Archive for the ‘Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Lectionary Year A’ Category

Devotion for the Forty-Ninth Day of Easter, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Moses with the Tablets of the Law, Rembrandt van Rijn

Above:  Moses With the Tablets of the Law, by Rembrandt Van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Wrestling With Biblical Texts

SATURDAY, MAY 30, 2020

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The Collect:

O God, on this day you open the hearts of your faithful people

by sending us your Holy Spirit.

Direct us by the light of that Spirit,

that we may have a right judgment in all things

and rejoice at all times in your peace,

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 36

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 20:1-21

Psalm 33:12-22

Matthew 5:1-12

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Shall we unpack the Ten Commandments, at least a little?

  1. Many more commandments follow immediately, starting in Exodus 20.
  2. Many of the Ten Commandments are self-explanatory, so not committing adultery against a neighbor are straight-forward, for example.
  3. Swearing falsely by the name of God refers to insincere oaths and to attempts to control God, not to certain curse words and related expressions.
  4. On the troubling side, the text classes wives with property and livestock (20:14) and allows for slavery (20:10).
  5. The commandment to have no other gods might deny the existence of other deities or mean simply not to worship them while acknowledging their existence.  Hebrew Bible scholars debate that point.  Yet I know that many Hebrews during Biblical times not only acknowledged the existence of other deities but worshiped some of them.
  6. Sometimes displaying the Ten Commandments constitutes idolatry, which intention defines.

Exodus 20:5-6 requires some explanation.  Does God really punish descendants for someone’s sins?  Or is this a description of behaviors repeated across generations?  The ultimate context in which to consider any passage of Scripture is the entire canon thereof.  Thus I point out that a note on page 149 of The Jewish Study Bible (2004) lists Deuteronomy 24:6; Jeremiah 31:29-30; and Ezekiel 18:1-20 as passages which state that God punishes a person for his or her sins alone.  This nuance helps to fill out the picture.  Sometimes Biblical authors wrote of effects as if they were divine purposes, even when they were not.  Human understandings have changed, even if God has not.

If we read Exodus 20:5-6 as descriptive and interpret it within the context of the previously listed passages from Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, a certain understanding takes shape.  One’s good and bad behaviors might echo for three or four or more generations.  I can, for example, identify positive and negative legacies from two of my paternal great-grandfathers which have affected me.  I, being aware of my responsibility for my own actions, have endeavored to keep the good and to break with the bad.  God know how successful that has proven so far.

The Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes are about, among other things, how faithful people of God ought to live with God and in community.  Depending on one’s community, living with God properly might contradict the former and lead to persecutions–even death.  The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12 and Luke 6:20-23) say that God’s order is not the dominant human one in which a person lives.  The Beatitudes are counter-cultural.  And Luke 6:24-26 (the Woes) goes beyond anything Matthew 5:3-12 indicates.  If one really reads them, one should recognize that the Beatitudes and Woes remain political hot potatoes.

One part of the honest–not autopilot–interaction with the Bible I like is that we must wrestle with texts and reconsider aspects of our opinions, culture, politics, and economics–even ones which we like and which benefit us.  This is healthy to do.  We will do it if we take the Bible seriously and seek to cut through confirmation bias and defense mechanisms.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF KATHERINA VON BORA LUTHER, WIFE OF MARTIN LUTHER

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/26/wrestling-with-biblical-texts/

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Forty-Seventh and Forty-Eighth Days of Easter, Year A (ELCA Daily Devotion)   3 comments

Cross and Crown

Above:  Cross and Crown

Image in the Public Domain

Suffering and Glory

THURSDAY, MAY 28, 2020, and FRIDAY, MAY 29, 2020

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The Collect:

O God, on this day you open the hearts of your faithful people

by sending us your Holy Spirit.

Direct us by the light of that Spirit,

that we may have a right judgment in all things

and rejoice at all times in your peace,

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 36

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 19:1-9a (47th Day)

Exodus 19:16-25 (48th Day)

Psalm 33:12-22 (Both Days)

Acts 2:1-11 (47th Day)

Romans 8:14-17 (48th Day)

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O LORD, you look down from heaven

and behold all the people in the world.

From where you sit enthroned you turn your gaze

on all who dwell on the earth.

You fashion all the hearts of them

and understand all their works.

–Psalm 33:13-15, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Take up thy cross, and follow Christ,

Nor think till death to lay it down;

For only he who bears the cross

May hope to wear the glorious crown.

–Charles W. Everest (1814-1877)

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The readings from Exodus and Acts have the flavor of prose poetry and of mystery, two things I will not attempt to minimize with regard to encounters with God.  Sometimes words prove inadequate; so be it.  May we learn as much as possible from them and embrace the divine mystery.

The Law of Moses contained rules for free people, who were all slaves of God, but no longer of the Pharaoh.  Since all the Israelites were free people, they had a day off from work, for example.  And nobody had any right to exploit another person.  This reality did not prevent exploitation, but the Law defined that violation.

If we are children of God, St. Paul the Apostle tells us down the corridors of time, we are also heirs with Christ, who suffered.  Therefore, if we are to share in his glory, we must also share in his suffering.  The last part of that formulation is not comforting, is it?  It is the part which I, as a North American Christian, am fortunate not to face as vividly in my daily life as many of my coreligionists elsewhere do in theirs.  Yet I know enough about colonial American history to be aware of Puritans hanging Quakers in New England in the 1600s and of the government of New York incarcerating unlicensed preachers in the late 1600s and early 1700s.  And I know of religious persecution around the world from the days of the Bible to today.  (Committing violence against nonviolent people does not impress me.)  I can still, regardless of circumstances, seek proper priorities and follow Christ.

At least there is good news accompanying the bad news:  Those who suffer for the sake of Christ will not do so alone; God will be with them.  And the power of God is marvelous indeed; no darkness can overcome it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF KATHERINA VON BORA LUTHER, WIFE OF MARTIN LUTHER

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/26/suffering-and-glory/

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Devotion for the Forty-Fourth, Forty-Fifth, and Forty-Sixth Days of Easter, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

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Above:  Thanksgiving Meal at Malachi’s Store House, St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, Dunwoody, Georgia, November 19, 2013

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Service and Glory

MAY 25-27, 2020

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The Collect:

O God of glory, your Son Jesus Christ suffered for us

and ascended to your right hand.

Unite us with Christ and each other in suffering and joy,

that all the world may be drawn into your bountiful presence,

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 35

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 9:1-11, 22-24 (44th Day)

Numbers 16:41-50 (45th Day)

1 Kings 8:54-65 (46th Day)

Psalm 99 (All Days)

1 Peter 4:1-6 (44th Day)

1 Peter 4:7-11 (45th Day)

John 3:31-36 (46th Day)

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The LORD is great in Zion

and is high above all peoples.

Let them confess the name of the LORD,

which is great and awesome;

the LORD is the Holy One.

–Psalm 99:2-3, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Atonement liberates those who accept it and functions as an indictment of others.  C. H. Dodd explained this well in The Founder of Christianity (1970):

In [Jesus’] words and actions he made men aware of [the kingdom of God] and challenged them to respond.  It was “good news” in the sense that it meant opportunity for a new start and an unprecedented enrichment of experience.  But when a person (or a society) has been presented with such a challenge and declines it, he is not just where he was before.  His position is the worse for the encounter.  It is this that gives point to the tremendous warnings that Jesus is reported to have uttered about the consequences of rejection….The coming of the kingdom meant the open possibility of enhancement of life; it also meant the heightening of moral responsibility.

–Page 58 of the 1970 paperback edition

Hence we have another example of the juxtaposition of judgment and mercy.

Atonement, accomplished initially by animal sacrifices and an Aaronic priesthood then by Jesus, liberates people to glorify God and serve the needs of each other–to devote themselves to God and keep divine commandments.  There are many needs and therefore a host of specific ways to accomplish this goal.  One which a certain person might consider trivial another person might find vital, so may nobody say that he or she has little or nothing to offer.  No, grace has a multiplying effect on “minor” gifts and supplies us with “major” ones.  Nothing is too mundane for serving each other and glorifying God.

Part of the responsibility which free (yet not cheap) grace imparts to us is to pass grace along.  We might not be able to see God, but we can detect each other via senses.  Although none of us can solve every problem we detect, each of us can do something to ease some of them.  Each of us an do his or her part.  May each of us prove faithful in his or her part, responding positively to the call of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF KATHERINA VON BORA LUTHER, WIFE OF MARTIN LUTHER

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/26/service-and-glory/

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

Elisha-Eliseus

Above:  Elisha

Image in the Public Domain

The Passed Torch

FRIDAY, MAY 22, 2020, and SATURDAY, MAY 23, 2020

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The Collect:

O God of glory, your Son Jesus Christ suffered for us

and ascended to your right hand.

Unite us with Christ and each other in suffering and joy,

that all the world may be drawn into your bountiful presence,

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 35

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 2:1-12 (41st Day)

2 Kings 2:13-15 (42nd Day)

Psalm 93 (All Days)

Ephesians 2:1-7 (41st Day)

John 8:21-30 (42nd Day)

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Your testimonies are very sure,

and holiness adorns your house, O LORD,

forever and forevermore.

–Psalm 93:5, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The account from 2 Kings 2:1-15 is a story of the passing of the torch from Elijah to Elisha.  The transfer of a double portion of the former’s spirit to the latter, per Deuteronomy 21:17, marked Elisha as having the status of an elder son, therefore Elijah’s legitimate successor.  And, as a careful reader of 2 Kings knows well, stories of Elisha’s mighty deeds abound.  Some of these stories resemble incidents from the Gospels, down to a feeding of a multitude (with little food available) and to restoring dead people to life.

Speaking of Jesus, his Ascension passed the torch to his Apostles, some of whose subsequent stories we read in the Acts of the Apostles.  And each Christian generation has passed the torch to the next one.

The task of serving God in a wide variety of circumstances is a challenge–one which we have grace to help us accomplish.  This grace liberates us from spiritual death and other obstacles to glorifying and enjoying God forever.  By grace we can do more  for God’s glory and the benefit of our fellow human beings than we can imagine.  By grace members of previous generations have challenged (and eventually) ended race-based chattel slavery, for example.  That multi-generational task was daunting, but that adjective describes many worthwhile efforts.  Fortunately, many other tasks from God play out within a shorter timeframe.

What, O reader, is God commanding and empowering you to do?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 19, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE NINETEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF LARS OLSEN SKRESFSRUD, LUTHERAN MISSIONARY

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/26/the-passed-torch/

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Devotion for the Fortieth Day of Easter: The Feast of the Ascension, Years A, B, and C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

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Above:  Ascension.  Olivet With Clouds, Between 1934 and 1939

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-12383

The Ascension of Jesus as Theological Poetry

MAY 13, 2021

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The Collects:

Almighty God, your Son was taken into the heavens

and in your presence intercedes for us.

Receive us and our prayers for all the world,

and in the end bring everything into your glory,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

or

Almighty God, your blessed Son, our Savior Jesus Christ,

ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things.

Mercifully give us faith to trust that, as he promised,

he abides with us on earth to the end of time,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 35

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The Assigned Readings:

Acts 1:1-11

Psalm 47 or 93

Ephesians 1:15-23

Luke 24:44-53

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God reigns over the nations;

God sits upon heaven’s holy throne.

–Psalm 47:8, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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You, O LORD, are Sovereign;

you have put on splendid apparel;

you, O LORD, have put on your apparel

and girded yourself with strength.

–Psalm 93:1, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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I file the Transfiguration, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus in the same category:

Too Marvelous and Mysterious for Words to Describe Adequately.

Something like what accounts describe happened, but one had to be there to grasp the full flavor of the event.  The words we have–the best ones possible–impart tantalizing hints of that full reality.  Thus may we not be so literal-minded as to discourage healthy religious imagination.

In the Ascension Jesus returned to God, assumed in our Lord’s culture to live above the sky.  Thus his return was metaphorically an ascension.  I have no idea how the actual mechanics worked, but they are unimportant anyway.  The mystery of clouds, long associated with God since at least the Book of Exodus, is beautiful; I have no desire to quench it.  The number forty–also a metaphor–recalls forty days of the Great Flood in Genesis, forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness, about forty years of King David’s reign, forty years in a generation, et cetera.  The number indicates a significant period of time, not necessarily more than thirty-nine and less than forty-one.

The Ascension accounts invite us to think like poets, not writers of historical accounts or technical manuals.  They tell us that Jesus is back in Heaven and that he will return someday.  They set the stage for another event in the

Too Marvelous and Mysterious for Words to Describe Adequately

category:  Pentecost.  They tell us that God is with us spiritually yet not physically, as God once was, and indicate that we have great responsibilities.

May we be good and faithful servants of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 19, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE NINETEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF LARS OLSEN SKRESFSRUD, LUTHERAN MISSIONARY

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/the-ascension-of-jesus-as-theological-poetry/

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Devotion for the Thirty-Seventh, Thirty-Eighth, and Thirty-Ninth Days of Easter, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

23820v

Above:  Thro’ the Woods, Sagamore Hill, Circa 1904

Photographer = Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-23820

The Paths of the Righteous

MONDAY-WEDNESDAY, MAY 18-20, 2020

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God,

you hold together all things in heaven and on earth.

In your great mercy, receive the prayers of all your children,

and give to all the world the Spirit of your truth and peace,

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 34

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 9:8-17 (37th Day)

Deuteronomy 5:22-33 (38th Day)

Deuteronomy 31:1-13 (39th Day)

Psalm 93 (All Days)

Acts 27:39-44 (37th Day)

1 Peter 3:8-12 (38th Day)

John 16:16-24 (39th Day)

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Mightier than the sound of many waters,

mightier than the breakers of the sea,

mightier is the LORD who dwells on high.

–Psalm 93:4, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The theme of covenant unites the Old Testament readings for these three days.  Covenant indicates an agreement and a relationship between God and human beings.  There are rules and consequences for violating them.  Many of these rules are specific to a particular culture and level of technology, so one ought to focus on the principle of which the rule is a concrete example in such cases.  The Law of Moses, with its communal focus, is clearly not a product of modern, individualistic Western culture.  Some parts (such as stoning people for a variety of infractions) we should never enforce, I propose, but bringing a communitarian ethos to Western culture would improve it.

A second unifying theme–one which runs through the New Testament lections–is that, sometimes, one’s suffering benefits others.  St. Paul the Apostle  was on the way to Rome as a prisoner.  He died there, a martyr during the reign of the tyrant Nero.  But he converted many people along the way.  The death of our Lord and Savior was certainly for the benefit of a countless number of people.  And, as 1 Peter 3:8-12 reminds us, suffering presents opportunities to exercise potentially reconciling holiness.  Reconciliation, by definition, involves more than one party agreeing to it, so sometimes one offers it and nobody accepts.  Yet the offer itself is valuable.

That reconciling spirit is one of confidence in God, not one of uncertainty and of the quest for vengeance and justice, such as we read of in many of the Psalms.  No, reconciliation overlooks justice sometimes and chooses mercy and forgiveness instead.  It is the way to peace and community building, not reaffirmation that an aggrieved individual is correct.  Reconciliation is a difficult calling, one with which I struggle, but at least that knowledge of my spiritual weakness regarding it is a good place to start.

When we are more concerned with doing the right thing for the right reason than with appearing to be correct, we are on a positive spiritual path.  When we care more about the welfare of others than with our own, we are moving in the right direction.  When we realize that we cannot be at our best if others cannot be at theirs, we see reality clearly.  When we favor community wholeness (without coercion, which is contrary to wholeness anyway) over personal gain, we grasp the fact that we humans need each other, with our differences and similarities.  And we are in a prime position to seek reconciliation (or just conciliation, in some cases).  Then, instead of pursuing selfish, destructive ends and harboring grudges, we will build each other–and therefore ourselves–up, confident that God watches over the paths of the righteous.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 19, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE NINETEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF LARS OLSEN SKRESFSRUD, LUTHERAN MISSIONARY

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/the-paths-of-the-righteous/

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Devotion for the Thirty-Third, Thirty-Fourth, and Thirty-Fifth Days of Easter, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

BambergApocalypseFolio055rNew_Jerusalem

Above:  The New Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

And the Sea Was No More

THURSDAY-SATURDAY, MAY 14-16, 2020

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God,

you hold together all things in heaven and on earth.

In your great mercy, receive the prayers of all your children,

and give to all the world the Spirit of your truth and peace,

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 34

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 6:5-22 (33rd Day)

Genesis 7:1-24 (34th Day)

Genesis 8:13-19 (35th Day)

Psalm 66:8-20 (All Days)

Acts 27:1-12 (33rd Day)

Acts 27:13-38 (34th Day)

John 14:27-29 (35th Day)

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You let enemies ride over our heads;

we went through fire and water;

but you brought us into a place of refreshment.

–Psalm 66:12, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.

–Revelation 21:1, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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Water can be scary, for it has the potential to destroy much property and end lives.  In much of the Bible water signifies chaos.  The first creation myth (Genesis 1:1-2:4a), actually not as old as the one which follows it, depicts a watery chaos as the foundation of an ordered, flat earth with a dome over it.  The lections from Genesis 6-8, being the union of of various texts (as evident in late Chapter 6 and early Chapter 7 with regard to the number of animals to take aboard the Ark), is a composite myth in which water is a force of divine destruction and recreation.  And the water is something to fear in Acts 27.  It is no accident that, in Revelation 21, the New Jerusalem has no sea; the city is free of chaos.

Professor Amy-Jill Levine, in her Teaching Company course, The Old Testament (2001), says that she does not like Noah.  He, in the story, could have tried to save lives if he had argued with God, as Abraham did, she says.  Maybe she has a valid point.  It is certainly one nobody broached in my juvenile or adult Sunday School classes, for my first encounter with the idea came via DVD recently.  Yet the story which the Biblical editor wanted us to hear was one of God’s covenant with Noah.

That theme of covenant fits well with the calm and confidence of St. Paul the Apostle en route to Rome.  He had a legal case arising from preaching (Acts 21:27 forward).  The Apostle had exercised his right as a Roman citizen to appeal directly to the Emperor (Acts 25:11).  Yet Herod Agrippa II (reigned 50-100), a client ruler of the Roman Empire, had stated that the Apostle could have gone free if he had not appealed to the Emperor (Acts 26:32), who, unfortunately, was Nero.  Anyhow, Paul’s calm and confidence during the storm on the Mediterranean Sea, with the danger on board the ship, came from a positive spiritual place.

That peace is the kind which Jesus bequeaths to us and which the world cannot give.  That peace is the sort which enables one to remain properly–seemingly foolishly, to some–confident during daunting times.  That peace carries one through the chaotic waters and the spiritual wilderness until one arrives at the New Jerusalem.  That peace is available via grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE EIGHTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY SAYERS, NOVELIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/and-the-sea-was-no-more/

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Devotion for the Thirtieth, Thirty-First, and Thirty-Second Days of Easter, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

01946v

Above:  To Sinai Via the Desert:  The Wilderness of Shur, Between 1900 and 1920

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-01946

The Challenge of Trusting God

MONDAY-WEDNESDAY, MAY 11-13, 2020

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The Collect:

Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.

Give us grace to love one another,

to follow in the way of his commandments,

and to share his risen life with all the world,

for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 34

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 13:17-22 (30th Day)

Proverbs 3:5-12 (31st Day)

Proverbs 3:13-18 (32nd Day)

Psalm 102:1-17 (All Days)

Acts 7:17-40 (30th Day)

Acts 7:44-56 (31st Day)

John 8:31-38 (32nd Day)

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You will arise and have compassion on Zion,

for it is time to have mercy upon it;

indeed, the appointed time has come.

–Psalm 102:13, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Perhaps the most daunting challenge the first generation of post-Exodus Israelites faced was overcoming the slave mentality.  The Book of Exodus is replete with accounts of people murmuring against God and Moses while waxing nostalgic for the days of servitude in Egypt.  But, as Roy Batty said in Blade Runner (1982), to be a slave is to live in fear.  And to have faith in God is to trust God, who never let the Israelites starve or die of thirst in the desert.

As the Christian saints we call the Desert Fathers and the Desert Mothers knew well, life in the barren wilderness takes away all illusions that one does not depend on God for everything.  Learning to accept dependence on God can be a difficult spiritual task, regardless if one is a former slave or if one has grown up in a culture enamored of rugged individualism.  No, in the desert one knows that all comes from God, often via people.  Thus the twin realities of dependence upon God and interdependence of people become inescapable.

God, in one Biblical metaphor, is our gracious parent–usually our father yet our mother on occasion.  Thus those who follow God are metaphorically children of God–heirs, even–and siblings of each other.  May this be the most functional of families!  May we treat each other with the respect and love which comes with the status of child of God.  May we treat God with the respect and love due such a parent.  May we learn how to trust God better and more than we do now.

Whenever someone asks if I believe in God, I assume that he or she seeks to learn if I affirm the existence of God.  The answer to that query is that I do–all of the time, in fact.  Yet, since belief (in the Biblical sense) in God is trust in God, the better question is:

Do you trust God?

My answer to that inquiry is that I do most of the time, but that I seek to improve that frequency, by grace.  The fact that I want to trust God more constitutes a good start–something upon which God can build.  Certainly such a desire is preferable to apathy or hostility to the subject.  Yet my free will alone proves insufficient.

I have learned through living that the most fruitful periods of spiritual growth for me have included difficult passages, times when I have seen dreams shattered and illusions slain, when I have had to depend on others and on God for the most basic necessities in such ways as to injure my ego.  I have emerged a spiritually stronger person, although I have no desire to repeat the process by which I arrived at that state.  Sometimes I have clung so tightly to illusions and idols that I have paid sufficient attention to God only when I have had no distractions.  The ripping away of them was traumatic sometimes, but grace abounded in their absence.   Now, years after those experiences, I seek to live in a way which indicates that I have learned the appropriate lessons.  Any extent to which I have succeeded constitutes evidence of empowering grace.

Where is God leading you, O reader?  May your time in the spiritual wilderness (we all have such times) forge you so that you resemble more closely your potential in God.  And may you emerge better suited to encouraging others to trust God, your mother and father.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE EIGHTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY SAYERS, NOVELIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/the-challenge-of-trusting-god/

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Devotion for the Twenty-Sixth, Twenty-Seventh, and Twenty-Eighth Days of Easter, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Paolo_Uccello_-_Stoning_of_St_Stephen_-_WGA23196

Above:  Stoning of Saint Stephen, by Paolo Uccello

Image in the Public Domain

Allegedly Righteous Violence

THURSDAY-SATURDAY, MAY 7-9, 2020

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The Collect:

Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.

Give us grace to love one another,

to follow in the way of his commandments,

and to share his risen life with all the world,

for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 34

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 12:1-3 (26th Day)

Exodus 3:1-12 (27th Day)

Jeremiah 26:20-24 (28th Day)

Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 (All Days)

Acts 6:8-15 (26th Day)

Acts 7:1-16 (27th Day)

John 8:48-59 (28th Day)

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Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe,

for you are my crag and my stronghold;

for the sake of your name, lead me and guide me.

Take me out the net that they have secretly set for me,

for you are my tower of strength.

Into your hands I commend my spirit,

for you have redeemed me,

O LORD, O God of truth.

–Psalm 31:3-5, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Blasphemy is a capital crime in the Law of Moses, which frowns upon perjury.  In fact, the penalty for perjury is whatever fate the falsely accused suffered or would have suffered.  So, according to the Law of Moses, the authorities stoned the wrong man in Acts 7.

The stoning of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, is just one of several accounts of violence, attempted and otherwise, of which we read in these lections.  That kind of violence–done in the name of God by heirs of Abraham (physically or spiritually or both), members of a nation God has freed more than once–is always unbecoming.  To disagree with a person is one thing, but to seek to kill him or her because of that difference is quite another.  It constitutes an attempt to prove one’s righteousness by sinful means.  Thus such an act defines as a lie that which the perpetrator seeks to affirm.

I, as a Christian, follow one who died for several reasons, among them the motivation I just mentioned.  Thus I am especially aware of the perfidy of such violence, which, unfortunately, continues.  Christians in certain Islamic countries are subject to charges of blasphemy then to execution.  Honor killings continue to occur around the world.  They seem to attract the most attention in the Western press when immigrants commit them in Western countries, but they happen daily, often without the press noticing them.  I am also aware of the long, shameful history of “Christian” violence against Jews.  Ritual washing of hands, for example, contributed to greater cleanliness among European Jews relative to other populations on the continent and therefore helped to reduce their vulnerability to the Black Death in the 1300s.  Many fearful, Anti-Semitic Gentiles blamed Jews for the plague and attacked them.  God, please save us from your alleged followers!

May mutual love and respect prevail.  And, when we disagree with someone whose presence threatens our notions of our own righteousness, may we refrain from violence.  Even if the other person is wrong, partially or entirely, that does not justify killing or attempting to kill an innocent person.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ADELAIDE, HOLY ROMAN EMPRESS

THE FEAST OF MARIANNE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/allegedly-righteous-violence/

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Devotion for the Twenty-Third, Twenty-Fourth, and Twenty-Fifth Days of Easter, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Pope_Francis_in_March_2013

Above:  His Holiness, Francis, Bishop of Rome

Image Source = casarosada.gob.ar

Good Shepherds

MONDAY-WEDNESDAY, MAY 4-6, 2020

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The Collect:

O God our shepherd, you know your sheep by name

and lead us to safety through the valleys of death.

Guide us by your voice, that we may walk in certainty and security

to the joyous feast prepared in your house,

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 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 34:17-23 (23rd Day)

Ezekiel 34:23-31 (24th Day)

Jeremiah 23:1-8 (25th Day)

Psalm 100 (All Days)

1 Peter 5:1-5 (23rd Day)

Hebrews 13:20-21 (24th Day)

Matthew 20:17-28 (25th Day)

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Know this:  The LORD alone is God;

we belong to the LORD, who made us,

we are God’s people and the sheep of God’s pasture.

–Psalm 100:2, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Sometimes the timing of the writing of these devotions astounds me.  I refer not to the fact that I drafted this post on December 9, 2013, or the reality that I am typing it on December 16, 2013.  No, that is typical of my pattern of writing ahead of schedule.  No, I mean the juxtaposition of current events in December 2013 to the content of the assigned readings.  Pope Francis has condemned unbridled capitalism (note the adjective “unbridled”) and supply-side (“trickle-down”) economics as immoral, triggering an avalanche of criticisms of him and his remarks.  Talk radio and Fox News Channel personalities are beside themselves.  The Holy Father is a Marxist, Rush Limbaugh says.  (Francis is not a Marxist.)  He has condemned an entire economic system, some say.  (The Holy Father has condemned what George H. W. Bush called “Voodoo economics” in 1980 and a culture of greed.)  But why let objective reality get in the way of a tantrum?  Pope Francis is standing in the tradition of the Hebrew prophets and Jesus, a good thing for a Pontiff to do.  All of this, in combination with the lections, reminds me of the thoughts of the late Bishop Bennett J. Sims (died in 2006) on leadership.  He favored servant leadership, that which builds up others and does not seek to control them.  This was his idea of business ethics and good government.

God will replace the predatory shepherds of Ezekiel 34:1-16 with good shepherds, the rest of that chapter says.  The sheep will benefit from the change.  1 Peter 5:1-5 encourages humility as a guide in dealing with others.  And we who follow Jesus are the sheep of his flock.  He is the Good Shepherd of a famous parable.  In his kingdom the servants are the greatest, the meek will inherit the earth, the grieving will receive comfort, the hungry will have their fill, and the poor will inherit the kingdom.  There is no artificial scarcity in God’s economics; no, there is enough for everyone to fill every need.

The facts that our world is not that reality and that the Pope’s words have sparked such an outcry indicate deeply ingrained sinfulness–spiritual blindness–especially of the type which seems leftover from reactionary Cold War politics.  Yet the prophetic words of God and of God’s servants regarding economics and human dignity stand as condemnations of those who disagree with them.  So be it.  That might open the door for repentance and conversion, the preferable subsequent course of action.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ADELAIDE, HOLY ROMAN EMPRESS

THE FEAST OF MARIANNE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/good-shepherds/

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