accounts from the Torah to encourage Christians at Corinth to live faithfully, to refrain from sin as much as possible, and to cease from grumbling.  The Apostle, convinced that the end of evil times was near, wrote:

If you think you are standing firm, take care, or you may fall.  So far you have faced no trial beyond human endurance; God keeps faith and will not let you be tested beyond your powers, but when the test comes he will at the same time provide a way out and so enable you to endure.

–1 Corinthians 10:12-13, The Revised English Bible (1989)

That passage contains two major points.  First, people ought to avoid spiritual complacency.  That is always excellent counsel.  Second, “you,” as in

So far you have faced no trial beyond human endurance…,

is plural.  The pericope from 1 Corinthians 10 addresses a congregation, not an individual.  The plural nature of “you” in this passage is clear in the Nouvelle Version Segond Revisee (1978), in which the pronoun is the plural vous, not the singular tu.

The walk of faith is one a person takes as part of a spiritual community, not as a rugged individualist.  One depends on the other members of the spiritual community, to whom and for whom they one is responsible, and on God, on whom one depends entirely.  One’s strength is in God and spiritual community, not in oneself.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 17, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN CHRISTIAN TILL, U.S. MORAVIAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND PIANO BUILDER; AND HIS SON, JACOB CHRISTIAN TILL, U.S. MORAVIAN PIANO BUILDER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/11/17/fidelity-and-spiritual-community/

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Devotion for Monday After the Second Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Golden Calf

Above:  The Golden Calf

Image in the Public Domain

The Tangible Presence of God

MARCH 14, 2022

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The Collect:

God of the covenant, in the mystery of the cross

you promise everlasting life to the world.

Gather all peoples into your arms, and shelter us with your mercy,

that we may rejoice in the life we share in 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 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 33:1-6

Psalm 105:1-15 [16-41] 42

Romans 4:1-12

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Search for the LORD and the strength of the LORD;

continually seek the face of God.

–Psalm 105:4, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The reading from Exodus 33 follows on the heels of chapter 32, in which Israelites had created a golden bull (although the traditional term is golden calf) as a tangible sign of God’s presence while Moses was away on Mount Sinai/Horeb with God briefly.  God, we read, was most unhappy:

If I were to go in your midst for one moment, I would destroy you.

–Exodus 33:5b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Moses talks God down, fortunately for the Israelites.

Faith, for St. Paul the Apostle, was inherently active.  Hence the Pauline definition of faith was that, in the absence of proof for or against a proposition, one trusts that it is true and acts accordingly.  This contradicts the definition of faith in the Letter of James, whose author wrote that faith (for him merely intellectual) is insufficient for justification with God.  No, in the Letter of James justification comes via works.  Both writers agreed that works are essential for justification with God, but St. Paul understood works to be part and parcel of faith.  These are the kinds of nuances many people overlook in the Bible.

To have an active faith in God, who is invisible, is not to go through life without tangible signs of the divine presence.  Actually, tangible indicators of God’s presence surround us.  We have no need to manufacture any such indicator, for nature is replete with them.  We need merely to open our minds, attune them to spiritual matters, and observe.  The Reverend Maltbie Davenport Babcock (1858-1901), Presbyterian minister, humanitarian, poet, and admirer of nature, summarized the point well:

This is my Father’s world,

And to my listening ears,

All nature sings, and round me rings

The music of the spheres.

This is my Father’s world:

I rest me in the thought

Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;

His hand the wonders wrought.

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This is my Father’s world,

The birds their carols raise,

The morning light, the lily white,

Declare their Maker’s praise.

This is my Father’s world:

He shines in all that’s fair;

In the rustling grass I hear Him pass,

He speaks to me everywhere.

The full text of the poem begins on page 180 of this book.

The presence of God is tangible indeed.  In my darkest hours, my happiest moments, and the times between those two extremes I have encountered God via people and animals as well as directly, without mortals as vehicles of grace.  You, O reader, might understand well what I mean because of your experiences.  If you do not, are you willing to perceive the tangible presence of God?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 15, 2015 COMMON ERA

PROPER 28:  THE TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBERT THE GREAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF REGENSBURG

THE FEAST OF JOHANN GOTTLOB KLEMM, INSTRUMENT MAKER; DAVID TANNENBERG, SR., GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN ORGAN BUILDER; JOHANN PHILIP BACHMANN, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN INSTRUMENT MAKER; JOSEPH FERDINAND BULITSCHEK, BOHEMIAN-AMERICAN ORGAN BUILDER; AND TOBIAS FRIEDRICH, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/11/15/the-tangible-presence-of-god/

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Devotion for Saturday Before the Second Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Reconstruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of Herod--James Tissot

Above:  Reconstruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of Herod, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

Two Killings

MARCH 12, 2022

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The Collect:

God of the covenant, in the mystery of the cross

you promise everlasting life to the world.

Gather all peoples into your arms, and shelter us with your mercy,

that we may rejoice in the life we share in 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 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Psalm 118:26-29

Psalm 27

Matthew 23:37-39

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Hearken to my voice, O LORD, when I call;

have mercy on me and answer me.

–Psalm 27:7, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Psalm 118 is a song of praise to God after a military victory.  Literary echoes of the text are apparent in the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.  Consider this verse, O reader:

Blessed be who enters in the name of Yahweh,

we bless you in the house of Yahweh.

–Psalm 118:26, The Anchor Bible:  Psalms III:  101-150 (1970), by Mitchell Dahood, S.J.

That allusion fits well, for, when Jesus entered Jerusalem that fateful week, he did so not as a conquering hero but as one who had conquered and who was en route to the peace talks.  A victorious monarch rode a beast of burden to the negotiations for peace.  Jesus resembled a messianic figure who had won a battle.  He was not being subtle, nor should he have been.

The tone of the assigned reading from Matthew 23 fits the tone of the verse from Psalm 27 better, however.  Psalm 27 consists of two quite different poems with distinct tenors.  Part I is happy and confident, but Part II comes from a place of concern and a context of peril.  The latter distinction is consistent with Christ’s circumstances between the Triumphal Entry and the Crucifixion.

Matthew 23’s Jesus is not a vacation Bible school Jesus or seeker-sensitive Jesus.  That Jesus’s hair is nice and combed.  His robes are sparkling white, and his face is aglow as he hovers about six inches off the ground.  He hugs people a lot, speaks in calm tones, and pats little children on the head as he tells his audience, only four chapters earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, that the kingdom belongs “to such as these” (Matt. 19:14; cf. Mark 10:14/Luke 18:16).  The Jesus of Matt. 23 is of a different sort.  He is fired up and within a word or two of unleashing some profanity in the style of a high school football coach.  This Jesus’s hair is untamed.  His clothes are beaten and tattered from a semitransient lifestyle.  His face and neck are reddened by the Palestinian sun, and his feet are blistered, cracked, and calloused.  There is a wild look in his eyes, sweat pouring down his forehead, and spit flying off his lips when he yells, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” (Matt. 23:13, 15, 23, 25, 27, 39; cf. 23:16).  His message ends not with a head pat to a child and an aphorism about the kingdom, but with tales of murder and bloodshed (23:34-37).

When you finish reading Jesus’s tirade against the scribes and Pharisees in Matt. 23, you might need a deep breath.  Those who have grown all too accustomed to the teddy-bear Jesus may need to reassess wholesale their idea of Jesus.  At the very least, we can point to the text and affirm that, when early Christians such as Matthew commemorated Jesus’s life in the form of narrative Gospels, they portrayed a Jewish teacher who was embroiled in heated controversy with other Jewish teachers and gave as good as he got.

–Chris Keith, Jesus Against the Scribal Elite:  The Origins of the Conflict (2014), page 5

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You scholars and Pharisees, you imposters!  Damn you!

–Matthew 23:29a, The Complete Gospels:  Annotated Scholars Version (1994)

Literary context matters.  Immediately prior to Matthew 23:37-39, the lament of Jesus over Jerusalem, our Lord and Savior, having engaged in verbal confrontations with religious authorities, denounces the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy, power plays, impiety, violence, and inner impurity.  Immediately after Matthew 23:37-39 comes Matthew 24, in which Christ speaks apocalyptically, as in Mark 13 and Luke 21.  (The order of some of the material differs from one Synoptic Gospel to another, but these are obviously accounts of the same discourse.)  Jesus is about to suffer and die.

Matthew 23:34-39 echoes 2 Chronicles 24:17-25.  In 2 Chronicles 24 King Joash/Jehoash of Judah (reigned 837-800 B.C.E.), having fallen into apostasy and idolatry, orders the execution (by stoning) of one Zechariah, son of the late priest Jehoiada.  Zechariah’s offense was to confront the monarch regarding his apostasy and idolatry.  The priest’s dying wish is

May the LORD see and avenge!

–2 Chronicles 24:22, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The theology of the narrative holds that God saw and avenged, given the subsequent killing of Joash/Jehoash by servants.

A contrast between that story and the crucifixion of Jesus becomes clear.  Never does Jesus say

May the LORD see and avenge!

or anything similar to it.  One cannot find Christ’s prayer for forgiveness for the crown and those who crucified him in Matthew or Mark, but one can locate it at Luke 23:34, which portrays him as a righteous sufferer, such as the author of Part II of Psalm 27.

The example of Jesus has always been difficult to emulate.  That example is, in fact, frequently counter-intuitive and counter-cultural.  Love your enemies?  Bless those who persecute you?  Take up your cross?  Really, yes.  It is possible via grace.  I know the difficulty of Christian discipleship.  It is a path I have chosen, from which I have strayed, and to which I have returned.  The goal is faithfulness, not perfection.  We are, after all, imperfect.  But we can do better, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 15, 2015 COMMON ERA

PROPER 28:  THE TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBERT THE GREAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF REGENSBURG

THE FEAST OF JOHANN GOTTLOB KLEMM, INSTRUMENT MAKER; DAVID TANNENBERG, SR., GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN ORGAN BUILDER; JOHANN PHILIP BACHMANN, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN INSTRUMENT MAKER; JOSEPH FERDINAND BULITSCHEK, BOHEMIAN-AMERICAN ORGAN BUILDER; AND TOBIAS FRIEDRICH, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/11/15/two-killings/

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Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before the Second Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Abraham and Lot Separate

Above:  Abraham and Lot Separate

Image in the Public Domain

Legalism and Fidelity

MARCH 10 and 11, 2022

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The Collect:

God of the covenant, in the mystery of the cross

you promise everlasting life to the world.

Gather all peoples into your arms, and shelter us with your mercy,

that we may rejoice in the life we share in 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 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 13:1-7, 14-18 (Thursday)

Genesis 14:17-24 (Friday)

Psalm 27 (Both Days)

Philippians 3:2-12 (Thursday)

Philippians 3:17-20 (Friday)

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The LORD is my light and my salvation;

whom then shall I fear?

the LORD is the strength of my life;

of whom then shall I be afraid?

–Psalm 27:1, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Sometimes the portrayal of Abram/Abraham in the Bible puzzles me.  In Hebrews 10:8-22 the patriarch is a pillar of fidelity to God.  Yet he hedges his bets and lies in Genesis 12, and the only people who suffer are the Pharaoh of Egypt and members of the royal household.  Abram exiles his firstborn son, Ishmael, in Genesis 21:8-21.  The patriarch intercedes on behalf of strangers in Genesis 19 yet not for his second son, Isaac, three chapters later.  Abram, who is wealthy, refuses even to appear to have enriched himself by means of the King of Sodom in Genesis 14.  In so doing the patriarch, who has just paid a tithe of war booty to Melchizedek, King of Salem (Jerusalem) and priest of El Elyon, a Canaanite sky deity, invokes YHWH, not El Elyon.  I do not know what to make of Abram/Abraham.

Circumcision is a major issue in Philippians 3.  St. Paul the Apostle refers to rival missionaries who favor the circumcision of Gentile male converts to Christianity.  He calls these Judaizers “dogs,” a strong insult many Jews reserved for Gentiles.  One can find the mandate for circumcision of males (including some Gentiles) in Genesis 17:9-14, where it is a sign of the Abrahamic Covenant.  It has been, for Jews, a physical sign of the covenant for millennia.  It has become an emotional issue for people who favor it as a religious obligation and a mark of identity as well as for those who consider it cruel.

In Philippians 3 circumcision is, for St. Paul the Apostle, a physical sign of righteousness based on law, not on active faith in God.  The line between legalism and righteousness can be difficult to locate sometimes.  One should obey certain commandments out of fidelity and love and respect for God.  One loves and honors God, so one keeps the commandments of God.

If you love me you will obey my commands…,

John 14:15 (The Revised English Bible, 1989) quotes Jesus as saying.  But when does keeping commandments turn into a fetish of legalism?  And when does the maintenance of one’s identity transform into exclusion of others?  Where is that metaphorical line many people cross?

One sure way of knowing if one has crossed that line is catching that person obsessing over minute details while overlooking pillars of morality such as compassion.  If one, for example, complains not because Jesus has healed someone but because he has done this on the Sabbath, one is a legalist.  If one becomes uptight about personal peccadilloes yet remains unconcerned about institutionalized injustice (such as that of the sexist, racial, and economic varieties), one is a legalist.  If one’s spiritual identity entails labeling most other people as unclean or damned, one is a legalist.  If one thinks that moral living is merely a matter of following a spiritual checklist, one is a legalist.  If one becomes fixated on culturally specific examples of timeless principles at the expense of those principles, one is a legalist.

May we who claim to follow and love God eschew legalism.  May we also care for our close friends and relatives at least as much as we do suffering strangers for which we harbor concern.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 14, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN AMOS COMENIUS, FATHER OF MODERN EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF THE CONSECRATION OF SAMUEL SEABURY, FIRST EPISCOPAL BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ROMANIS, ANGLICAN BISHOP AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/11/14/legalism-and-fidelity/

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Devotion for Wednesday After the First Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Question Mark

Above:  Question Mark

Image in the Public Domain

Difficult Questions

MARCH 9, 2022

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The Collect:

O Lord God, you led your people through the wilderness and brought them to the promised land.

Guide us now, so that, following your Son, we may walk safely through the wilderness of this world

toward the life you alone can give, 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 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 1:1-22

Psalm 17

Luke 21:34-22:6

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The assigned readings for this day present a composite picture of dire circumstances.

The Lukan Apocalypse, set immediately prior to the execution of Christ, advises spiritual vigilance for the return of the Son of Man, that is Jesus.  (“Son of Man” is an apocalyptic term in the Bible.)  Goodness does not spare Jesus from the betrayal by Judas Iscariot, however.

In the Book of Job God permits the titular character to suffer as part of a wager with the Adversary (the Satan), still one of God’s employees, according to the theology of the time.  One might imagine that the author of Psalm 17 was thinking of Job when he wrote that short poem.  Certainly the tone of Psalm 17 is consistent with Job’s speeches.

Hear my just cause, O Lord; consider my complaint;

listen to my prayer, which comes not from lying lips.

Let my vindication come forth from your presence;

let your eyes behold what is right.

–Psalm 17:1-2, Common Worship (2000)

Feel-good religion fails to deal properly with such circumstances.  Easy answers prove inadequate when the questions are difficult.  Human inadequacy becomes obvious and the need to rely on divine sufficiency becomes clear.  But what if one understands God to be at least partially responsible for one’s troubles?  I offer no easy answers, for the questions are difficult.  I do, however, embrace the wonderful Jewish practice of arguing with God faithfully.  It recurs throughout the Hebrew Bible, especially in the Book of Psalms.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 13, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MARTYN DEXTER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HISTORIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABBO OF FLEURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRICE OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS TAVELIC AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/11/13/difficult-questions/

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Devotion for Tuesday After the First Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Corn Parasites

Above:  Corn Parasites, 1942

Photographer = Jack Delano

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USW3-002652-D

Spiritual Parasites on Power Trips

MARCH 8, 2022

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The Collect:

O Lord God, you led your people through the wilderness and brought them to the promised land.

Guide us now, so that, following your Son, we may walk safely through the wilderness of this world

toward the life you alone can give, 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 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Zechariah 3:1-10

Psalm 17

2 Peter 2:4-21

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Keep me as the apple of your eye;

hide me under the shadow of your wings,

From the wicked who assault me,

from my enemies who surround me to take away my life.

–Psalm 17:8-9, Common Worship (2000)

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The setting for the pericope from Zechariah was post-Exilic Judea.  Returned exiles lived within the Persian Empire, and the high priest occupied a position of political leadership.  In Zechariah 3 one Joshua went through a purification process in order to become the next high priest.  The Accuser (the Satan), working for God, participated in the process.  (The theology of Satan had yet to shift, thereby transforming him into an evil rogue.)  At the end of the pericope came a prophecy of a messianic age of peace.

That age has yet to arrive.  Jesus of Nazareth has come and gone in the flesh, and the promised messianic age of peace and justice has yet to arrive.  In the meantime advice from 2 Peter 2 proves helpful.  We who claim to follow God–in Christ, specifically–ought to avoid false teachers who embrace worldly corruption.

The historical context of 2 Peter 2 is the early phase of development of major Christian doctrines.  The author, writing as if he were St. Simon Peter in the late first century or early second century C.E., defended the orthodoxy of the teachings of the Apostles and their successors taught it.  Earliest Christianity was, like the Church of today, rife with factionalism.  Unlike today, however, the definition of the canon of scripture remained an unsettled issue, as did major questions of Christology.  The process of writing the texts of the New Testament might have still been in progress, in fact.  Furthermore, debates regarding Christology continued for centuries.  Councils of bishops met during the first five centuries of Christianity to address questions such as how many wills Jesus had.  Even some Christian theologians of the third century C.E., orthodox by the standards of their time, became ex post facto heretics posthumously in the fourth century, as the church refined its Trinitarian theology.

The real issue in 2 Peter 2, however, seems to have been the motives of the spiritual seducers–false prophets.  They accepted bribes from non-Christians to disrupt the young movement.  Many Christians proved to be vulnerable to their siren songs and committed apostasy, that is, falling away from God.  These apostates, pursuing the promise of freedom, found spiritual slavery instead.

These words of caution remain current, unfortunately.  They speak not of well-intentioned yet sincerely wrong people but of spiritual parasites on power trips.  This brings me to the topic of cults.  Many people use that word too loosely.  I use “cult” not in the academic, anthropological sense nor to describe a religious group whose teachings I consider merely false.  No, I use “cult” to mean a predatory religious group with false teachings.  The Church of Scientology is a cult by this definition.  The late Jim Jones led a cult.

Each of us has a God-shaped spiritual hole which only God can fill properly.  Many of us attempt to fill that hole with a variety of substitutes for God, but none of them can stand in for God.  Unfortunately, many of us fail to recognize this reality.

May we who follow Christ, whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light, persist in spiritual freedom.  And may those trapped in spiritual slavery find their freedom in God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 13, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MARTYN DEXTER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HISTORIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABBO OF FLEURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRICE OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS TAVELIC AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/11/13/spiritual-parasites-on-power-trips/

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Devotion for Monday after the First Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Crucifixion Icon Rublev

Above:  Icon of the Crucifixion by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

Struggling with Concepts of God

MARCH 7, 2022

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The Collect:

O Lord God, you led your people through the wilderness and brought them to the promised land.

Guide us now, so that, following your Son, we may walk safely through the wilderness of this world

toward the life you alone can give, 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 27

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Chronicles 21:1-17

Psalm 17

1 John 2:1-6

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Hear my just cause, O Lord; consider my complaint;

listen to my prayer, which comes not from lying lips.

Let my vindication come forth from your presence;

let your eyes behold what is right.

Weigh my heart, examine me by night,

refine me, and you will find no impurity in me.

–Psalm 17:1-3, Common Worship (2000)

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The stories of the plague God inflicted on the Kingdom of Israel bother me.  The account in 1 Chronicles 21 differs significantly from the one in 2 Samuel 24.  In 2 Samuel 24:1, for example, “the anger of the LORD” (as the New Revised Standard Version renders the text), somehow operating independently of God, incites King David to take a census in violation of God’s desire.  Satan replaces “the anger of the LORD” as the agent of incitement in 1 Chronicles 21:1.  That is just one difference.  My major problem, however, is an element of the two versions of the story have in common.  God is terrifying and cruel, sending a plague upon innocent people.  It seems that the author of Psalm 17 is not the only one with impurity.  No, God, who harms innocents, seems impure in 1 Chronicles 21 and 2 Samuel 24.

The concept of God in 1 Chronicles 21 and 2 Samuel 24 is foreign to me.  Likewise, the idea that God was not satisfied until Roman soldiers tortured and executed Jesus (allegedly in lieu of each sinner, including subsequent ones, such as me) is familiar yet repugnant to me.  God, for me, is love.  Divine power resurrected Jesus, thereby defeating evil schemes.  Yes, O reader, I just repudiated Penal Substitutionary Atonement and affirmed the core of Christus Victor, the Classic Theory of the Atonement.  We who claim to follow God ought to exercise great caution regarding what we say and write about God.  Do we portray God as love or as a monster?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 10, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDWIN HATCH, ANGLICAN PRIEST, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEO THE GREAT, BISHOP OF ROME

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/11/10/struggling-with-concepts-of-god/

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Devotion for Saturday Before the First Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Fruit of the Christ Passion Icon

Above:  Fruit of the Christ Passion, an Icon

Image in the Public Domain

Upside-Down

MARCH 5, 2022

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The Collect:

O Lord God, you led your people through the wilderness and brought them to the promised land.

Guide us now, so that, following your Son, we may walk safely through the wilderness of this world

toward the life you alone can give, 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 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16

John 12:27-36

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Psalm 91 reads in part:

Because you have made the Lord your refuge

and the Most High your stronghold,

There shall no evil happen to you,

neither shall any plague come near your tent.

–Verses 9 and 10, Common Worship (2000)

That stands in stark contrast to Jesus’s experience in John 12:27-36, for his time to die was near.  His exaltation was a form of execution the Roman authorities intended to be humiliating.

Often reality contradicts expectations.  Following God faithfully does not necessarily lead to peace and prosperity.  God can transform shame into glory, pain into a means of salvation, death into life, and defeat into victory.  The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-11 and Luke 6:20-23) and Woes (Luke 6:24-26) contradict conventional wisdom.  God steadfastly refuses to fit into our figurative boxes.

One might find that reality maddening or liberating.  The reality of Hod frees us (if we permit it to do so) from illusions and folly dressed up as wisdom.  So yes, the crucifixion proved inadequate to keep Jesus dead.  And the recurring theme of the reversal of fortunes in the Gospel of Luke has challenged readers of that text for nearly 2000 years.  I refuse to avoid discomfort with those passages by distorting their plain meanings.  The Kingdom of God seems upside-down relative to the dominant human order, but the latter is actually upside-down.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 10, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDWIN HATCH, ANGLICAN PRIEST, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEO THE GREAT, BISHOP OF ROME

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/11/10/upside-down/

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Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before the First Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

The Israelites' Cruel Bondage in Egypt

Above:  The Israelites’ Cruel Bondage in Egypt, by Gerard Hoet

Image in the Public Domain

Trusting in God

MARCH 3 and 4, 2022

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The Collect:

O Lord God, you led your people through the wilderness and brought them to the promised land.

Guide us now, so that, following your Son, we may walk safely through the wilderness of this world

toward the life you alone can give, 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 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 5:10-23 (Thursday)

Exodus 6:1-13 (Friday)

Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16 (Both Days)

Acts 7:30-34 (Thursday)

Acts 7:35-42 (Friday)

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Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High

and abides under the shadow of the Almighty,

Shall say to the Lord, “My refuge and my stronghold,

my God, in whom I put my trust.”

–Psalm 91:1-2, Common Worship (2000)

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Trust was of the essence for Moses, Aaron, and the Hebrew slaves.  Straw and mud were the ingredients of ancient Egyptian bricks.  Requiring slaves to collect their own straw while not reducing the quota of bricks was unrealistic and unfair.  Blaming the Pharaoh was correct, for he gave the order.  Casting blame on Moses and Aaron was wrong, however.  Even Moses had a momentary lack of trust in God.

That lack of trust in God early in the narrative of the Book of Exodus was predictable.  I refrain from criticizing any of the Hebrews who manifested it, for I have done the same thing in less dire circumstances.  Yet, after a while, people should have learned that God is trustworthy.  The fact of their eventual freedom should have constituted enough of a miracle.

God, who equips the called for their vocations, knows that we cannot do everything on our own power.  Fortunately, we do not need to do everything on our own power.  Sometimes God intervenes directly.  On other occasions God sends us help via people.  Will we recognize that assistance when we encounter it?  Will we trust God?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 10, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDWIN HATCH, ANGLICAN PRIEST, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEO THE GREAT, BISHOP OF ROME

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/11/10/trusting-in-god-6/

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