Archive for the ‘April 5’ Category

Devotion for Palm/Passion Sunday, Year B (Humes)   3 comments

Above:  Icon of the Crucifixion

Image in the Public Domain

Passion Sunday

APRIL 5, 2020

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Liturgy of the Palms:

Mark 11:1-11

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

Liturgy of the Word:

Isaiah 50:4-9a

Psalm 31:9-16

Philippians 2:1-13

Mark 15:1-47

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The two options for this Sunday are to focus on the Triumphal Entry and to treat it as the précis of Holy Week through Good Friday.  The Humes lectionary follows the second path.

Devotions for Palm/Passion Sunday have something in common with graduation speeches; they risk all sounding the same.  I, having written many devotions for Palm/Passion Sunday, know how little one can write for this day without becoming repetitive.

Therefore, I ask you, O reader, to do something perhaps difficult for you.  Read all the assigned readings aloud or listen attentively while someone else reads them.  Experience these texts as most people who have experienced them have done so–audibly.  Focus not on any particular line or on a few verses, but on the whole.  As you listen, let the texts form you.  Then go and live and think accordingly.

Pax vobiscum!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM OF VERCELLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT; AND SAINT JOHN OF MATERA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINGO HENARES DE ZAFIRA CUBERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PHUNHAY, VIETNAM, AND MARTYR; SAINT PHANXICÔ DO VAN CHIEU, VIETNAMESE ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR; AND SAINT CLEMENTE IGNACIO DELGADO CEBRIÁN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR IN VIETNAM

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/06/25/passion-sunday/

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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 Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Loving Like Jesus

APRIL 5, 2020

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 16:1-3

Psalm 103:15-18

1 John 2:7-11, 15-17

John 16:16-33

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The Gospel of John makes plain many points regarding Jesus.  Among them is that he was the Passover lamb that fateful Passover, the annual commemoration of God’s deliverance of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt.

In John 16:33 Jesus, comforting his Apostles, says,

In the world you face persecution.  But take courage, I have conquered the world!

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Then, shortly later, he went off to die at the brutal hands of the Roman Empire.

Jesus as either delusional or accurate.  From a flawed, human perspective, he was the former.  Jesus was actually accurate, of course.  He modeled love–selfless and sacrificial love, such as that extolled in 1 John 2–to the end.  And, of course, there was the resurrection.

We who call ourselves Christians have a mandate from God to love radically, selflessly, and sacrificially.  We have orders to follow our teacher and to pursue a course higher than the ones we see held in esteem in society.  We have an obligation to do this without grumbling or any form of negativity.  We have a responsibility to pursue our divine vocation while trusting in God, through whom Jesus conquered the world.

The world does not seem conquered by Jesus, does it?  Nevertheless, God is in control; may we remember that.  God has purposes we cannot comprehend and tactics impossible for us to grasp.  Our duty is to love like Jesus.  May we, by grace, fulfill our duty before God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 9, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBA OF IONA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF GERHARD GIESCHEN, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHANN FRANCK, HEINRICH HELD, AND SIMON DACH, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF THOMAS JOSEPH POTTER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/06/09/loving-like-jesus/

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Devotion for Palm Sunday (Year D)   1 comment

entry-into-jerusalem-giotto

Above:  Entry Into Jerusalem, by Giotto

Image in the Public Domain

The Sin of Religious Violence

APRIL 5, 2020

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 11:1-17 or Isaiah 43:8-15

Psalm 94 or 35

John 8:48-59

Romans 1:8-15 (16-17) 18-32; 2:1-11 or Galatians 6:1-6 (7-16) 17-18

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Accuse my accuser of Yahweh,

attack my attackers.

–Psalm 35:1, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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That verse summarizes much of Psalms 35 and 94.  The plea of the persecuted for God to smite their enemies, although understandable and predictable, but it is inconsistent with our Lord and Savior’s commandment to love our enemies and to pray for our persecutors (Matthew 5:43).  Sometimes divine smiting of evildoers is a necessary part of a rescue operation, for some persecutors refuse to repent.  Nevertheless, I suspect that God’s preference is that all people repent of their sins and amend their lives.

We read in Deuteronomy 11 (placed in the mouth of Moses long after his death) of the importance of following divine laws–or else.  Then, in Isaiah 43, set in the latter phase of the Babylonian Exile, which, according to the Biblical narrative, resulted from failure to obey that law code, we read of impending deliverance by God from enemies.  Both readings remind us of what God has done for the Hebrews out of grace.  Grace, although free, is never cheap, for it requires a faithful response to God.  We are free in God to serve God, not be slaves to sin.  We are free in God to live as vehicles of grace, not to indulge inappropriate appetites.  We are free in God to lay aside illusions of righteousness, to express our penitence, and to turn our backs on–to repent of–our sins.

This is a devotion for Palm Sunday.  We read in John 8 that some Jews at Jerusalem sought to stone Jesus as a blasphemer (verse 59).  I suppose that they thought they were acting in accordance with Leviticus 24:10-23.  Later in the Fourth Gospel (Chapters 18 and 19) certain religious authority figures are complicit in his death–as a scapegoat (11:47-53).

This desire to kill those who offend our religious sensibilities strongly is dangerous for everyone.  It is certainly perilous for those who suffer because of it.  Furthermore, such violence causes spiritual harm to those who commit it.  And what if one’s judgment is wrong?  One has committed a most serious offense before God.  This tendency toward religious violence exists in various traditions, has a shameful past and an inexcusable present reality, and does nothing inherently to glorify God.  In fact, it detracts from the glory of God.  That God can work through such abominations committed in His name testifies to divine sovereignty.  Exhibit A is the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN NITSCHMANN, SR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; DAVID NITSCHMANN, JR., THE SYNDIC, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, THE MARTYR, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CECIL FRANCES ALEXANDER, POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN LUDWIG BRAU, NORWEGIAN MORAVIAN TEACHER AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD OF LUCCA; AND JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/the-sin-of-religious-violence/

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

Parliament Buildings 1916

Above:  The Parliament Buildings in Ottawa on February 4, 1916

Image in the Public Domain

Image Source = The New York Times, February 13, 1916

Partners of God

APRIL 4 and 5, 2019

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The Collect:

Creator God, you prepare a new way in the wilderness,

and your grace waters our desert.

Open our hearts to be transformed by the new thing you are doing,

that our lives may proclaim the extravagance of your love

given to all through 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 29

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 43:1-7 (Thursday)

Isaiah 43:8-15 (Friday)

Psalm 126 (Both Days)

Philippians 2:19-24 (Thursday)

Philippians 2:25-3:1 (Friday)

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When the LORD restored Zion

it was as though we were dreaming.

We could not speak for laughing,

we could only utter cries of joy.

Then the saying arose among the nations,

“The LORD has done something great with these people.”

The LORD has done something great with us;

we were delighted.

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Restore us again, Lord,

as streams refresh the dry south.

Those who sow in tears

will reap with shouts of joy.

Whoever weeps as he walks along his furrow

carrying a handful of seed

will surely come here in joy

carrying his sheaves of corn.

–Psalm 126, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)

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Psalm 126 probably dates to the post-exilic period, which did not live up to its billing elsewhere in the Bible.  The text indicates both thanksgiving to God and awareness that circumstances could be better.

That description applies well to contemporary circumstances, both collective and individual, does it not?  Yes, we have a plethora of reasons for gratitude to God, but we also have a host of problems.  Other people created many of them, but we must live with them.  The fact that we live in societal settings means that what we do affects others and that what others do affects us.  We pay for many of the mistakes of other people, therefore.  Sometimes we pay for the errors of our ancestors, whose legacies are not entirely positive.  I can trace some of the positive and negative influences on my life as far back as two of my great-grandfathers, for example.

On the positive side, God calls us to care for and about each other.  God has modeled this commandment frequently, in instances from the Bible and elsewhere, from antiquity to the present day.  We read one example of it in Isaiah 43:1-15, a prophecy of the end of the Babylonian Exile.  We find an example of the imprisoned St. Paul the Apostle expressing his concern for the church at Philippi, a congregation he had founded, and announcing the impending arrival of two of his fellow workers in Christ.

Yes, we have reasons for concern as well as for gratitude to God, but this reality does not excuse inaction when positive action is justified.  We human beings are supposed to support each other in positive pursuits, as God defines them.  If we do this, we will improve some of the circumstances over which we have justifiable concerns.  If we do this, we will act as partners of God, who is always the senior partner.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS COTTERILL, ENGLISH PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CALABRIA, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE POOR SERVANTS AND THE POOR WOMEN SERVANTS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH MOHR, AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/12/04/partners-of-god/

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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 5, 2018

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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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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

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