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Thoughts and Questions About the Temptations of Jesus   1 comment

Above:  The Temptations of Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

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For St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia

Lent 2019

 

Texts:  Mark 1:12-13; Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13

Reading the Bible for spiritual formation is an ancient Benedictine practice.  My primary purpose in writing this short piece is to ask, how do the accounts (mainly the Lukan and Matthean ones) of the temptations of Jesus challenge us, both as individuals and a parish, to follow Jesus better than we do.

The Temptation to Turn Stones into Bread

Bread was especially precious in ancient Palestine, with relatively little arable land.

We are blessed to be able to purchase our bread inexpensively at stores.  Bread is abundant in our context, so we probably take it for granted more often than not.  We can, however, think of some tangible needs related to scarcity.

One challenge is not to permit tangible needs to overtake intangible necessities.  We all depend entirely on God and dwell within a web of mutual responsibility and dependence.  According to the late Henri Nouwen, this temptation is the temptation to be relevant.  Relevance is not necessarily bad; in fact, it is frequently positive.  However, maintaining the proper balance of tangible and intangible needs is essential.  Furthermore, Christ’s refusal to cave into the temptation to use his power to make bread—to cease to depend on God—ought to remind us never to imagine that we do not depend entirely on God.

Questions

  1. Do we permit tangible needs to distract us from intangible necessities?  If so, how?
  2. Do we manifest the vain idea that we do not depend entirely on God?  If so, how?

The Temptation to Jump from the Pinnacle of the Temple

Many scholars of the New Testament have proposed what the pinnacle of the Temple was.

That matter aside, this temptation is, according to Nouwen, the temptation to be spectacular.  It is also the temptation to attempt to manipulate God by trying to force God to intervene in a miraculous way.  That effort, like turning stones into bread, would indicate a lack of faith.

We humans frequently like the spectacular, do we not?  We tell ourselves and others that, if only God would do something spectacular, we will believe.  We are like those who, in the Gospels, only wanted Jesus to do something for them, and not to learn from him.

Questions

  1. Does our attraction to the spectacular distract us from the still, small voice of God?  If so, how?
  2. Does our attraction to the spectacular reveal our lack of faith?  If so, how?
  3. Does our attraction to the spectacular unmask our selfishness?  If so, how?

The Temptation to Worship Satan in Exchange for Earthly Authority

Many Palestinian Jews at the time of Christ thought of Satan as the power behind the Roman Empire and of the Roman pantheon as a collection of demons.  Jesus affirmed God the Father as the only source of his identity.

This temptation is about idolatry, power, and morally untenable compromises.

Many well-intentioned people—ministers, politicians, and appointed office holders, for example—have, in the name of doing good, become corrupt and sacrificed their suitability to do good.  They have sacrificed their moral integrity on the altar of amoral realism.

Some compromises are necessary, of course.  As Reinhold Niebuhr reminded us, we cannot help but commit some evil while trying to do good, for human depravity has corrupted social systems and institutions.

Questions

  1. Have we established our identity apart from God?  If so, how?
  2. How have we, with good intentions, committed or condoned evil?
  3. Have we made morally untenable compromises?  If so, how?

The Good News

The good news is both collective and individual.

I discover the principle, then:  that when I want to do right, only wrong is within my reach.  In my inmost self I delight in the law of God, but I perceive in my outward actions a different law, fighting against the law that my mind approves, and making me a prisoner under the law of sin which controls my conduct.  Wretched creature that I am, who is there to rescue me from this state of death?  Who but God?  Thanks be to him through Jesus Christ our Lord!  To sum up then:  left to myself I serve God’s law with my mind, but with my unspiritual nature I serve the law of sin.

–Romans 7:21-25, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Jesus has modeled the way to resist temptation—to trust God and to understand scripture.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 10, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF MARIE-JOSEPH LAGRANGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT AGRIPINNUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT GERMANUS OF PARIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT DROCTOVEUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OGLIVIE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACARIUS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/03/10/thoughts-and-questions-about-the-temptations-of-jesus/

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Devotion for Monday after the First Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Crucifixion Icon Rublev

Above:  Icon of the Crucifixion by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

Struggling with Concepts of God

MARCH 11, 2019

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The Collect:

O Lord God, you led your people through the wilderness and brought them to the promised land.

Guide us now, so that, following your Son, we may walk safely through the wilderness of this world

toward the life you alone can give, 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 27

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Chronicles 21:1-17

Psalm 17

1 John 2:1-6

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Hear my just cause, O Lord; consider my complaint;

listen to my prayer, which comes not from lying lips.

Let my vindication come forth from your presence;

let your eyes behold what is right.

Weigh my heart, examine me by night,

refine me, and you will find no impurity in me.

–Psalm 17:1-3, Common Worship (2000)

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The stories of the plague God inflicted on the Kingdom of Israel bother me.  The account in 1 Chronicles 21 differs significantly from the one in 2 Samuel 24.  In 2 Samuel 24:1, for example, “the anger of the LORD” (as the New Revised Standard Version renders the text), somehow operating independently of God, incites King David to take a census in violation of God’s desire.  Satan replaces “the anger of the LORD” as the agent of incitement in 1 Chronicles 21:1.  That is just one difference.  My major problem, however, is an element of the two versions of the story have in common.  God is terrifying and cruel, sending a plague upon innocent people.  It seems that the author of Psalm 17 is not the only one with impurity.  No, God, who harms innocents, seems impure in 1 Chronicles 21 and 2 Samuel 24.

The concept of God in 1 Chronicles 21 and 2 Samuel 24 is foreign to me.  Likewise, the idea that God was not satisfied until Roman soldiers tortured and executed Jesus (allegedly in lieu of each sinner, including subsequent ones, such as me) is familiar yet repugnant to me.  God, for me, is love.  Divine power resurrected Jesus, thereby defeating evil schemes.  Yes, O reader, I just repudiated Penal Substitutionary Atonement and affirmed the core of Christus Victor, the Classic Theory of the Atonement.  We who claim to follow God ought to exercise great caution regarding what we say and write about God.  Do we portray God as love or as a monster?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 10, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDWIN HATCH, ANGLICAN PRIEST, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEO THE GREAT, BISHOP OF ROME

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/11/10/struggling-with-concepts-of-god/

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The Death of Dreams and Aspirations   Leave a comment

Death of Dreams and Aspirations

Above:  The Original Text

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Loving God, who loves us, mourns with us, and rejoices with us,

the death of dreams and aspirations is among the most traumatic losses to endure.

It cuts to the emotional core of a person, causing great anguish, grief, and anger.

Regardless if the dream was indeed the one a person should have followed

(assuming that it was not morally wrong, of course),

the pain and disappointment are legitimate, I suppose.

I have known these emotions in this context more than once.

I wish them upon nobody, not even those who inflicted them upon me.

May we, by grace, function as your ministers of comfort

to those experiencing such a death or the aftermath of one

and who are near us or whom you send our way.

And may we, by grace, help others achieve their potential

and refrain from inflicting such pain upon others.

In the name of Jesus, who identified with us, suffered, died, and rose again.  Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 19, 2014 COMMON ERA

HOLY SATURDAY, YEAR A

Posted April 19, 2014 by neatnik2009 in 2020, April 1, April 10, April 11, April 12, April 13, April 14, April 15, April 16, April 17, April 18, April 19, April 2, April 20, April 21, April 22, April 23, April 24, April 25, April 26, April 27, April 28, April 29, April 3, April 30, April 4, April 5, April 6, April 7, April 8, April 9, Ascension, Ash Wednesday, Easter Sunday, February 10, February 11, February 12, February 13, February 14, February 15, February 16, February 17, February 18, February 19, February 20, February 21, February 22, February 23, February 24, February 25, February 26, February 27, February 28, February 29, February 4, February 5, February 6, February 7, February 8, February 9, Friday in Easter Week, Good Friday, Holy Monday, Holy Saturday-Easter Vigil, Holy Tuesday, Holy Wednesday, June 1, June 10, June 11, June 12, June 13, June 2, June 3, June 4, June 5, June 6, June 7, June 8, June 9, March 1, March 10, March 11, March 12, March 13, March 14, March 15, March 16, March 17, March 18, March 19, March 2, March 20, March 21, March 22, March 23, March 24, March 25: Annunciation, March 26, March 27, March 28, March 29, March 3, March 30, March 31, March 4, March 5, March 6, March 7, March 8, March 9, Maundy Thursday, May 1, May 10, May 11, May 12, May 13, May 14, May 15, May 16, May 17, May 18, May 19, May 2, May 20, May 21, May 22, May 23, May 24, May 25, May 26, May 27, May 28, May 29, May 3, May 30, May 31: Visitation, May 4, May 5, May 6, May 7, May 8, May 9, Monday in Easter Week, Palm Sunday, Pentecost, Saturday in Easter Week, Thursday in Easter Week, Tuesday in Easter Week, Wednesday in Easter Week

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Devotion for the Thirteenth Day of Lent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Christ_and_the_Woman_Taken_in_Adultery_Bruegel

Above:  Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery, by Pieter Brueghel the Elder

Image in the Public Domain

Shame, Blushing, and Forgiveness

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 11, 2020

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The Collect:

O God, our leader and guide, in the waters of baptism

you bring us to new birth to live as your children.

Strengthen our faith in your promises, that by your

Spirit we may lift your life to all the world 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 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 36:22-32

Psalm 128

John 7:53-8:11

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The LORD bless you from Zion,

and may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.

–Psalm 128:5, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Ezekiel 36:32, in announcing return from exile, says,

I assure you that I am not doing this for your sake–declares the Lord Yahweh.  Be ashamed and blush for your conduct, House of Israel.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

This tone differs from that of another Hebrew text:

Can a woman forget her suckling child,

that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?

Even these may forget,

yet I will not forget you.

Behold, I have graven you on the palms of my hands;

your walls are continually before me.

–Isaiah 49:15-16, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

Both are true, of course, for God is one of the more interesting and complex characters in the Old Testament.  And yes, there is always ample reason for human blushing and shame.

Some of those who had such reasons brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus.  This was a trap for him, for these accusers did not seem concerned about the whereabouts of the man with whom she had sinned.  So she was a tool, and her accusers might have permitted the sexual intercourse to occur.  If so, they were also guilty of an offense punishable by death by stoning.  If this was the case, Jesus probably reminded them of that, hence their flight from the scene.

That woman, who had her own reasons for shame and blushing, was also a beloved daughter of God, one whom God would not forget.  Jesus gave her another chance.  We are much like that woman, for we have done terrible things.  Yet God keeps forgiving us.  And grace, although free, is not cheap; it requires much of us.  May we do what grace commands of us.

I wonder what the erst of the unnamed woman’s life was like.  How did the experience change her?  And how did that reality affect those around her?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 25, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SQUANTO, COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEING

THE FEAST OF JAMES OTIS SARGENT HUNTINGTON, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE HOLY CROSS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/shame-blushing-and-forgiveness/

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Prayers of the People for Lent–Second Order   Leave a comment

Lent

Above:  Lent Wordle

I found the image in various places online, including here:  http://standrewauh.org/a-study-for-lent/

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The congregational response to “We pray to you, O God” is “Hear our prayer.”

We pray for the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, that it may show the face of Christ to the world and draw people to you,

We pray to you, O God.

We pray for

  • Katharine, our Presiding Bishop;
  • Robert and Keith, our Bishops; and
  • Beth, our Rector;
  • and all clergy and lay members,
  • that they may serve you faithfully,

We pray to you, O God.

We pray for

  • Barack, our President;
  • Nathan, our Governor;
  • Nancy, our Mayor; and
  • all others who hold positions of authority and influence,

that justice may prevail,

We pray to you O God.

That we may, by grace, do your will each day,

We pray to you, O God.

That all who suffer may find succor,

We pray to you, O God.

We pray for (_____) and all who have died, that they may enjoy and glorify you forever,

We pray to you, O God.

We pray for our own needs and those of others.

Congregationally specific petitions follow.

The Celebrant adds a concluding Collect.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 2, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF JESUS IN THE TEMPLE

Devotion for the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Days of Lent (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   9 comments

Above:  The Sacrifice of Isaac, by Caravaggio

Genesis and Mark, Part XIII: Arguing for Compassionate Deeds

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 11, 2020, and THURSDAY, MARCH 12, 2020

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 22:1-19 (13th Day of Lent)

Genesis 24:1-31 (14th Day of Lent)

Psalm 5 (Morning–13th Day of Lent)

Psalm 38 (Morning–14th Day of Lent)

Psalms 27 and 51 (Evening–13th Day of Lent)

Psalms 126 and 102 (Evening–14th Day of Lent)

Mark 7:1-23 (13th Day of Lent)

Mark 7:24-37 (14th Day of Lent)

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Some Related Posts:

Behind the Lines, a.k.a. Regeneration (1997):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2011/06/03/behind-the-lines-a-k-a-regeneration-1997/

Prayers:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/30/prayer-for-wednesday-in-the-second-week-of-lent/

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/30/prayer-for-thursday-in-the-second-week-of-lent/

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What can I say or write about the near-sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis 22 without repeating myself?  Nothing! I refuse to make apologies for it.  There is no record in Genesis that father and son spoke again after that incident.  They must have had conversations afterward, but Isaac’s relationship to Abraham must not have been the same as before.  How could it have been?  Really, O reader, if you were Isaac, how much would you want to say to your old man after such an incident?

One traditional lesson drawn from Genesis 22 is that God does not desire human sacrifice.  And narrative praises Abraham for his faithfulness.  Really?  But should not Abraham have pleaded for the life of his son?  He begged God to save the lives of strangers in Genesis 18:22-33.  Sometimes we are supposed to argue; sometimes that constitutes passing the test of faithfulness.  The Syro-Phoenician woman in Mark 7:24-30 passed the test with flying colors.

Abraham apparently loved his son and sought a wife for him in Genesis 24.  The patriarch was not a villain, but his record as a parent was troublesome.  (What about his treatment of his first son?) But Abraham did take care of his second son–at least after trying to kill him.

Jesus, in Mark 7, presents a great lesson in several parts.

  1. Food does not make one unclean.
  2. Ritual purity–in this case, in the form of the ceremonial washing of pots–is irrelevant.
  3. Being a Gentile or a disabled person ought not to marginalize one.  (People with major disabilities and deformities were impure.  A blind man or a man with crushed genitals or a deformed arm could not serve as priest, according to the Law of Moses.  The Law of Moses did not anticipate the Americans with Disabilities Act.)
  4. No, bad attitudes and resulting sins of commission and/or omission made one unclean.
  5. All foods are clean.  (Mark 7:19)
  6. A Gentile woman impresses Jesus with her faith and debating skills.
  7. But manipulating the Law of Moses and interpretations thereof to the detriment of others does make one unclean.

The standard (once more) is compassion.  Any human tradition which contradicts it is wrong.

To point to such violations from long ago is easy, and does not cost one anything or cause one even the slightest discomfort.  So I invite you, O reader, to look around.  Consider your present reality.  Where are violations (considered respectable and proper) of compassion?  And will you argue with them?  What will that cost you?  What will not arguing with them cost you?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE FIRST U.S. PRESBYTERIAN BOOK OF COMMON WORSHIP, 1906

THE FEAST OF CAROLINE CHISHOLM, HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF PIRIPI TAUMATA-A-KURA, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/01/20/genesis-and-mark-part-xiii-arguing-for-compassionate-deeds/

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Before a Bible Study   Leave a comment

Above:  An Old Family Bible

Image Source = David Ball

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God of glory,

as we prepare to study the Bible,

may we approach the texts with our minds open,

our intellects engaged,

and our spirits receptive to your leading,

so that we will understand them correctly

and derive from them the appropriate lessons.

Then may we act on those lessons.

For the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Amen.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 7, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MELCHIOR MUHLENBERG, SHEPHERD OF LUTHERANISM IN THE AMERICAN COLONIES

THE FEAST OF FRED KAAN, HYMNWRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN WOOLMAN, ABOLITIONIST

Posted October 7, 2011 by neatnik2009 in 2020, April 1, April 10, April 11, April 12, April 13, April 14, April 15, April 16, April 17, April 18, April 19, April 2, April 20, April 21, April 22, April 23, April 24, April 25, April 26, April 27, April 28, April 29, April 3, April 30, April 4, April 5, April 6, April 7, April 8, April 9, Ascension, Ash Wednesday, Easter Sunday, February 10, February 11, February 12, February 13, February 14, February 15, February 16, February 17, February 18, February 19, February 20, February 21, February 22, February 23, February 24, February 25, February 26, February 27, February 28, February 29, February 4, February 5, February 6, February 7, February 8, February 9, Friday in Easter Week, Good Friday, Holy Monday, Holy Saturday-Easter Vigil, Holy Tuesday, Holy Wednesday, June 1, June 10, June 11, June 12, June 13, June 2, June 3, June 4, June 5, June 6, June 7, June 8, June 9, March 1, March 10, March 11, March 12, March 13, March 14, March 15, March 16, March 17, March 18, March 19, March 2, March 20, March 21, March 22, March 23, March 24, March 25: Annunciation, March 26, March 27, March 28, March 29, March 3, March 30, March 31, March 4, March 5, March 6, March 7, March 8, March 9, Maundy Thursday, May 1, May 10, May 11, May 12, May 13, May 14, May 15, May 16, May 17, May 18, May 19, May 2, May 20, May 21, May 22, May 23, May 24, May 25, May 26, May 27, May 28, May 29, May 3, May 30, May 31: Visitation, May 4, May 5, May 6, May 7, May 8, May 9, Monday in Easter Week, Palm Sunday, Pentecost, Saturday in Easter Week, Thursday in Easter Week, Tuesday in Easter Week, Wednesday in Easter Week

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