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

Devotion for the Twenty-First Day of Easter, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

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Above:  Shepherds and Sheep, Between 1898 and 1946

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-06366

Predatory Shepherds

SATURDAY, MAY 2, 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 34:1-16

Psalm 23

Luke 15:1-7

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The LORD is my shepherd;

I shall not be in want.

You make me lie down in green pastures

and lead me beside still waters.

–Psalm 23:1-2, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Psalm 23 and Luke 15:4-7 provide useful contrasts to the predatory “shepherds” of Ezekiel 34:1-16.  Yahweh is the Good Shepherd in Psalm 23.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd in Luke 15.  The latter material is especially familiar to me, for I have researched it recently.  There were teams of shepherds who guarded village flocks, which were assets.  One shepherd sought out a lost sheep while his coworkers guarded the others.

The “shepherds” of Ezekiel 34:1-16 were leaders of the kingdom.  They had become predators, not protectors.  They had scattered the flock and not tended to the needs of the sheep.  These bad “shepherds” had engaged in economic exploitation and official corruption.  And God was about to replace, said Ezekiel, for the benefit of the flock.

Corruption is among the leading causes of poverty, as people who live in developing countries with abundant and coveted natural resources can attest.  The discovery of oil, for example, should improve the standard of living for the masses there, but it usually benefits just a few while the majority persist in poverty because the few hoard the wealth instead of sharing it.  Greed is truly the root of all human evil and a persistent social problem.  May all agents of it either repent and convert (the preferred remedy) or fail in their perfidious plots, by the efforts of moral people who are agents of God.

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/predatory-shepherds/

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Devotion for the Nineteenth and Twentieth Days of Easter, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Finneran Source Card

Above:  A Germane Source Card from My Collection of Research Note Cards

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Liberating Grace

THURSDAY, APRIL 30, 2020, and FRIDAY, MAY 1, 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:

Exodus 2:15b-25 (19th Day)

Exodus 3:16-22; 4:18-20 (20th Day)

Psalm 23 (Both Days)

1 Peter 2:9-12 (19th Day)

1 Peter 2:13-17 (20th Day)

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You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me;

you have anointed my head with oil,

and my cup is running over.

–Psalm 23:5, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Names have power, or so many people believed in the time of Moses.  To know someone’s name was usually to have some power over that person, hence God provides more of a description than a name–and a vague one at that–in response to the query of Moses.  The transliterated Hebrew text reads:

Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh,

which is how TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) renders it.  The germane footnote in the that translation says:

Meaning of Heb. uncertain; variously translated:  “I Am That I Am”; “I Am Who I Am”; “I Will Be What I Will Be”; etc.

The relevant note in The Jewish Study Bible (2004) begins:

God’s proper name, disclosed in the next verse, is YHVH (spelled “yod-heh-vav-heh” in Heb.; in ancient times the “vav” was pronounced “w”).  But here God first tells Moses its meaning:  Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh, probably best translated as “I Will Be What I Will Be,” meaning “My nature will become evident from My actions.”

–page 111

“Ehyeh,” or “I Will Be,” is not a name that says much.  It denies opportunities to attempt to have power over God and preserves mystery while indicating how to learn about God.

Volume I (1994) of The New Interpreter’s Bible informs me that the name YHVH/YHWH derives from the Hebrew verb meaning “to be,” so:

This God is named as the power to create, the one who causes to be.  This God is the one who will be present in faithful ways to make possible what is not otherwise possible.  This God is the very power of newness that will make available new life for Israel outside the deathliness of Egypt.

–page 714

The politics of Exodus 2 and 3 is that of liberation of the oppressed from their oppressors.  God, these texts tell us, will free the Hebrews from the tyranny of the Pharaoh.  Yet I read difficult politics–that of submission to authority, regardless of its moral nature–in 1 Peter 2:13-17.  The next pericope is more chilling, for it tells slaves to obey their masters.  There have been different forms of slavery over the course of time, of course, but I propose that this, for the point I am making today, is a distinction without a difference; no form of human slavery is morally acceptable.  1 Peter comes from a time when many Christians were attempting to prove that they did not constitute a threat to the Roman Empire, which had executed the founder of their religion via crucifixion.  And many Christians thought that Jesus might return soon, so social reform or revolution was not a priority for some.

The relationship of Christians to civil authority has long been a challenging one, especially in Lutheran theology.  And the arch-conservative (racist and reactionary, really) Presbyterian Journal, which helped to give birth to the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) denomination in December 1973, spent much of the 1940s through the 1960s lambasting civil rights efforts and activists and quoting the Bible to justify Jim Crow laws.  (I have examined original copies of the publication and possess the notes to prove the statement I just made.)  The Journal writers, who called Martin Luther King, Jr., a Communist even after he had died, did not approve of his opposition to the Vietnam War either.  They, in fact, criticized in very strong terms even conscientious objectors and all forms of civil disobedience, claiming them to be contrary to Christianity.  The beating of this drum continued into the 1970s.  In the 30 October 1974 issue, on pages 11 and 16, Editor G. Aiken Taylor commended and reprinted words by one Joan B. Finneran, whom he called

an elect lady of Simpsonville, MD.

Finneran wrote that the Bible commands us to obey earthly authority, for God establishes governments.  Therefore:

When a Herod or a Hitler comes into power, we must thereby assume this is the Lord’s plan; He will use even such as these to put His total plan into effect for the good of His people here on earth.

God is in control, Finneran wrote, even if we, in our ignorance, do not understand divine plans.  And we Americans ought to vote carefully and to pray for our elected officials–and obey them, of course.  Finneran’s message, cloaked in details of Reformed theology,was one of submission to authority–even genocidal tyrants.  That fact overrides any technically correct parts of her case in my mind.

I reject Finneran’s message, for, if one cannot disobey the Third Reich righteously, which regime can one oppose properly?  Even the very conservative Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America understood the limits of obedience to human authority well in 1896, when the Synod passed a resolution condemning the Ottoman Empire for its massacres of Armenians and declaring that the Sultan’s regime had lost its moral right to govern.

I must, in all fairness and accuracy, point out that the Presbyterian Church in America has (subsequent to 1974) approved of civil disobedience in some cases and (in 2004) approved a pastoral letter condemning racism.

The Old Testament reveals the character of God mostly by recounting what God has done.  God has, among other things, freed people.  The central theme of the Bible is liberation to follow God.  Our patterns of behavior reveal our character.  Do we even try to follow God?  Do we even attempt to aid those who suffer?  Do we even care about the oppressed?  Good intentions are positive, of course; they are preferable to bad ones.  Yet we need grace to succeed.  That, fortunately, is plentiful from God, who makes life itself and new life free from tyranny possible.

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/liberating-grace/

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

AgnusDeiWindow

Above:  The Moravian Logo in Stained Glass

Image Source = JJackman

Living Jesus, New Covenant

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 29, 2020

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The Collect:

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

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

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 24:1-11

Psalm 134

John 21:1-14

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Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,

you that by night stand in the house of the Lord.

Lift up your hands toward the sanctuary

and bless the Lord.

The Lord who made heaven and earth

give you blessing out of Zion.

–Psalm 134, Common Worship (2000)

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The daily realities and worldviews of biblical characters, being different from my own, require me to do some homework if I am to understand correctly what certain texts describe.  A case in point is Exodus 24, which recounts the sealing of the covenant between the Israelites and Yahweh with Moses sprinkling the blood of sacrificial bulls on the people.  Blood, in the worldview of these ancients, made life possible.  Thus, in this ritual act,

Israel now begins a new life of obedience, signified by sacrifice, the “book of the covenant,” and by the “blood of the covenant.”

The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume I (Nashville, TN:  Abingdon Press, 1994), page 881

We know how obedient many of that group of Israelites turned out to be, do we not?

The interpretive angle that blood makes life possible fits well into atonement theology, especially when one considers Jesus, both priest and sacrifice.  I recall to mind the image which the Gospel of John provides:  Jesus dying as sacrificial animals die at the Temple.  Jesus is the Passover Lamb; his death is the Passover meal.  The original Passover (in Exodus) protected Israelites from the sins of Egyptians, so any properly reasoned theology of atonement which uses Passover imagery must move beyond a tunnel-vision focus on one’s own sins.

The theology of scapegoating disturbs me.  Jesus became a political scapegoat, dying as one.  I agree with others who reject Penal Substitutionary Atonement; Jesus did not take my place on the cross.  Rather, the Classic Theory–the conquest of evil, completed via the Resurrection–is closer to my theology.  Actually, I propose that the entire life of Christ was essential for the Atonement.  And I interpret the death of Jesus as having several meanings, including the point that scapegoating does not work.

 My holistic understanding of the Atonement takes into account the vital role of bloodshed in the New Testament reflections on the crucifixion.  If the blood of sacrificial bulls made new spiritual life possible, even sealing the covenant, how much more does the blood of Christ affect those of us who follow him?  We have a New Covenant through him, do we not?  The imagery of blood fits well here.

More important, though, is the Resurrection, through which we have a living Jesus, not a dead one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2013 COMMON ERA

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

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

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PROXMIRE, UNITED STATES SENATOR

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/living-jesus-new-covenant/

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Devotion for the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Days of Easter, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Sarah

Above:  Sarah

Image in the Public Domain

Grace and Obligations

APRIL 27 and 28, 2020

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The Collect:

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

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

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 18:1-14 (16th Day)

Proverbs 8:32-9:6 (17th Day)

Psalm 134 (Both Days)

1 Peter 1:23-25 (16th Day)

1 Peter 2:1-3 (17th Day)

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Behold now, bless the LORD, all you servants of the LORD,

you that stand by night in the house of the LORD.

Lift up your hands in the holy place and bless the LORD;

the LORD who made heaven and earth bless you out of Zion.

–Psalm 134, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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In my corner of Christianity, that is Anglicanism-Lutheranism, spiritual regeneration, the topic of 1 Peter 1:22-2:3, is bound up with baptism, especially the hearing of the language of the baptismal rite.  In other words, baptism is more about what God is doing than about what we are doing.  Yet, as I know well, other interpretations of spiritual regeneration exist in Christianity.  According to some of them, I am not regenerate, despite my baptism, confirmation and two reaffirmations of faith, each of the last three in the presence of a bishop in Apostolic Succession from Jesus.  Anyone who says I am not regenerate is mistaken on that point.

I like the God-centered theology of baptism, for we humans do not occupy the center of theology; God does.  So baptism says more about grace (therefore God) than about us, and divine promises are rock-solid ones.  This latter point holds true even under the most unlikely circumstances, such as the pregnancy of Sarah.  And grace requires much of us, for it is free yet not cheap.  We must, to quote assigned readings for these days,

Lay aside immaturity, and live,

and walk in the way of insight.

–Proverbs 9:6, The New Revised Standard Version:  Catholic Edition (1993)

and rid ourselves

of all spite, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and carping criticism.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

We must respond favorably to God in Christ, laying aside judgmental attitudes and embracing mercy.

I have not achieved all of these goals.  Fortunately, my power, which is woefully inadequate to do that, is not at issue anyway.  No, I have come as far as I have by grace.  My desire to move in a positive direction has been good, of course, yet I interpret its existence as evidence of grace.  I wonder how far grace will carry me next.  And I am curious about how far it will continue to carry others, especially those I know and will know.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2013 COMMON ERA

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

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

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PROXMIRE, UNITED STATES SENATOR

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/grace-and-obligations-2/

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

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Above:  Slums, Richwood, West Virginia, September 1942

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USF34-084072-E

Photographer = John Collier (1913-1992)

The Divine Preference for the Poor

THURSDAY-SATURDAY, APRIL 23-25, 2020

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The Collect:

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

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

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 25:1-5 (12th Day)

Isaiah 26:1-4 (13th Day)

Isaiah 25:6-9 (14th Day)

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

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

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

Luke 14:12-14 (14th Day)

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How shall I repay you, O LORD,

for all the good things you have done for me?

I will lift up the cup of salvation

and call upon the name of the LORD.

I will fulfill my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all the chosen people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Truly you have been a refuge to the poor,

a refuge to the needy in their distress,

shelter from the tempest, shade from heat.

For the blast of the ruthless is like an icy storm

or a scorching drought;

you subdue the roar of the foe,

and the song of the ruthless dies away.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2013 COMMON ERA

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

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

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PROXMIRE, UNITED STATES SENATOR

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

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Devotion for the Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Days of Easter, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

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Above:  The Prophets Jeremiah, Jonah, Isaiah, and Habakkuk, by John Singer Sargent

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-D416-497

Copyright Claimant = Detroit Publishing Company

The Love of God for Everyone

MONDAY-WEDNESDAY, APRIL 20-22, 2020

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The Collect:

Almighty and eternal God,

the strength of those who believe and the hope of those who doubt,

may we, who have not seen,

have faith in you and receive the fullness of Christ’s blessing,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 32

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The Assigned Readings:

Judges 6:36-40 (9th Day)

Jonah 1:1-17 (10th Day)

Jonah 2:1-10 (11th Day)

Psalm 114 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 15:12-20 (9th Day)

1 Corinthians 15:19-28 (10th Day)

Matthew 12:38-42 (11th Day)

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Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,

at the presence of the God of Jacob,

who turned the hard rock into a pool of water

and flint-stone into a flowing spring.

–Psalm 114:7-8, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The Book of Jonah is a satire of and a protest against narrow, exclusivist excesses of Post-Exilic Judaism.  Many people recognized that rampant societal sinfulness had led to national ruin, thus certain individuals overcorrected by becoming too narrow and legalistic.  The Book of Jonah, a scathing criticism of that mentality, teaches that God cares for everyone, including traditional enemies of the Hebrew people.

The message of divine forgiveness and human repentance is for all people, not that everyone will respond affirmatively.  But it is the gateway to eternal life for all who respond favorably and remain faithful to God, who keeps promises.  And, just as God helped Gideon to defend the people and, in the story, made Jonah the means of grace (despite himself) to the people of Nineveh, Jesus (via the Resurrection) is the means by which we have a Christian faith that is not in vain.  And we are not supposed to “sit on” this message.  No, we have a missionary mandate and instructions to help people deepen the Christian faith they have already.  We might not like many of the people to whom God sends us, but God cares deeply about them too.  May we, therefore, have a positive attitude about them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 14, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT VENANTIUS HONORIUS CLEMENTIUS FORTUNATUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS

THE FEAST OF CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/the-love-of-god-for-everyone/

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Devotion for the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Days of Easter, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Jesus Bookmark

Above:  A Jesus Bookmark

Image scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

The Corporeal and the Spiritual

THURSDAY-SATURDAY, APRIL 16-18, 2020

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The Collect:

Almighty and eternal God,

the strength of those who believe and the hope of those who doubt,

may we, who have not seen,

have faith in you and receive the fullness of Christ’s blessing,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 32

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The Assigned Readings:

Song of Songs 2:8-15 (5th Day)

Song of Songs 5:9-6:3 (6th Day)

Song of Songs 8:6-7 (7th Day)

Psalm 16 (All Days)

Colossians 4:2-5 (5th Day)

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (6th Day)

John 20:11-20 (7th Day)

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My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices;

my body also shall not rest in hope.

–Psalm 16:9, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The Song of Songs, I heard growing up, is about the relationship between Christ and the Church.  Balderdash!  There is also a Jewish allegorical interpretation which claims that the book is about the relationship between God and Israel.  I do not accept that either.  No, the Song of Songs is exactly what it appears to be–a series of poetic texts about a love affair between a man and a woman who may or may not be married to each other but who are in danger because of their love.

Hence the Song of Songs is about human erotic relationships.  And it belongs in the Canon of Jewish and Christian Scripture.  As J. Coert Rylaardsdam writes in Volume 10 (1964) of The Layman’s Bible Commentary:

Its [the Song of Songs’] respect for life is expressed in the savoring of it; and it is this that makes it a very important commentary on the meaning of the confession that God is the Creator of all things.  The presence of the Song in Scripture is a most forceful reminder that to confess God as Creator of all things visible and invisible is to deny that anything is “common” (see Acts 10:9-16) or, to use the cliché of today, “secular.”  This book teaches that all life is holy, not because we, as Christians, make it so, but because it is made and used by the living God.

–page 140

If that analysis seems odd to one, that fact indicates a different worldview than the Song’s authors had.  As Rylaardsdam writes on page 138:

The people who wrote the Bible had no equivalent of our notion of the “secular”; they did not separate the natural from the sacred as we often do, for they took very seriously the confession of God as Creator of all.

As Dr. Amy-Jill Levine says in her 2001 Teaching Company Course, The Old Testament, much of what was normative in biblical times has ceased to be so.  That is certainly true for those of us in the global West, shaped by the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment.  Modernity differs greatly from antiquity, in ways both good and bad.

Much of the Christian tradition–including the legacy of St. Paul the Apostle, a great evangelist who suffered much, to the point of martyrdom–contains discomfort with the corporeal.  Human bodies can be messy and otherwise unpleasant, to be sure, but their potential for temptation has attracted much attention.  Much of Christian tradition has obsessed about the latter fact excessively, even encouraging a universal, false dichotomy between the flesh and the spirit–a dichotomy absent from the Song of Songs.

That frequent and erroneous distrust of the flesh has influenced the Christology of many people negatively, leading them to commit heresy.  To say that Jesus was fully human and fully divine is easy.  To deal with the “fully divine” aspect of that formulation can prove relatively uncontroversial.  Yet to unpack the “fully human” aspect holds the potential–often realized–to upset people.  In the early 1990s, for example, my father said in a sermon in southern Georgia, U.S.A., that Jesus had a sense of humor.  One lady, a longtime member of the congregation, took offense, claiming that he had insulted her Jesus.

Yet the Incarnation is about both the corporeal and the spiritual.  And the resurrected Jesus was no phantom, for he had a physical form.  The Incarnation means several things simultaneously.  Among them is an affirmation of the goodness of creation, including human physicality.  If that physicality makes us uncomfortable–if we perceive it as antithetical to spiritual well-being–we have a spiritual problem, one of erroneous categories and at least on false dichotomy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 14, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT VENANTIUS HONORIUS CLEMENTIUS FORTUNATUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS

THE FEAST OF CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/the-corporeal-and-the-spiritual/

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

Fra_Angelico_019

Above:  Women at the Empty Tombby Fra Angelico

Image in the Public Domain

The Presence of God

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 15, 2020

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you give us the joy of celebrating our Lord’s resurrection.

Give us also the joys of life in your service,

and bring us at last to the full joy of life eternal,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 32

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The Assigned Readings:

Joshua 3:1-17

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Matthew 28:1-10

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I shall not die, but live,

and declare the works of the LORD.

–Psalm 118:17, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The presence of God is evident in more than one way–perhaps in as many ways as there are circumstances in which it is evident.  In the assigned narratives for today we have two of them–the Ark of the Covenant and an empty tomb.  And, in the lections in general, we have the presence of God in a third way–in texts, but only when the Holy Spirit speaks to us through them.

I recall a story which Donald Armentrout told.  The pastor of a small, independent congregation in Tennessee retold the Easter story one Easter Sunday morning.  He paraphrased the angel in Matthew 28:6:

He ain’t here.

That, Armentrout said, was an excellent summary of the Easter story.

Jesus is not in the tomb.  Jesus is, however, among us, so to speak, in each other.  When we help others–the least of his brothers and sisters–we do it for Jesus if we are Christians.  Likewise, when we refuse to help others–the least of his brothers and sisters–we refuse to do something for Jesus if we are Christians.  Thus not caring about others is more than merely lacking empathy for them.  May we care for each other actively and as effectively as possible, for that is a great spiritual duty.

In whom, O reader, will you see Jesus today?  You cannot do everything; nobody can.  But you can do your part.  The other person can be a means by which God speaks to you, just as you can be a vehicle of grace to him or her.  That divine, blessed exchange is a beautiful thing.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 2, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIOC, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND OF SAINT TUDWAL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF CHANNING MOORE WILLIAMS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP IN CHINA AND JAPAN

THE FEAST OF JOHN BROWN, ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT OSMUND OF SALISBURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/19/the-presence-of-god-3/

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

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Above:  The Crossing of the Red Sea, by Nicolas Poussin

Image in the Public Domain

Reliable Promises of God

MONDAY, APRIL 13, 2020, and TUESDAY, APRIL 14, 2020

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you give us the joy of celebrating our Lord’s resurrection.

Give us also the joys of life in your service,

and bring us at last to the full joy of life eternal,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 32

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21 (2nd Day)

Exodus 15:1-18 (3rd Day)

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 (Both Days)

Colossians 3:5-11 (2nd Day)

Colossians 3:12-17 (3rd Day)

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I will give thanks to you, for you answered me

and have become my salvation.

The same stone which the builders rejected

has become the chief cornerstone.

This is the LORD’s doing,

and it is marvelous in our eyes.

On this day the LORD has acted;

we will rejoice and be glad in it.

–Psalm 118:21-24, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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God had acted dramatically to convince the Pharaoh to free the Hebrews.  Yet many of them complained in fear before the Exodus.  This indicated a lack of confidence in God–particularly in divine promises.  God remained reliable, of course.  And human faithfulness and fear, evident in murmuring, grumbling, and other forms of complaining, persisted, unfortunately.

Agent K was correct in Men in Black (1997); people are panicky creatures.  Often we are slaves to our unhealthy mentalities, which vary widely.  Frequently we seek firm answers in places where they do not exist while ignoring them where they do exist–in God.  So, if we do not find, this fact might be due to where we are looking, not that we are not seeking.

I was probably the world’s worst Cub Scout.  Yet I did take some positive lessons from that brief time.  There was a skit I learned over thirty years ago.  The plot, for lack of a better term, was that a boy was looking for some object on the floor and enlisting others to help him find it.  Unfortunately, he had lost it somewhere else.  The reason he was looking for it where he was seeking it is that the light shone there.

In the light and in the darkness we can always trust the promises of God, who freed the Hebrews from Egypt and raised Jesus from the dead.  These promises contain both judgment and mercy.  The latter commands that we respond mercifully to others and build up communities.  So may we follow this excellent advice:

Let the gospel of Christ dwell among you in all its richness; teach and instruct one another with all the wisdom it gives you.  With psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, sing from the heart in gratitude to God.  Let every word and action, everything you do, be in the name of the Lord Jesus, and give thanks through him to God the Father.

–Colossians 3:16-17, The Revised English Bible (1989)

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 2, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIOC, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND OF SAINT TUDWAL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF CHANNING MOORE WILLIAMS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP IN CHINA AND JAPAN

THE FEAST OF JOHN BROWN, ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT OSMUND OF SALISBURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/19/reliable-promises-of-god/

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Devotion for Good Friday, Years A, B, and C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

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Above:  The Dogma of the Redemption, by John Singer Sargent

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-133671

Love and Good Works

APRIL 15, 2022

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The Collects:

Almighty God, look with loving mercy on your family,

for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed,

to be given over to the hands of sinners,

and to suffer death on the cross;

who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

or

Merciful God, your Son was lifted up on the cross to draw all people to himself.

Grant that we who have been born out of his wounded side may at all times

find mercy in him, 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 31

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 52:13-53:12

Psalm 22

Hebrews 10:16-15 or Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9

John 18:1-19:42

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer for Good Friday:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/prayer-for-good-friday/

Grant, Lord Jesus, That My Healing:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/grant-lord-jesus-that-my-healing/

To Mock Your Reign, O Dearest Lord:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/11/19/to-mock-your-reign-o-dearest-lord/

Throned Upon the Awful Tree:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/09/26/throned-upon-the-awful-tree/

How Can I Thank You?:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/08/14/how-can-i-thank-you/

O Christ, Who Called the Twelve:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/o-christ-who-called-the-twelve/

How Wide the Love of Christ:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/06/30/how-wide-the-love-of-christ/

Beneath the Cross of Jesus:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/04/26/beneath-the-cross-of-jesus/

Darkly Rose the Guilty Morning:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/darkly-rose-the-guilty-morning/

O Jesus, We Adore Thee:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/o-jesus-we-adore-thee/

O Sacred Head, Now Wounded:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/o-sacred-head-now-wounded/

Stabat Mater:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/stabat-mater/

Ah, Holy Jesus, How Hast Thou Offended:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/ah-holy-jesus-how-hast-thou-offended/

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/when-i-survey-the-wondrous-cross/

My Song is Love Unknown:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/27/my-song-is-love-unknown/

In the Cross of Christ I Glory:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/10/20/in-the-cross-of-christ-i-glory/

Hymn of Promise:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/30/hymn-of-promise/

O Jesus, Youth of Nazareth:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/29/o-jesus-youth-of-nazareth-by-ferdinand-q-blanchard/

For the Cross:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/for-the-cross/

O Blessed Mother:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/o-blessed-mother/

O Word of Pity, for Our Pardon Pleading:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2012/08/08/o-word-of-pity-for-our-pardon-pleading/

Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2013/10/31/sing-my-tongue-the-glorious-battle/

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Psalm 22, which begins with

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,

and are so far from my salvation,

from the words of my distress?

O my God, I cry in the daytime,

but you do not answer;

and by night also, but I find no rest.

–Verses 1-2, Common Worship (2000)

ends in thanksgiving for what God has done.  This fact applies well to the Easter Triduum, but I choose not to pursue that line of thought further in this post, for to do so would be to get ahead of this day’s portion of the narrative.

Faithful people of God read Isaiah 52:13-53:12 for centuries before the crucifixion of Jesus.  As obvious as that statement might seem, it might also surprise some people accustomed to only one lens through which to interpret it.  So what about Jewish readings of the passage?  The servant of God could be the whole Israelite nation or just the pious minority thereof or a particular holy person, maybe Jeremiah.  All of these are possible.  The words also fit Jesus well.

I publish these words in the vicinity of Thanksiving Day (U.S.A.) 2013 and shortly before the beginning of the season of Advent.  I know that Christmas leads to Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  There is much occurring theologically in these assigned readings.  Among them are a condemnation of unjust violence and a reminder that God is more powerful than our hatred and fear.

It is well and good to salute Jesus, but that alone is insufficient.  We have no mere hero and martyr.  No, we have a Lord and Savior, whom we are supposed to follow.  He said to keep his commandments and to love each other as he loved his Apostles.  Fortunately, we have access to grace, or else accomplishing these goals would be impossible.

So may we heed the advice of Hebrews 10:24:

…and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works….

Revised Standard Version—Second Edition (1971)

If certain people had thought that way, they would not have sought to kill Jesus.

Following this ethic requires us to seek not affirmation of our opinions, doctrines, and social status, but that which is best for others.  Obeying our Lord and Savior—taking up a cross and following him—entails thinking more about others than about oneself.  This is difficult yet for the best overall.

Good Friday is a holy day for me.  The Episcopal Church’s liturgy for the day moves me deeply, doing what good ritual ought to do—take one out of daily routines and transport one into a different spiritual atmosphere.  Reading the assigned lessons has taken me only a short distance along that path, but that brief trip suffices for now.  The material is emotionally difficult.  It it is not, that fact might speak poorly of the reader.

May divine love fill your soul, O reader, and inspire you to love and good works.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

THE FEAST OF GEORGE DAWSON, ENGLISH BAPTIST AND UNITARIAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY DAY, SOCIAL ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE CHURCH OF NORTH INDIA, 1970

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/love-and-good-works/

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