Archive for the ‘March 4’ 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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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

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

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Above:  Shepherds, 1898

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-06374

Sheep and Mutuality

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 4, 2020

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The Collect:

Lord God, our strength, the struggle between good and evil rages within and around us,

and the devil and all the forces that defy you tempt us with empty promises.

Keep us steadfast in your word, and when we fall, raise us again and restore us

through 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 26

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 34:1-9, 27-28

Psalm 32

Matthew 18:10-14

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I will instruct you and teach you

in the way that you should go;

I will guide you with my eye.

–Psalm 32:9, Common Worship (2000)

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No one may come up with you, no one may be seen anywhere on this mountain; the flocks and herds may not even graze in front of this mountain.

–Exodus 34:3, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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One of the perils of superficial familiarity with biblical texts is going on autopilot regarding them.

O yes, I know this passage,

we tell ourselves before we move along.  Yet we probably do not know these texts as well as we think we do.

Matthew 18:12-14 is such a text.  I knew that I was missing something, so I consulted my collection of commentaries.  They have informed me that these flocks were usually village flocks which a team of shepherds guarded.  Thus one shepherd could seek a lost sheep while his coworkers watched the others.  And each sheep was important.  Likewise, a sheep apart from the herd was in great danger.

This parable sits in the middle of teachings about communal life.  Immediately before the parable we read about welcoming children.  After the parable we learn about how to deal properly with errant members of the faith community.  In all three cases we read about what is best for the individual and the community.  But, as Matthew 18:17 tells us, the community must not allow the errant individual to danger it.

Communal life, with individual responsibilities to and for each other, constitutes one of the major concerns of the Law of Moses.  May we modern people not ignore this fact, despite the rugged individualism prevalent in the global Western tradition.  The individual cannot be healthy apart from the whole, which cannot be all that it can be without all of the members it should have.

Another point stands out in my mind.  As Moses collected the second set of tablets from God, not even flocks and herds were supposed to be in front of the mountain where he met with God.  The holy distance from sinful people–even from livestock–was very much a real issue.  By the time of Matthew 18, however, God, via the Incarnation, had closed that gap.  People ate with Jesus, anointed parts of him, and looked into his face.  And, as Hebrews 4:16 (assigned for yesterday) told us in the context of our Lord and Savior’s testing yet sinlessness:

Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

The New Revised Standard Version:  Catholic Edition (1993)

So, confident in our great high priest, may we love each other actively and effectively, fulfilling our mutual responsibilities well.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 18, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR TOZER RUSSELL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILDA OF WHITBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/sheep-and-mutuality/

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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 Seventh Day of Lent (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   9 comments

Above:  Noah’s Thank Offering, by Joseph Anton Koch

Genesis and Mark, Part VIII:  Societal Immorality

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 4, 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 8:13-9:17

Psalm 5 (Morning)

Psalms 27 and 51 (Evening)

Mark 4:1-20

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A Related Post:

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/prayer-for-wednesday-of-the-first-week-of-lent/

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The sower’s seed needed good soil in which to flourish.  And, as I return to the beginning of the composite Noah’s Ark story, I read that

The earth became corrupt before God;

the earth was filled with lawlessness.

–Genesis 6:11, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Thus the Great Flood followed in the narratives.  And, as today’s Genesis reading begins, so does renewed life on the planet.  But keep reading; the corruption returned almost immediately.

Corruption–societal immorality–is endemic among we human beings.  As a student of history, I point to examples of this.  Slavery was part of the socio-economic and political fabric of the nation from the 1600s, before this was the United States.   The blood Civil War destroyed the damnable Peculiar Institution in the 1860s.  Yet the racism which supported slavery persisted without apology, and many self-professing Christians quoted the Bible to support both slavery and Jim Crow.  The civil rights movement erased much de jure discrimination against African Americans, changing the attitudes of many people yet leaving de facto discrimination in place.  Many of my fellow human beings seek to discriminate against somebody.  These days homophobia is masquerading shamelessly as societal righteousness, but it is still a form of bigotry.

We human beings have a vocation to act toward each other according to the Golden Rule.  We ought to seek the best for each other, not look for ways to oppress each other.  This proposition undergirds my sense of morality, my ethics.  Thus I conclude  that anything else is corruption and immorality.  Here I stand; I can and will do no other.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 12, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DUNCAN MONTGOMERY GRAY, SR., EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF MISSISSIPPI

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY OF OSTIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT, CARDINAL, AND LEGATE; AND SAINT DOMINIC OF THE CAUSEWAY, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL MARSDEN, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY IN AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/01/20/genesis-and-mark-part-viii-societal-immorality/

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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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A Prayer for Proper Priorities   Leave a comment

Above:  A Scene from the March for Troy Davis, September 16, 2011

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

(https://picasaweb.google.com/114749828757741527421/MarchForTroyDavis#5653438224111695570)

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God of justice,

may we have proper priorities.

Taking our cues from the prophets and Jesus,

may we eschew idolatry,

love you fully,

love our neighbors as we love ourselves,

care for widows and orphans,

plead their cases,

feed the hungry,

clothe the naked,

visit the sick and the imprisoned,

resist and condemn judicial corruption and other official injustice,

and value the most vulnerable members of society.

May we love the unloved,

comfort the comfortless,

give hope to the hopeless,

include the improperly excluded,

and recognize your image in each other.

May we succeed by grace and for your glory and our common good.

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 22, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THOMAS OF VILLANOVA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF VALENCIA

THE FEAST OF PHILANDER CHASE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

Posted September 22, 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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