Archive for the ‘April 13’ Category

Thoughts and Questions About the Temptations of Jesus   1 comment

Above:  The Temptations of Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

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For St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia

Lent 2019

 

Texts:  Mark 1:12-13; Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13

Reading the Bible for spiritual formation is an ancient Benedictine practice.  My primary purpose in writing this short piece is to ask, how do the accounts (mainly the Lukan and Matthean ones) of the temptations of Jesus challenge us, both as individuals and a parish, to follow Jesus better than we do.

The Temptation to Turn Stones into Bread

Bread was especially precious in ancient Palestine, with relatively little arable land.

We are blessed to be able to purchase our bread inexpensively at stores.  Bread is abundant in our context, so we probably take it for granted more often than not.  We can, however, think of some tangible needs related to scarcity.

One challenge is not to permit tangible needs to overtake intangible necessities.  We all depend entirely on God and dwell within a web of mutual responsibility and dependence.  According to the late Henri Nouwen, this temptation is the temptation to be relevant.  Relevance is not necessarily bad; in fact, it is frequently positive.  However, maintaining the proper balance of tangible and intangible needs is essential.  Furthermore, Christ’s refusal to cave into the temptation to use his power to make bread—to cease to depend on God—ought to remind us never to imagine that we do not depend entirely on God.

Questions

  1. Do we permit tangible needs to distract us from intangible necessities?  If so, how?
  2. Do we manifest the vain idea that we do not depend entirely on God?  If so, how?

The Temptation to Jump from the Pinnacle of the Temple

Many scholars of the New Testament have proposed what the pinnacle of the Temple was.

That matter aside, this temptation is, according to Nouwen, the temptation to be spectacular.  It is also the temptation to attempt to manipulate God by trying to force God to intervene in a miraculous way.  That effort, like turning stones into bread, would indicate a lack of faith.

We humans frequently like the spectacular, do we not?  We tell ourselves and others that, if only God would do something spectacular, we will believe.  We are like those who, in the Gospels, only wanted Jesus to do something for them, and not to learn from him.

Questions

  1. Does our attraction to the spectacular distract us from the still, small voice of God?  If so, how?
  2. Does our attraction to the spectacular reveal our lack of faith?  If so, how?
  3. Does our attraction to the spectacular unmask our selfishness?  If so, how?

The Temptation to Worship Satan in Exchange for Earthly Authority

Many Palestinian Jews at the time of Christ thought of Satan as the power behind the Roman Empire and of the Roman pantheon as a collection of demons.  Jesus affirmed God the Father as the only source of his identity.

This temptation is about idolatry, power, and morally untenable compromises.

Many well-intentioned people—ministers, politicians, and appointed office holders, for example—have, in the name of doing good, become corrupt and sacrificed their suitability to do good.  They have sacrificed their moral integrity on the altar of amoral realism.

Some compromises are necessary, of course.  As Reinhold Niebuhr reminded us, we cannot help but commit some evil while trying to do good, for human depravity has corrupted social systems and institutions.

Questions

  1. Have we established our identity apart from God?  If so, how?
  2. How have we, with good intentions, committed or condoned evil?
  3. Have we made morally untenable compromises?  If so, how?

The Good News

The good news is both collective and individual.

I discover the principle, then:  that when I want to do right, only wrong is within my reach.  In my inmost self I delight in the law of God, but I perceive in my outward actions a different law, fighting against the law that my mind approves, and making me a prisoner under the law of sin which controls my conduct.  Wretched creature that I am, who is there to rescue me from this state of death?  Who but God?  Thanks be to him through Jesus Christ our Lord!  To sum up then:  left to myself I serve God’s law with my mind, but with my unspiritual nature I serve the law of sin.

–Romans 7:21-25, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Jesus has modeled the way to resist temptation—to trust God and to understand scripture.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 10, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF MARIE-JOSEPH LAGRANGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT AGRIPINNUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT GERMANUS OF PARIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT DROCTOVEUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OGLIVIE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACARIUS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/03/10/thoughts-and-questions-about-the-temptations-of-jesus/

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Devotion for Saturday Before Palm Sunday, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Judas Iscariot

Above:  Judas Iscariot

I took this digital photograph of an image from a fragile book dating to the 1880s.

Christ, Confronting Us

APRIL 13, 2019

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The Collect:

O God of mercy and might, in the mystery of the passion of your Son

you offer your infinite life to the world.

Gather us around the cross and Christ,

and preserve us until the resurrection,

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 29

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 23:1-8

Psalm 31:9-16

Luke 22:1-13

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This is a devotion for the day immediately preceding Holy Week.  Liturgically Jesus is a day away from his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, yet he has been in the city for days in Luke 22.  In fact, the Triumphal Entry occurs in Luke 19:28-40.  In Luke 22:1-13 preparations for the annual observance of the Passover, mandated in Leviticus 23:4-8, are underway while Judas Iscariot conspires with Temple officials to betray Jesus.  In a short period of time Jesus will fully resemble the afflicted author of Psalm 31

To every one of my oppressors

I am contemptible,

loathsome to my neighbors,

to my friends a thing of fear.

–Psalm 31:11, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

The narratives of Holy Week are familiar to many of us who have read them closely for a long time and heard them liturgically.  Tradition has attempted to smooth over discrepancies among the four canonical Gospels, but I prefer to acknowledge those disagreements and take each Gospel as it is.  The Passion narrative in Luke emphasizes Jesus’s innocence and the injustice of his trial and execution.  Pontius Pilate finds no guilt in Jesus (23:4, 14, 20, and 22); neither does Herod Antipas (23:15).  Jesus, never an insurrectionist, goes to his death, but Barabbas, an insurrectionist, goes free (23:18-25).

Luke 23 compels me to confront injustices–those I commit, those others commit in my name as a member of a society and a citizen of a state and the United States of America, those of which I approve and might not even label as unjust, and those of which I disapprove.  I benefit from some forms of injustice regardless of whether I approve or disapprove of them.  Luke 23 compels me to confront that reality also.  The unjustly executed Christ confronts my easy complacency as I lead my quiet, bookish life.

Practicing Christianity is a difficult undertaking with rigorous demands, but it is a challenge I have accepted for a long time.  I intend to continue to struggle with it and to keep relying on grace, for my human powers are woefully inadequate for the task.

What about you, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 7, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GERARD THOMAS NOEL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER; BROTHER OF BAPTIST WRIOTHESLEY NOEL, ANGLICAN PRIEST, ENGLISH BAPTIST EVANGELIST, AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS NIECE, CAROLINE MARIA NOEL, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT AMBROSE OF MILAN, ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF ANNE ROSS COUSIN, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA JOSEPHA ROSSELLO, COFOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF THE DAUGHTERS OF OUR LADY OF PITY

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/12/07/christ-confronting-us/

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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 12, 2018, and APRIL 13, 2018

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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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The Death of Dreams and Aspirations   Leave a comment

Death of Dreams and Aspirations

Above:  The Original Text

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Loving God, who loves us, mourns with us, and rejoices with us,

the death of dreams and aspirations is among the most traumatic losses to endure.

It cuts to the emotional core of a person, causing great anguish, grief, and anger.

Regardless if the dream was indeed the one a person should have followed

(assuming that it was not morally wrong, of course),

the pain and disappointment are legitimate, I suppose.

I have known these emotions in this context more than once.

I wish them upon nobody, not even those who inflicted them upon me.

May we, by grace, function as your ministers of comfort

to those experiencing such a death or the aftermath of one

and who are near us or whom you send our way.

And may we, by grace, help others achieve their potential

and refrain from inflicting such pain upon others.

In the name of Jesus, who identified with us, suffered, died, and rose again.  Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 19, 2014 COMMON ERA

HOLY SATURDAY, YEAR A

Posted April 19, 2014 by neatnik2009 in 2020, April 1, April 10, April 11, April 12, April 13, April 14, April 15, April 16, April 17, April 18, April 19, April 2, April 20, April 21, April 22, April 23, April 24, April 25, April 26, April 27, April 28, April 29, April 3, April 30, April 4, April 5, April 6, April 7, April 8, April 9, Ascension, Ash Wednesday, Easter Sunday, February 10, February 11, February 12, February 13, February 14, February 15, February 16, February 17, February 18, February 19, February 20, February 21, February 22, February 23, February 24, February 25, February 26, February 27, February 28, February 29, February 4, February 5, February 6, February 7, February 8, February 9, Friday in Easter Week, Good Friday, Holy Monday, Holy Saturday-Easter Vigil, Holy Tuesday, Holy Wednesday, June 1, June 10, June 11, June 12, June 13, June 2, June 3, June 4, June 5, June 6, June 7, June 8, June 9, March 1, March 10, March 11, March 12, March 13, March 14, March 15, March 16, March 17, March 18, March 19, March 2, March 20, March 21, March 22, March 23, March 24, March 25: Annunciation, March 26, March 27, March 28, March 29, March 3, March 30, March 31, March 4, March 5, March 6, March 7, March 8, March 9, Maundy Thursday, May 1, May 10, May 11, May 12, May 13, May 14, May 15, May 16, May 17, May 18, May 19, May 2, May 20, May 21, May 22, May 23, May 24, May 25, May 26, May 27, May 28, May 29, May 3, May 30, May 31: Visitation, May 4, May 5, May 6, May 7, May 8, May 9, Monday in Easter Week, Palm Sunday, Pentecost, Saturday in Easter Week, Thursday in Easter Week, Tuesday in Easter Week, Wednesday in Easter Week

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Devotion for the Second and Third Days of Easter, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

The_Crossing_fo_The_Red_Sea

Above:  The Crossing of the Red Sea, by Nicolas Poussin

Image in the Public Domain

Reliable Promises of God

MONDAY, APRIL 13, 2020, and TUESDAY, APRIL 14, 2020

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you give us the joy of celebrating our Lord’s resurrection.

Give us also the joys of life in your service,

and bring us at last to the full joy of life eternal,

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:

Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21 (2nd Day)

Exodus 15:1-18 (3rd Day)

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 (Both Days)

Colossians 3:5-11 (2nd Day)

Colossians 3:12-17 (3rd Day)

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I will give thanks to you, for you answered me

and have become my salvation.

The same stone which the builders rejected

has become the chief cornerstone.

This is the LORD’s doing,

and it is marvelous in our eyes.

On this day the LORD has acted;

we will rejoice and be glad in it.

–Psalm 118:21-24, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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God had acted dramatically to convince the Pharaoh to free the Hebrews.  Yet many of them complained in fear before the Exodus.  This indicated a lack of confidence in God–particularly in divine promises.  God remained reliable, of course.  And human faithfulness and fear, evident in murmuring, grumbling, and other forms of complaining, persisted, unfortunately.

Agent K was correct in Men in Black (1997); people are panicky creatures.  Often we are slaves to our unhealthy mentalities, which vary widely.  Frequently we seek firm answers in places where they do not exist while ignoring them where they do exist–in God.  So, if we do not find, this fact might be due to where we are looking, not that we are not seeking.

I was probably the world’s worst Cub Scout.  Yet I did take some positive lessons from that brief time.  There was a skit I learned over thirty years ago.  The plot, for lack of a better term, was that a boy was looking for some object on the floor and enlisting others to help him find it.  Unfortunately, he had lost it somewhere else.  The reason he was looking for it where he was seeking it is that the light shone there.

In the light and in the darkness we can always trust the promises of God, who freed the Hebrews from Egypt and raised Jesus from the dead.  These promises contain both judgment and mercy.  The latter commands that we respond mercifully to others and build up communities.  So may we follow this excellent advice:

Let the gospel of Christ dwell among you in all its richness; teach and instruct one another with all the wisdom it gives you.  With psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, sing from the heart in gratitude to God.  Let every word and action, everything you do, be in the name of the Lord Jesus, and give thanks through him to God the Father.

–Colossians 3:16-17, The Revised English Bible (1989)

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 2, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIOC, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND OF SAINT TUDWAL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF CHANNING MOORE WILLIAMS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP IN CHINA AND JAPAN

THE FEAST OF JOHN BROWN, ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT OSMUND OF SALISBURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/19/reliable-promises-of-god/

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Prayers of the People for Easter–Second Order   Leave a comment

DSC08019

Above:  Easter Vigil, St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, Dunwoody, Georgia, April 8, 2012

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

(https://picasaweb.google.com/114749828757741527421/EasterVigilStPatrickS?noredirect=1#5729171578836326034)

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The congregational response to “We pray to God” is “Lord, hear our prayer.”

As we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus of Nazareth, we bring our thanksgivings and concerns to the throne of grace.

We pray for

  • Justin, the Archbishop of Canterbury;
  • Katharine, our Presiding Bishop;
  • Robert and Keith, our Bishops;
  • Beth, our Rector;

and all lay and clergy members of the the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

We pray to God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for economic justice, environmental stewardship, good government, and a better society.  We pray especially for

  • those who struggle with financial, career, job, and/or vocational issues;
  • those who suffer because of tyrants and violence; and
  • those who suffer because of the apathy or prejudices of their neighbors.

We pray to God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for shalom among people everywhere.

We pray to God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

We give thanks for everything which causes God to rejoice, especially

  • the beauty of the natural world;
  • the beauty which people have created;
  • [the birth of G, son/daughter of H and I;]
  • loving relationships;
  • X, Y, and Z, who celebrate their birthdays this week; and
  • A and B, C and D, and E and F, who celebrate their anniversaries this week.

We pray to God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for all military personnel, especially (insert list here).

We pray to God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for others for whom we care, especially (insert list here).

We pray to God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for those who have died, that they will have eternal rest.

We pray to God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

[The celebrant concludes with a Collect.]

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 3, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT KATHARINE DREXEL, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT CUNEGOND OF LUXEMBOURG, HOLY ROMAN EMPRESS THEN NUN

THE FEAST OF SAINT GERVINUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN AND CHARLES WESLEY, ANGLICAN PRIESTS

Prayers of the People for Lent–Second Order   Leave a comment

Lent

Above:  Lent Wordle

I found the image in various places online, including here:  http://standrewauh.org/a-study-for-lent/

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The congregational response to “We pray to you, O God” is “Hear our prayer.”

We pray for the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, that it may show the face of Christ to the world and draw people to you,

We pray to you, O God.

We pray for

  • Katharine, our Presiding Bishop;
  • Robert and Keith, our Bishops; and
  • Beth, our Rector;
  • and all clergy and lay members,
  • that they may serve you faithfully,

We pray to you, O God.

We pray for

  • Barack, our President;
  • Nathan, our Governor;
  • Nancy, our Mayor; and
  • all others who hold positions of authority and influence,

that justice may prevail,

We pray to you O God.

That we may, by grace, do your will each day,

We pray to you, O God.

That all who suffer may find succor,

We pray to you, O God.

We pray for (_____) and all who have died, that they may enjoy and glorify you forever,

We pray to you, O God.

We pray for our own needs and those of others.

Congregationally specific petitions follow.

The Celebrant adds a concluding Collect.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 2, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF JESUS IN THE TEMPLE