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, JUNE 3, 2017

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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, JUNE 1, 2017, and FRIDAY, JUNE 2, 2017

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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

MONDAY, MAY 29, 2014

TUESDAY, MAY 30, 2014

WEDNESDAY, MAY 31, 2014

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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 26, 2017, and SATURDAY, MAY 27, 2017

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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)   5 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

THURSDAY, MAY 10, 2018

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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, MAY 22, 2017

TUESDAY, MAY 23, 2017

WEDNESDAY, MAY 24, 2017

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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, MAY 18, 2017

FRIDAY, MAY 19, 2017

SATURDAY, MAY 20, 2017

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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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