Archive for the ‘March 20’ Category

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 Wednesday After the Second Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

SKD405728 Doorway in Meissen, 1827 (oil on canvas) by Friedrich, Caspar David (1774-1840); Galerie Neue Meister, Dresden, Germany; (add.info.: Toreingang in Meissen;); © Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden; German,  out of copyright

SKD405728 Doorway in Meissen, 1827 (oil on canvas) by Friedrich, Caspar David (1774-1840); Galerie Neue Meister, Dresden, Germany; (add.info.: Toreingang in Meissen;); © Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden; German, out of copyright

Above:  Doorway in Meissen (1827), by Caspar David Friedrich

Image in the Public Domain

Of Divine Mercy, Divine Judgment, the Narrow Door, and the Closed Door

MARCH 20, 2019

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The Collect:

God of the covenant, in the mystery of the cross

you promise everlasting life to the world.

Gather all peoples into your arms, and shelter us with your mercy,

that we may rejoice in the life we share in your Son,

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:

2 Chronicles 20:1-22

Psalm 105:1-15 [16-41] 42

Luke 13:22-31

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Glory in God’s holy name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

Search for the LORD and the strength of the LORD;

continually seek the face of God.

–Psalm 105:3-4, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The three assigned readings for this day teach us to turn toward God at all times–in good times, in bad times, and in times between those two poles.  If we have turned away from God, we need to turn back toward God–to repent.  This is still the time of God’s mercy, as our Mennonite brothers and sisters in faith say.  Eventually, however, the narrow door of salvation will become the closed door outside of which will be many frantic and disappointed people who had understood themselves to be spiritual insiders.

The concept of God in hellfire-and-damnation theology terrifies me and does not satisfy me.  Likewise, the teddy-bear God of Universalism seems insufficient to me.  Somewhere in the middle is a balanced God concept which takes into account both judgment and extravagant mercy.  I do not pretend to know the proper balance of judgment and mercy, but I affirm the reality of both factors and reject excessive emphasis on either one to the exclusion or improper minimization of the other.  God, to my understanding, is frequently more merciful than many human beings.  King David was correct:

I am in great distress; let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great;  but let me not fall into human hands.

–2 Samuel 24:14, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The context of that passage is divine anger over a military census in the Kingdom of Israel.  Even in the midst of a plague in the realm, the author of that portion of 2 Samuel tells us, David understood God to be more merciful than many people.

I disagree with the theology of 2 Samuel 24 as a whole, for I question understanding a plague affecting innocents as divine punishment for a census they did not order.  God seems to have bad aim in that chapter.  Should not God have punished David, who commanded that the census take place, instead?  Nevertheless, the verse I have quoted stands as a testimony to divine mercy amid divine judgment.  The theology of 2 Samuel 24:14 is impeccable.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 17, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN CHRISTIAN TILL, U.S. MORAVIAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND PIANO BUILDER; AND HIS SON, JACOB CHRISTIAN TILL, U.S. MORAVIAN PIANO BUILDER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/11/17/of-divine-mercy-divine-judgment-the-narrow-door-and-the-closed-door/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After the Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Zerubbabel

Above:  Zerubbabel

Image in the Public Domain

Sufficiency in God

MARCH 19, 2018

MARCH 20, 2018

MARCH 21, 2018

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The Collect:

O God, rich in mercy, by the humiliation of your Son

you lifted up this fallen world and rescued us from the hopelessness of death.

Lead us into your light, that all our deeds may reflect your love,

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 28

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 43:8-13 (Monday)

Isaiah 44:1-8 (Tuesday)

Haggai 2:1-9, 20-23 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:9-16 (All Days)

2 Corinthians 3:4-11 (Monday)

Acts 2:14-24 (Tuesday)

John 12:34-50 (Wednesday)

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How shall a young man cleanse his way?

By keeping to your words.

With my whole heart I seek you

let me not stray from your commandments.

I treasure your promise in my heart;

that I may not sin against you.

Blessed are you, O LORD;

instruct me in your statutes.

With my lips will I recite

all the judgments of your mouth.

I have taken greater delight in the way of your decrees

than in all manner of riches.

I will meditate on your commandments

and give attention to your ways.

My delight is in your statutes;

I will not forget your word.

–Psalm 119:9-16, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Jesus, in the Gospel of Matthew, did not condemn Torah piety.  No, he had harsh words for legalism and its proponents.  Religious authorities, our Lord and Savior said, were teaching the Law of Moses wrongly; he was teaching it correctly.  Thus, when I read the translated words of St. Paul the Apostle in 2 Corinthians 3, I wondered to which Law he objected and why.  Commentaries told me more about the biases of their authors than those of St. Paul, who, according to scholars of the New Testament, did not use that term consistently in his writings.  That fact does not surprise me, for I know from other sources that the Apostle was uncertain in his Trinitarian theology (aren’t most of us?), for he used the Son and the Holy Spirit interchangeably sometimes.  If one seeks consistency where it is does not exist, one sets oneself up for disappointment.

N. T. Wright wrote in Paul in Fresh Perspective (2005) that the contrast was actually between those who heard the Law of Moses and those who trusted in Jesus.  Thus, Wright continued, in Pauline theology, divine holiness was fatal to people with darkened minds and hardened hearts.  Yet those who have the Holy Spirit do not find divine holiness fatal, Wright wrote on page 123.  One might question that perspective or parts thereof, for the Apostle did write negatively of the Law of Moses or at least of a version of it in his head in epistles.

Anyhow, St. Paul was correct in his point that our power/competence/adequacy/sufficiency (all words I found while comparing translations) comes from God alone.  And, if we accept Bishop Wright’s reading of the Apostle in 2 Corinthians 3, we find a match with John 12:34-50, in which many people who witnesses Jesus performing signs still rejected him.  They had hardened hearts and darkened minds.

You are my witnesses,

Yahweh said in Isaiah 43 and 44 to exiles about to return to their ancestral home.  We are God’s witnesses.  Are we paying attention?  And are we plugging into the divine source of power to glorify and enjoy God forever?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

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

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PROXMIRE, UNITED STATES SENATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/sufficiency-in-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 Twentieth, Twenty-First, and Twenty-Second Days of Lent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Kind_en_Kaars

Above:  Lighting a Votive Candle

Image Source = AutoCCD

The Light Shining in the Darkness

THURSDAY-SATURDAY, MARCH 19-21, 2020

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The Collect:

Bend your ear to our prayers, Lord Christ, and come among us.

By your gracious life and death for us, bring light into the darkness

of our hearts, and anoint us with your Spirit, for you live and reign

with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 28

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 15:10-21 (20th Day)

1 Samuel 15:22-31 (21st Day)

1 Samuel 15:32-34 (22nd Day)

Psalm 23 (All Days)

Ephesians 4:25-32 (20th Day)

Ephesians 5:1-9 (21st Day)

John 1:1-9 (22nd Day)

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You revive my spirit:

and guide me in right pathways

for your name’s sake.

–Psalm 23:3, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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1 Samuel 15 confuses me.  The readings from Ephesians tell me to follow Christ as an example, to forgive people, to love them, and to deal generously with them.  But 1 Samuel 15 tells a story in which King Saul falls out of favor with God for not committing enough violence.  In a holy war an army was supposed to destroy and kill completely, but Saul’s forces did not do that.  The concept of God in that chapter is not the one in my head.

No, I follow Jesus, who did not slaughter yet whom Roman imperial forces crucified.  I follow Christ—victim and victor, sacrifice and priest.  I follow Jesus, the light of the world, the light which

shines in the darkness.

Yet

…the darkness has never mastered it.

–John 1:5, The Revised English Bible (1989)

I read the Bible through the lenses of what the late Donald Armentrout called

Gospel glasses.

Thus I acknowledge the superiority of the four canonical gospels to the rest of the canon of Scripture.  And I recognize Jesus of Nazareth as the template to follow.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 26, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN BERCHMANS, ROMAN CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN

THE FEAST OF ISAAC WATTS, HYMN WRITER

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/the-light-shining-in-the-darkness/

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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 Twenty-First and Twenty-Second Days of Lent (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

Above:  Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

Genesis and Mark, Part XIX: Leadership and Service

FRIDAY, MARCH 20, 2020, and SATURDAY, MARCH 21, 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 40:1-23 (21st Day of Lent)

Genesis 41:1-27 (22nd Day of Lent)

Psalm 22 (Morning–21st Day of Lent)

Psalm 43 (Morning–22nd Day of Lent)

Psalms 107 and 130 (Evening–21st Day of Lent)

Psalms 31 and 143 (Evening–22nd Day of Lent)

Mark 10:32-50 (21st Day of Lent)

Mark 11:1-19 (22nd Day of Lent)

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Some Related Posts:

Prayers:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/03/prayer-for-friday-in-the-third-week-of-lent/

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/03/prayer-for-saturday-in-the-third-week-of-lent/

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Back in Mark 10:13-16 Jesus taught his Apostles regarding the Kingdom of God:  Powerless children were the exemplars to emulate.  Yet, in Mark 10:35-40, James and John, our Lord’s cousins, requested preferential treatment.  They did not yet grasp that leadership in God’s order is about service, not status.  Then Jesus provided some examples.  We read in the Markan narrative of our Lord healing a blind man (whom others were trying to keep quiet) and entering Jerusalem not as a conquering hero for the final Passover Week of his earthly life.

Meanwhile, back in Genesis, Joseph was in prison for an offense he did not commit.  At least he was the de facto assistant warden, with all the privileges attached to that position.  But he was still an innocent man in prison.  And the chief cup bearer had forgotten his promise to speak to the Pharaoh on his behalf for a while–until he remembered.  The chief cup bearer was of no service to Joseph for a long time.

We humans are responsible for one another.  We do not act like it as often as we should, but we are.  And living this responsibility might entail great risk–even death.  It did for Jesus and James.  John survived his risks, enduring hardships yet not suffering martyrdom.  Joseph, of course, prospered and shared the wealth with his relatives, some of whom had plotted to kill him then decided merely to sell him into slavery.  I cannot say for certain where my path of service will lead me, much less where your path of service will lead you, O reader.  Yet I can say that the path of service is part of the Kingdom of God and a matter of Christian discipleship.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 22, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD BIGGS, ACTOR

THE FEAST OF ROTA WAITOA, ANGLICAN PRIEST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/genesis-and-mark-part-xix-leadership-and-service/

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