Archive for the ‘Episcopal Church Lectionary’ Category

Forty-Ninth Day of Easter   8 comments

Above:  Saint John the Evangelist

Dying Later Yet Glorifying God Now

May 27, 2023


Acts 28:16-20, 30-31 (Revised English Bible):

When we entered Rome Paul was allowed to lodge privately, with a soldier in charge of him.  Three days later he called together the local Jewish leaders, and when they assembled, he said to them,

My brothers, I never did anything against our people or against the customs of our forefathers; yet I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans.  They examined  me would have liked to release me because there was no capital charge against me; but the Jews objected, and I had no option but to appeal to Caesar; not that I had any accusation to bring against my own people.  This is why I have asked to talk to you; it is for loyalty to the hope of Israel that I am in chains.

He stayed there two full years at his own expense, with a welcome for all who came to to him; he proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught the facts about the Lord Jesus Christ quite openly and without hindrance.

Psalm 11 (Revised English Bible):

In the LORD I take refuge.  How can you say to me,

Flee like a bird to the mountains;

for see, the wicked string their bows

and fit the arrow to the bowstring,

to shoot from the darkness at honest folk?

When foundations are undermined,

what can the just person do?

The LORD is in his holy temple;

the LORD’s throne is in heaven.

His gaze is upon mankind, his searching eye tests them.

The LORD weighs just and unjust,

and he hates all who love violence.

He will rain fiery coals and brimstone on the wicked;

scorching winds will be the portion they drink.

For the LORD is just and loves just dealing;

his face is turned towards the upright.

John 21:20-25 (Anchor Bible):

Then Peter turned around and noticed that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following (the one who had leaned back against Jesus’ chest during the supper and said,

Lord, who is the one will betray you?)

Seeing him, Peter was prompted to ask Jesus,

But Lord, what about him?

Jesus replied,

Suppose I would like him to remain until I come, how does that concern you?  Your concern is to follow me.

This is how the word got around among all the brothers that this disciple was not going to die.  As a matter of fact, Jesus never told him that he was going to die; all he said was:

Suppose I would like him to remain until I come [how does that concern you?

It is this same disciple who is the witness to these things; it is he who wrote these things; and his testimony, we know, is true.

Still, there are many other things that Jesus did.  Yet, were they ever to be written down in detail, I doubt that there would be room enough in the whole world for the books to record them.

The Collect:

O Lord, when your Son ascended into heaven he sent down upon the Apostles the Holy Spirit, as he had promised, that they might comprehend the mysteries of the kingdom:  Distribute among us also, we pray, the gifts of the selfsame Spirit, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Paul arrived in Rome, spent a few years, and taught openly–until he died by beheading during the reign of the Emperor Nero.  John the Evangelist had many opportunities to become a martyr, suffered much violence and many humiliations, and yet died of natural causes as an elderly man.  The call of God to some people includes martyrdom, sooner or later.  For others the spiritual vocation permits dying of natural causes.  Common to all the above, however, is glorifying God in one’s life.  The consequences this will have on one depends on where and when one lives.

Yet there will be a personal cost.  That much is certain.  We will have to give something up.  We will become obligated to live disciplined lives and permit God to reorganize our priorities.  And we will need to lay any rivalries aside.


Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 9, 2010


Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2023, Episcopal Church Lectionary, May 27

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Forty-Eighth Day of Easter   12 comments

“Follow Me.”

May 26, 2023


Acts 25:13-25 (Revised English Bible):

Some days later King Agrippa and Bernice arrived an Caesarea on a courtesy visit to Festus.  They spent some time there, and during their stay Festus raised Paul’s case with the king.

There is a man here,

he said,

left in custody by Felix; and when I was in Jerusalem the chief priests and elders of the Jews brought a charge against him, demanding his condemnation.  I replied that it was not Roman practice to hand a man over before he had been confronted with his accusers and given an opportunity of answering the charge.  So when they had come here with me I lost no time, but took my seat in court the very next day and ordered the man to be brought before me.  When his accusers rose to speak, they brought none of the charges I was expecting; they merely had certain points of religion, and about someone called Jesus, a dead man whom Paul alleged to be alive.  Finding myself out of depth in such discussions, I asked if he was willing to go to Jerusalem an stand trial on these issues.  But Paul appealed to be remanded in custody for his imperial majesty’s decision, and I ordered him to be detained until I could send him to the emperor.

Psalm 103:1-2, 19-22 (Revised English Bible):

Bless the LORD, my soul;

with all my being I bless his holy name.

Bless the LORD, my soul,

and forget none of his benefits.

The LORD has established his throne in heaven,

his kingly power over the whole world.

Bless the LORD, you his angels,

mighty in power, who do his bidding and obey his command.

Bless the LORD, all you his hosts;

his ministers who do his will.

Bless the LORD, all created things,

everywhere in his dominion.

Bless the LORD, my soul.

John 21:15-19 (Anchor Bible):

When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus addressed Simon Peter,

Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?

He said,

Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.

Jesus told him,

Then feed my lambs.

A second time Jesus repeated the question,

Simon, son of John, do you love me?

He said,

Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.

Jesus told him,

Then tend my sheep.

For the third time Jesus asked,

Simon, son of John, do you love me?

Peter was hurt because Jesus had asked for the third time,

Do you love me?

So he said to him,

Lord, you know everything; you know well that I love you.

Jesus told him,

Then feed my little sheep.  Truly I assure you, when you were a young man, you used to fasten your own belt and set off for wherever you wished.  But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.

(What he said indicated the sort of death by which Peter was to glorify God.)  After these words, Jesus told him,

Follow me

The Collect:

O loving Father, grant that your Church, being gathered by your Holy Spirit, may be dedicated more fully to your service, and live united in your love, according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Peter had denied Jesus three times before the crucifixion.  And he affirmed Jesus three times after the resurrection.  Yet there is more taking place in the reading from the Johannine Gospel.

The verbs for “love” vary slightly in the Greek language.  Commentaries I have consulted note this fact without assigning any significance to it, stating that these are synonyms, while noting that ancient and modern scholars have understood the different Greek words as being important.  Anyhow, the first two times Jesus and Peter converse Jesus asks if Peter has agape love for him, and Peter replies that he has phileo love for Jesus.  Agape is unconditional, sacrificial love–the kind of love God has for us.  Agape comes from the agapan, which is what John uses in the text.  (Agapan can mean “to prefer or to esteem.”)  Phileo is friendship and affection, which indicates passion, not preference.  The third time, however, Jesus asked if Peter had phileo love for him, and Peter replied that he had phileo love for Jesus.

So, if one assumes that differing Greek words indicate more than the use of synonyms, here is what the Johannine Gospel depicts.  The first two times Jesus asked Peter, “Do you prefer me to fishing and fishing boats?” and Peter’s replies indicated passion in the sense of friendship and brotherly love.  The third time, however, Jesus and Peter referred to phileo love.

Yet, as scholars of the Fourth Gospel indicate, that work uses agape (and its linguistic variations) and phileo (and its linguistic variations) interchangeably.

As a devotional exercise, however, I ask you, O reader, a spiritual question:  Do you have mere affection for Jesus, or do you prefer him to the alternatives in your life?  Follow the question wherever the Holy Spirit leads.

(Thanks to Father Raymond E. Brown’s commentary on John in sorting out Greek words, by the way.)

Both Peter and Paul became martyrs–Peter by crucifixion.  Considering himself unworthy to die as Jesus did, he was crucified upside-down.

The account from Acts becomes more understandable if one knows who these people were.  Herod Agrippa II was a client king within the Roman Empire.  Think of the British rule in India through 1947; London ruled parts of the subcontinent directly and others through natives.  Rome followed the same practice in the Holy Land.  Herod Agrippa II (reigned 53-100) was a great-grandson of Herod the Great (d. 4 B.C.E.), who had ordered the infamous massacre of the Holy Innocents.  Herod Agrippa II “ruled” part of his great-grandfather’s territory and was incestuous with Bernice, his sister, who went on to become the mistress of the Roman Emperor Titus (reigned 79-81).  Also, this Herod appointed the high priest.

Festus was the new Roman governor of Judea.  The author of Luke-Acts depicts him as a conscientious man who tried to follow the letter of the law, rule honorably, and clean up messes inherited from Felix, his predecessor.  Paul did not convince either Festus or Herod Agrippa II of the rightness of his cause, but, as Herod observed, Paul could have been freed if he had not asserted his right as a Roman citizen to appeal to the Emperor, who, unfortunately, was Nero (reigned 54-68).  (Yet Paul had a divine mandate to go to Rome.)  At Rome Paul met his death by beheading, although Acts ends before that event.

Paul preferred Jesus to the alternatives in his life.  And, at his end, so did Peter.


Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 9, 2010

Forty-Seventh Day of Easter   12 comments

God With Us

May 25, 2023


Acts 22:30; 23:6-11 (Revised English Bible):

The following day, wishing to be quite sure what charge the Jews were bringing against Paul, he [the commandant] released him and ordered the chief priests and the entire Council to assemble.  He then brought Paul down to stand before them.

Well aware that one section of them were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, Paul called out in the Council,

My brothers, I am a Pharisee, a Pharisee born and bred; and the issue in this trial is our hope of the resurrection of the dead.

At these words the Pharisees and the Sadducees fell out among themselves, and the assembly was divided.  (The Sadducees deny that there is any resurrection or angel or spirit, but the Pharisees believe in all three.)  A great uproar ensued; and some of the scribes belonging to the Pharisaic party openly took sides and declared,

We find no fault with this man; perhaps an angel or spirit has spoken to him.

In the mounting dissension, the commandant was afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces, so he ordered the troops to go down, pull him out of the crowd, and bring him into the barracks.

The following night the Lord appeared to him and said,

Keep up your courage!  You have affirmed the truth about me in Jerusalem, and you must do the same in Rome.

Psalm 16:5-11 (Revised English Bible):

LORD, you are my allotted portion and my cup;

you maintain my boundaries:

the lines fall for me in pleasant places;

I am well content with my inheritance.

I shall bless the LORD who has given me counsel:

in the night he imparts wisdom to my inmost being.

I have set the LORD before me at all times:

with him at my right hand I cannot be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad

and my spirit rejoices,

my body too rests unafraid;

for you will not abandon me to Sheol

or suffer your faithful servant to see the pit.

You will show me the path of life;

in your presence is the fullness of joy,

at your right hand are pleasures for evermore.

John 17:20-26 (Anchor Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Yet it is not for these alone that I pray but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they all may be one, just as you, Father, in me and I in you, that they also may be [one] in us.  Thus the world may be brought to completion as one.  Thus the world may come to know that you sent me and that you loved them even as you loved me.  Father, they are your gift to me; and where I am, I wish them to be one with me, that they may see my glory which you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.  O Father most just, while the world did not know you (though I knew you), these men came to know that you sent me.  And to them  I made known your name; and I will continue to make it known so that the love you had for me may be in them and I may be in them.

The Collect:

O Lord, when your Son ascended into heaven he sent down upon the Apostles the Holy Spirit, as he had promised, that they might comprehend the mysteries of the kingdom:  Distribute among us also, we pray, the gifts of the selfsame Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


As I ponder these readings I conclude that the most eloquent statement concerning their central theme comes from Robert Lowery (1826-1899).  So I share with you the words of one of his hymns, which I found in With One Voice:  A Lutheran Resource for Worship (1995), a supplement to the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978).


1.  My life flows on in endless song;

above earth’s lamentation,

I catch the sweet, though far-off hymn

that hails a new creation.


No storm can shake my inmost calm

while to that Rock I’m clinging.

Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,

how can I keep from singing?

2.  Through all the tumult and the strife,

I hear that music ringing.

It finds an echo in my soul.

How can I keep from singing?


3.  What though my joys and comforts die?

The Lord my Savior liveth.

What though the darkness gather found?

Songs in the night he giveth.


4.  The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,

a fountain ever springing!

All things are mine since I am his!

How can I keep from singing?


(And there is another verse with references to persecutions from the era of McCarthyism in the United States.–KRT)

In prison cell and dungeon vile

our thoughts to them are winging,

when friends by shame are undefiled

how can I keep from singing?


Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 9, 2010

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2023, Episcopal Church Lectionary, May 25

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Forty-Sixth Day of Easter   7 comments

Consecrated in Truth

May 24, 2023


Acts 20:28-38 (Revised English Bible):

[Paul concluded,]

Keep guard over yourselves and over all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has given you charge, as shepherds of the church of the Lord, which he won for himself by his own blood.  I know that when I am gone, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.  Even from your own number men will arise who will distort the truth in order to get disciples to break away and follow them.  So be on the alert; remember how with tears  I never ceased to warn each one of you night and day for three years.

And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which has power to build you up and give you your heritage among all those whom God has made his own.  I have not wanted to anyone’s money or clothes for myself; you all know that these hands of mine earned enough for the needs of myself and my companions.  All along I showed you that it is our duty to help the weak in this way, by hard work, and that we should keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, who himself said, ‘Happiness lies more in giving than receiving.’

As he finished speaking, he knelt down with them all and prayed.  There were loud cries of sorrow from them all, as they folded Paul in their arms and kissed him; what distressed them most was his saying that they would never see his face again.  Then they escorted him to the ship.

Psalm 68:28-35 (Revised English Bible):

God, set your might to work,

the divine might which you have wielded for us.

Kings will bring you gifts

for the honour of your temple in Jerusalem.

Rebuke those wild beasts of the reeds,

that herd of bulls, the bull-calf warriors of the nations,

who bring bars of silver and prostrate themselves.

Scatter these nations which delight in war.

Envoys will come from Egypt;

Nubia will stretch out her hands to God.

You kingdoms of the world, sing praises to God,

make music to the Lord,

to him who rides on the heavens, the ancient heavens.

Listen!  He speaks in the mighty thunder.

Ascribe might to God, whose majesty is over Israel,

Israel’s pride and might throned in the skies.

Awesome is God in your sanctuary;

he is Israel’s God.

He gives might and power to his people.

Praise be to God.

John 17:11b-19 (Anchor Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

O Father most holy, keep them safe with your name which you have given to me [that they may be one, just as we]. As long as I was with them, I kept them safe with your name which you have given to me.  I kept watch and not one of them perished, except the one destined to perish–in order to have the Scripture fulfilled.  But now I am coming to you, that they may share my joy to the full.  I have given them to your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world [anymore than I belong to the world].  I am not asking you to take them out of the world but to keep them safe from the Evil One.  They do not belong to the world, anymore than I belong to the world.  Consecrate them in the truth–’Your word is truth’; for as you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.  And it is for them that I consecrate myself, in order that they too may be consecrated in truth.

The Collect:

O God, by the glorification of Jesus Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit you have opened for us the gates of your kingdom:  Grant that we, who have received such great gifts, may live more fully the riches of our faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


We who claim the name of Jesus need to be consecrated to truth and not to be “savage wolves” or subject to them.  Who are these wolves?  They are legion, with a host of agendas.  These include hating then destroying or seeking to destroy those whose only offense is to be different, especially theologically or culturally.  Some “savage wolves” prey upon the innocence of children or youth, using power to exploit the vulnerable.  Other “savage wolves” preach that we need not try to help the needy and powerless, despite the witness of Jesus and the Jewish prophets.  Still others deny the natural rights of those they dislike for one reason or another.  More mundane “savage wolves” use their positions of formal or informal authority or influence to bolster their weak egos and/or satisfy their self-serving needs, often on a congregational level.  (It is a rare congregation which lacks at least one such wolf.)

Our model is Jesus, or at least our model is supposed to be Jesus.  He came to serve, not to be served.  He was selfless and obedient to God.  And we should be, also.  We can be, by grace.


Posted originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 9, 2010

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2023, Episcopal Church Lectionary, May 24

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Forty-Fifth Day of Easter   7 comments

“The Son of Man came to serve…..”

Doing the Lord’s Work

May 23, 2023


Acts 20:17-27 (Revised English Bible):

He [Paul] did, however, send from Miletus to Ephesus and summon the elders of the church.  When they joined him, he spoke to them as follows.

You know how, from the day that I first set foot in the province of Asia, I spent my whole time with you, serving the Lord in all humility amid the sorrows and trials that came upon me through the intrigues of the Jews.  You know that I kept back nothing that was for your good:  I delivered the message to you, and taught you, in public and in your homes; with Jews and Gentiles alike I insisted on repentance before God and faith in our Lord Jesus.  Now, as you see, I am constrained by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem.  I do not know what will befall me there, except that in city after city the Holy Spirit assures me that imprisonment and hardships await me.  For myself, I set no store by life; all I want is to finish the race, and complete the task which the Lord Jesus assigned to me, that of bearing my testimony to the gospel of God’s grace.

One thing more:  I have gone about among you proclaiming the kingdom, but now I know that none of you will ever see my face again.  That being so, I here and now declare that no one’s fate can be laid at my door; I have held back nothing; I have disclosed to you the whole purpose of God.

Psalm 68:9-10, 17-20 (Revised English Bible):

You, God, send plenteous rain;

when your own land languishes you restore it.

There your people settled;

in your goodness, God, you provide for the poor.

There are myriads of God’s chariots,

thousands upon thousands,

when the Lord came in holiness from Sinai.

You went up to your dwelling-place on high

taking captives into captivity;

everyone brought you tribute;

no rebel could live in the presence of the LORD God.

Blessed is the Lord:

he carries us day by day,

God our salvation.

Our God is a God who saves;

to the LORD God belongs all escape from death.

John 17:1-11a (Anchor Bible):

After these words Jesus looked up to heaven and said:

Father, the hour has come: glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you–inasmuch as you granted him power over all men that he might grant eternal life to all you have given him.  And eternal life consists in this:  that they know you, the one true God and Jesus Christ, the one whom you sent.  I glorified you on earth by completing the work you have given me to do; so now glorify me, Father, in your presence with that glory which I had with you before the world existed.  I revealed your name to the men whom you gave me out of the world.  They were yours and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.  Now they have come to know that from you comes all that you have given to me.  For the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them.  And they knew in truth that I came forth from you, and they believed that you sent me.  It is on their behalf that I pray.  I do not pray for the world but for those whom you have given me, since they really belong to you (just as all that is mine is yours and all that is yours is mine), and it is in them that I have been glorified.  I am no longer in the world; but while I am coming to you, they are still in the world.

The Collect:

O God, by the glorification of Jesus Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit you have opened for us the gates of your kingdom:  Grant that we, who have received such great gifts, may dedicate ourselves more diligently to your service, and live more fully the riches of our faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


So, what is the good news?  Jesus suffered and died partially because that was the trajectory of his life.  Paul obeyed God, knowing that hardships and imprisonments awaited him.  And before that, many Hebrew prophets obeyed God at great cost.  Discipleship can be a difficult vocation and costly proposition.

Yet it overlaps with eternal life, which is knowing God via Jesus.  Living for oneself might lead to ease and comfort, but living for God is a high calling.  Also, one must do the right thing for the correct reason, so obeying God in hope of a heavenly reward is inferior to doing to the right thing because it is the right thing to do.  Obedience to God is its own reward.  And that should be enough.


Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 9, 2010

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2023, Episcopal Church Lectionary, May 23

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Forty-Fourth Day of Easter   9 comments

Christ the Victorious

“I have conquered the world.”–Jesus

May 22, 2023


Acts 19:1-8 (Revised English Bible):

While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul travelled through the inland regions till he came to Ephesus, where he found a number of disciples.  When he asked them,

Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?

they replied,

No, we were not even told that there is a Holy Spirit.

He asked,

Then what baptism were you given?

They answered,

John’s baptism.

Paul said,

The baptism that John gave was a baptism in token of repentance, and he told the people to put their trust in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.

On hearing this they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus; and when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them and they spoke in tongues of ecstasy and prophesied.  There were about a dozen men in all.

During the next three months he attended the synagogue and with persuasive argument spoke boldly about the kingdom of God.  When some proved obdurate and would not believe, speaking evil of the new way before the congregation, he withdrew from them, taking the disciples with him, and continued to hold discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.  This went on for two years with the result that the whole population of the province of Asia, both Jews and Gentiles, heard the word of the Lord.

Psalm 68:1-8 (Revised English Bible):

May God arise and his enemies he scattered,

and those hostile to him flee at his approach.

You disperse them like smoke;

you melt them like wax near fire.

The wicked perish at the presence of God,

but the righteous are joyful;

they exult before God

with gladness and rejoicing.

Sing praises of God, raise a psalm to his name;

extol him who rides on the clouds.

The LORD is his name, exult before him,

a father to the fatherless, the widow’s defender–

God in his holy dwelling-place.

God gives the friendless a home

and leads the prisoner out in all safety,

but rebels must remain in the scorching desert.

God, when at the head of your people

you marched out through the barren waste,

earth trembled, rain poured from the heavens

before God the Lord of Sinai, before God the God of Israel.

John 16:28-33 (Anchor Bible):


his disciples exclaimed,

at last you are speaking plainly, without figures of speech!  Now we know that you know everything–you do not even need that a person ask you questions.  Because of this we believe that you came forth from God.

Jesus answered them,

So now you believe?  Why, an hour is coming–indeed has already come–for you to be scattered, each on his own, leaving me all alone because the Father is with me.  I have said this to you so that in me you find peace.  In the world you find something, but have courage: I have conquered the world.

The Collect:

O God, by the glorification of Jesus Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit you have opened for us the gates of your kingdom:  Grant that we, who have received such great gifts , may dedicate ourselves more diligently to your service, and give more fully the riches of our faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


I have conquered the world.

The Johannine Gospel places these words in Jesus’ mouth shortly before his apprehension, torture, and execution.  This seems an unusual statement to make immediately before such an event.  Yet, given the narrative of John’s Gospel, it makes sense.  In that book the glorification of Jesus was his crucifixion and he was in control all along.  This is the fully human and fully divine Jesus with an accent on divinity.

Christianity conquered the Roman Empire, which executed Jesus, who rose from the dead and defeated death.  And no power has been able to extinguish the Christian message.  Many have tried, and none have succeeded.  Legend states that as Julian the Apostate, the last non-Christian Roman Emperor died, he said,

You have conquered, O Galilean.



Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 9, 2010

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2023, Episcopal Church Lectionary, May 22

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Forty-Second Day of Easter   9 comments

Above:  A Carthusian Monk at Prayer

Intimacy with God

May 20, 2023


Acts 18:23-28 (Revised English Bible):

After some time there [Antioch] he [Paul] set out again on a journey through the Galatian country and then through Phrygia, bringing new strength to all the disciples.

There arrived at Ephesus a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, powerful in his use of the scriptures.  He had been instructed in the way of the Lord and was full of spiritual fervour; and in his discourses he taught accurately the facts about Jesus, though the only baptism he knew was John’s.  He now began to to speak boldly in the synagogue, where Priscilla and Aquila heard him; they took him in hand and expounded the way to him in greater detail.  Finding that the wanted to go across to Achaia, the congregation gave him their support, and wrote t the disciples there to make him welcome.  From the time of his arrival, he was very helpful to those who had by God’s grace become believers, for he strenuously confuted the Jews, demonstrating publicly from the scriptures that the Messiah is Jesus.

Psalm 93 (Revised English Bible):

The LORD has become King,

clothed with majesty;

the LORD is robed, girded with might.

The earth is established immovably;

your throne is established from of old.

from all eternity you are God.

LORD, the great deep lifts up,

the deep lifts up its voice;

the deep lifts up its crashing waves.

Mightier than the sound of great waters,

mightier than the breakers of the sea,

mighty on high is the LORD.

Your decrees stand firm,

and holiness befits your house,

LORD, throughout the ages.

John 16:23b-28 (Anchor Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Truly I assure you, if you ask anything of the Father, He will give it to you in my name.  Until now you have asked nothing in my name.  Ask and you shall receive that your joy may be full.  I have said this to you about the Father in plain words.  On that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say that I shall have to petition the Father for you.  For the Father loves you Himself because you have loved me and have believed that I came forth from God.  [I came forth from the Father] and I have come into the world.  Now I am leaving the world and I am going back to the Father.

The Collect:

O loving Father, grant that your Church, being gathered by your Holy Spirit, may be dedicated more fully to your service, and live united in love, according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


The reading from John speaks of intimacy with God via Jesus.  Implicit in this understanding is that one will make only proper petitions of God since one has pious priorities, so God will respond favorably to these requests.  The deepest and most meaningful aspect of this gospel lection, though, is spiritual intimacy with God, who although other and beyond metaphor, has drawn near to human beings.  We can relate to God and have a partial understanding of God because God has made this possible.  And we have the historical example of God incarnate in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

Through Jesus we have direct access to God.  So no mediators are necessary, which is not to say that they do not exist.  We humans ask those whom we can see to pray for us.  Growing up United Methodist, I thought nothing of doing this yet objected to asking saints, members of the Church Triumphant, to pray for me.  Yet there is no difference between asking a person on Earth to pray for me and requesting a saint in Heaven to intercede on my behalf.  And I have done both.

Intimacy with God and an offshoot, understanding the essentials of faith, deepen with time.  This day’s reading from Acts introduces us to Apollos, an early Christian evangelist.  At this point in the story he had a partial understanding of baptism.  Yet Priscilla and Aquila informed him of what he did not yet know.  One lesson I draw from this is that we humans need to support each other in our journeys in faith, encouraging one another in kindness and love of God, not beating each other about the proverbial head and neck with doctrine.


Posted originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 9, 2010

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2023, Episcopal Church Lectionary, May 20

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Forty-First Day of Easter   10 comments

A Street in Ancient Corinth

On Sadness and Disappointment

May 19, 2023


Acts 18:1-8 (Revised English Bible):

After this he [Paul] left Athens and went to Corinth.  There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, and his wife Priscilla; they had recently arrived from Italy because Claudius had issued an edict that all Jews should leave Rome.  Paul approached them and, because he was of the same trade, he made his home with them; they were tentmakers and Paul worked with them.  He also held discussions in the synagogue sabbath by sabbath, trying to convince both Jews and Gentiles.

Then Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, and Paul devoted himself entirely to preaching, maintaining before the Jews that the Messiah is Jesus.  When, however, they opposed him and resorted to abuse, he shook out the folds of his cloak and declared,

Your blood be on your own heads!  My conscience is clear!  From now on I shall go to the Gentiles.

With that he left, and went to the house of a worshipper of God named Titius Justus, who lived next door to the synagogue.  Crispus, the president of the synagogue, became a believer in the Lord, as did all his household; and a number of Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.

Psalm 98:1-3 (Revised English Bible):

Sing a new song to the LORD,

for he has done marvellous deeds;

for his right hand and his holy arm have won him victory.

The LORD has made his victory known;

he has displayed his saving righteousness to all the nations.

He has remembered his love for Jacob,

his faithfulness towards the house of Israel.

All the ends of the earth have seen

the victory of our God.

John 16:20-23a (Anchor Bible):

[Jesus said,]

Truly, I assure you, you will weep and go into mourning while the world will rejoice; you will be sad but your sadness will be turned into joy.  When a woman is in labor, she is sad that her hour has come.  But once the baby is born, her joy makes her forget the suffering, because a child has been born into the world! So it is with you too–you are sad now; but I shall see you again, and your hearts will rejoice with a joy that no one can take from you.  And on that day you will have no more questions to put to me.

The Collect:

O loving Father, grant that your Church, being gathered by your Holy Spirit, may be dedicated more fully to your service, and live united in love, according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Sadness and disappointment are unavoidable parts of life.  We all unfulfilled dreams.  People have disappointed us gravely, and sometimes we have failed ourselves.  At other times those we considered “our kind of people” have rejected us.

Consider the cases of Jesus and Paul.  Jesus was a few hours away from his excruciating death at the hands of the Roman Empire and aided and abetted by Jewish religious authorities.  This was quite an emotional burden to carry.  Yet he knew that what they did was not the end.  A resurrection followed.  And Paul, a Jew, faced violent rejection by some of his fellow Jews, but found Gentiles generally more receptive.  The grief and disappointment were difficult to take, but they were not the end.

As a Christian I depend primarily upon Jesus, without whom there would be no Christianity.  And as a Gentile I stand on the shoulders of Paul, a transformational figure in the faith.  They won.  Is that not reason to rejoice?


Posted originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 9, 2010

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2023, Episcopal Church Lectionary, May 19

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Fortieth Day of Easter: Feast of the Ascension   8 comments

Jesus:  Gone, Yet Still Present

May 18, 2023


Acts 1:1-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father.


he said,

is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.

So when they had come together, they asked him,

Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?

He replied,

It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said,

Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.

Psalm 47 (New Revised Standard Version):

Clap your hands, all you peoples;

shout to God with loud songs of joy.

For the LORD, the Most High, is awesome,

a great king over all the earth.

He subdued peoples under us,

and nations under our feet.

He chose our heritage for us,

the pride of Jacob whom he loves.

God has gone up with a shout,

the LORD with the shout of a trumpet.

Sing praises to God, sing praises;

sing praises to our King, sing praises.

For God is the king of all the earth;

sing praises with a psalm.

God is king over the nations;

God sits on his holy throne.

The princes of the peoples gather

as the people of the God of Abraham.

For the shields of the earth belong to God;

he is highly exalted.

Ephesians 1:15-23 (New Revised Standard Version):

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Luke 24:44-53 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said to his disciples,

These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you– that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.

Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them,

Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. See, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

The Collect:

Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.


I am convinced that words are inadequate to describe some Biblical events, and that the Ascension is among these.  Something happened, but I am not certain it was a literal ascension.  I believe, however, that, when it (whatever it was) was over, Jesus no longer physically present on the Earth.

In fiction and non-fiction narratives the teacher or mentor must exit before the students can come into their own.  Obi-Wan Kenobi had to die before Luke Skywalker could become a Jedi Knight in the original Star Wars trilogy.  And, in real life, Jesus had to leave the Earth before the Apostles could become leaders of the Christian movement and the figures we read about in Acts. Yet the Apostles were not alone; in about a week and a half they would receive the Holy Spirit, to which we have access today.

Jesus is present with us, although not in the historical sense.  Historical Jesus left the stage almost 2000 years ago.  Yet the Christ of faith has been with Christians for nearly two millennia.  And we have a call to be Jesus to each other.  I have had this experience when I have needed it the most.  You might have known divine love in this form, also.  So, Jesus is still with us.  Thanks be to God!


Posted originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 6, 2010

Thirty-Ninth Day of Easter   6 comments

Above:  Areopagus, Athens, Greece

Image Source = ajbear AKA KiltBear

Glorifying God

May 17, 2023


Acts 17:15, 22-18:1 (Revised English Bible):

He [Paul] argued in the synagogue with the Jews and gentile worshippers, and also in the city square [at Athens] every day with casual passers-by.

Paul stood up before the Council of the Areopagus and began:

Men of Athens, I see that in everything that concerns religion you are uncommonly scrupulous.  As I was going round looking at the objects of your worship, I noticed among other things an altar bearing the inscription ‘To an Unknown God.’  What you worship but do not know–this is what I now proclaim.

The God who created the world and everything in it, and who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands.  It is not because hie lacks anything that he accepts service at our hands, for he is himself the universal giver of life and breath–indeed of everything.  He created from one stock every nation of men to inhabit the whole earth’s surface.  He determined their eras in history and the limits of their territory.  They were to seek God in the hope that, groping after him, they might find him; though indeed he is not far from each one of us, for in him we live and move, in him we exist; as some of your own poets have said, ‘We are also his offspring.’  Being God’s offspring, then, we ought not to suppose that the deity is like an image in gold or silver or stone, shaped by human craftsmanship and design.  God has overlooked the age of ignorance; but now he commands men and women everywhere to repent, because he has fixed the day on which he will have the world judged, and justly judged, by a man whom he has designated; of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.

When they heard about the raising of the dead, some scoffed; others said,

We will hear you on this subject some other time.

So Paul left the assembly.  Some men joined him and became believers, including Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus; and also a woman named Damaris, with others besides.

After this he left Athens and went to Corinth.

Psalm 148:1-2, 11-14 (Revised English Bible):

Praise the LORD.

Praise the LORD from the heavens;

praise him in the heights above.

Praise him, all his angels;

praise him, all his hosts.

Let kings and all commoners,

princes and rulers over the whole earth,

youths and girls,

old and young together,

let them praise the name of the LORD,

for his name is high above all others,

and his majesty above earth and heaven.

He has exalted his people in the pride of power

and crowned with praise his loyal servants,

Israel, a people close to him.

Praise the LORD.

John 16:12-15 (Anchor Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.  When he comes, however, being the Spirit of Truth, he will guide you along the way to all truth.  For he will not speak on his own, but will speak only what he hears and will declare to you the things to come.  He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will declare to you.  Everything that the Father has is mine; that is why I said: ‘It is from me that he receives what he will declare to you.’

The Collect:

Lord God Almighty, for no merit on our part you have brought us out of death into life, out of sorrow into joy:  Put no end to your gifts, fulfill your marvelous acts in us, and grant us who have been justified by faith the strength to persevere in that faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Often, when asked why are Christians, people say that they want to go to Heaven and not to Hell.  Heaven is preferable to Hell, but if this is principally why one identifies as a Christian one’s religion is mostly or entirely self-serving.  Embedded in the Incarnation is the premise that Jesus came not to be served, but to serve.  The crucifixion is most emblematic and indicative of this service.  And Paul did not understand his Christianity as self-serving, for he suffered greatly because of his faith and actions which flowed from it.

Also, by serving and glorifying God we are supposed to draw people to God and encourage those already united with God in faith.  Thus gifts of the Holy Spirit have a communal purpose; they build up the faith community, not the individual.

The Westminster Catechisms (Larger and Shorter) state that man’s chief and highest end is “to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”  This is the most concise statement on that subject.  Enjoyment of God can take many forms, but indicates (regardless of its form) a spiritual state.  This can come only from God, who draws us more closely into the divine presence and transforms us.  St. Augustine of Hippo said, “Love God and do as you please.”  Certainly, if we love God as St. Augustine understood that thought, we will take delight only in what pleases God, so we will be able to follow our delights without fear of them leading us astray.  Now all we have to do is reach that pinnacle, by grace, of course.


Posted originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 6, 2010