Archive for the ‘April 23’ 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 Tuesday After Easter Sunday, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Yael Killing Sisera

Above:  Yael Killing Sisera, by Palma the Younger

Image in the Public Domain

Violence, Victory, Hatred, and Perfect Love

APRIL 23, 2019

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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:

Judges 4:17-23; 5:24-31a

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Revelation 12:1-12

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The reading from Revelation, told in the language of symbols, is about the persecution of Christians.  Martyrs in Heaven have conquered evil forces by dying, but their counterparts in the Church Militant remain vulnerable.  Their day to sing, in the words of Psalm 118:16 (The Book of Common Prayer, 1979),

The right hand of the LORD has triumphed!

the right hand of the LORD is exalted!

the right hand of the LORD has triumphed!

resides in the future.

Jael, wife of Heber the Kenite, knew how to triumph.  She used a mallet to drive a tent pin through the temple of Sisera, the Canaanite army commander, until the pin went into the ground.

This is a devotion for Tuesday in Easter Week.  Liturgically the death and resurrection of Jesus are therefore recent events.  According to the Classic Theory of the Atonement, or Christus Victor for short, the proper emphasis falls on the reality that Jesus was dead only briefly.  His resurrection thwarted evil plots, making clear the superior power of God, of perfect love.  Jesus was a sacrifice, not a person committing or condoning deadly violence.

As I have written online many times, I am not naive.  I understand that some evildoers will refuse to amend their ways.  I grasp that human sinfulness necessitates a rescue operation sometimes, and that such missions have body counts much of the time.  Yet I cannot imagine Jesus advocating for needless violence and militant religion.  He was, after all not a zealot, a member of that group which sought to expel the Romans from Palestine forcefully.

The call to love my neighbors as I love myself reminds me that even those who would destroy me are my neighbors.  Jesus interceded on behalf of such as these; should any of us who claim to follow him do any less?

The battle is God’s.  We have the right to defend ourselves against threats, but may we never give in to hatred, a greater foe.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/12/18/violence-victory-hatred-and-perfect-love/

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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 23, 2018

APRIL 24, 2018

APRIL 25, 2018

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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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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 Twelfth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Days of Easter, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

8c34203v

Above:  Slums, Richwood, West Virginia, September 1942

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USF34-084072-E

Photographer = John Collier (1913-1992)

The Divine Preference for the Poor

THURSDAY-SATURDAY, APRIL 23-25, 2020

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The Collect:

O God, your Son makes himself known to all his disciples in the breaking of bread.

Open the eyes of our faith, that we may see him in his redeeming work,

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:

Isaiah 25:1-5 (12th Day)

Isaiah 26:1-4 (13th Day)

Isaiah 25:6-9 (14th Day)

Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19 (All Days)

1 Peter 1:8b-12 (12th Day)

1 Peter 1:13-16 (13th Day)

Luke 14:12-14 (14th Day)

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How shall I repay you, O LORD,

for all the good things you have done for me?

I will lift up the cup of salvation

and call upon the name of the LORD.

I will fulfill my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all the chosen people.

–Psalm 116:12-14, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Then [Jesus] said to his host, “When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relations or rich neighbours, in case they invite you back and so repay you.  No; when you have a party, invite the poor, the cripples, the lame, the blind; then you will be blessed, for they have no means to repay you and you will be repaid when the upright rise again.

–Luke 14:12-14, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The Gospel of Luke offers many reversals of fortune.  The first will be last and the last will be first.  The meek will inherit the earth.  Those who mourn will receive comfort.  The hungry will eat well.  And woe to those who are comfortable, it says.  An old saying tells me that the purpose of the Gospel of Jesus is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.  This applies especially well to the Gospel of Luke.

The context of Luke 14:12-14 is a Sabbath meal at the home of a leading Pharisee.  Our Lord and Savior has already cured a man with dropsy, or swelling of the body due to excessive liquid (verses 1-6).  Although nobody uttered a critical word, we know that people present were thinking many of them.  Then, in verses 7-11, Jesus has taught regarding seeking social places of honor; be humble and let others exalt one, he has said.  Now, in verses 12-14, he goes beyond that:  do good things for those who can never repay.  That is what God has done for all of us.

Regardless of how highly we might think of ourselves and/or others, God is no respecter of persons.  And God, as we read in the Bible, has a preference for the poor.  This exists in some of today’s readings, especially Luke 14:12-14 and Isaiah 25:4-5, the latter of which reads:

Truly you have been a refuge to the poor,

a refuge to the needy in their distress,

shelter from the tempest, shade from heat.

For the blast of the ruthless is like an icy storm

or a scorching drought;

you subdue the roar of the foe,

and the song of the ruthless dies away.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

That is one thread running through the Isaiah lections.  Another is fear of death, a dread heightened by the fact the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead did not debut in the canon of Jewish scripture until the Book of Daniel.  In 1 Peter that doctrine is present, reinforced by another one–the resurrection of Jesus.  If the original audience of that epistle was blessed to live in an age in which salvation in God had become manifest in a new way, how much more fortunate are we who live nearly 2000 years later?

One common belief of earliest Christianity was the Jesus would return within the lifetime of many people in what we call (after the fact) the first century of the Common Era.  That did not come to pass, obviously.  One unfortunate consequence of that common belief was an acceptance of the social order as it was.  God, people said, would fix everything soon.  My spiritual heroes, however, include those who, compelled by the love of Christ, have confronted society (as Hebrew prophets did) and changed it frequently.  Thus I admire Abolitionists and modern Civil Rights activists, for example.  Their legacies tell me not to wait, but to speak up–to refuse to consent to injustice when I perceive it.  And much injustice is economic.  The ruthless still exploit the poor.  Too often a living wage is nothing more than a dream for many while corporate profit margins swell.  There is enough for everyone to have enough in God’s economy.  Artificial scarcity is a sin of human economics, however.

God is watching us.  When God judges the ruthless for exploiting the poor, do we want to be among the ruthless?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT:  THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BENSON POLLOCK, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PROXMIRE, UNITED STATES SENATOR

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/the-divine-preference-for-the-poor-2/

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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