Archive for the ‘March 8’ Category

Devotion for the Second Sunday in Lent, Year B (Humes)   3 comments

Above:  Belshazzar’s Feast, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Humility

MARCH 8, 2020

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The Collect:

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 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:

Daniel 5:1-7, 17-30

Psalm 22:23-31

2 Timothy 2:1-15

Mark 14:1-11

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Before I address my main point, I write about two historical problems with Daniel 5 and 6.  Belshazzar was never a king, for example.  His father was Nabonidus (reigned 556-539 B.C.E.), the last king of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  In 539 B.C.E. Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire .  Darius the Mede (6:1), a supposed predecessor of Cyrus II, was fictitious.  At best Belshazzar was the regent or viceroy his father when his father was away.  The chronology within the Book of Daniel makes no sense, regardless of whether one restricts oneself to the Hebrew version or the version with Greek additions. The Book of Daniel is not history; its chronology contradicts other portions of the Hebrew Bible.  That fact does not mean, of course, that we cannot read it in a spiritually profitable manner.

Humility before God is a theme running through the assigned readings.  Belshazzar was far from humble before God.  The author of Psalm 22 preached the virtues of being in the awe of God, a term we usually read or hear translated as “fear of God.”  St. Paul the Apostle, who knew much about ego, obeyed God and suffered for his obedience.  The unnamed woman who anointed Jesus at the home of Simon the leper in Bethany demonstrated extravagant love and humility; she did not care about how she looked.

To be humble is to be down to earth, literally.  In the context of God each of us should recognize his or her relative insignificance.  Yet we bear the image of God, as Cyrus II was.  Divine grace can flow through us to others.  That should be sufficient status for us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 21, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALOYSIUS GONZAGA, JESUIT

THE FEAST OF BERNARD ADAM GRUBE, GERMAN-AMERICAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, COMPOSER, AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF CARL BERNHARD GARVE, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN JONES AND JOHN RIGBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/06/21/humility-before-god-part-v/

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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 the Second Sunday in Lent (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:  St. Titus

Image in the Public Domain

Difficulty

MARCH 8, 2020

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The Collect:

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 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 9:18-27

Psalm 39:4-8a

Titus 2:1-10

Matthew 12:38-42

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Some of the readings for this Sunday are difficult.  Genesis 9:18-27 gives us the misnamed Curse of Ham (“Cursed be Canaan,” verse 25 says).  This curse follows a euphemistic description of either the castration or the incestuous and homosexual rape of Noah by his son Ham.  As one acquainted with the shameful history of racism, slavery, and institutionalized racial segregation  in the United States knows well, the misuse of this passage to justify these sins is an old story.  I know that story well, due to reading in both primary and secondary sources.  Primary sources include back issues of The Presbyterian Journal (founded as The Southern Presbyterian Journal), a publication by and for ardent defenders of racism and institutionalized racial segregation in the 1940s forward, some of whom went on to found the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), schismatic to the Presbyterian Church in the United States, or, informally, the old Southern Presbyterian Church, in 1973.  (The events of 1942-1972 are not ancient history!)  I have index cards from which I can cite many examples of quoting this and other passages of scripture to criticize efforts to work for the civil rights of African Americans, so nobody should challenge me regarding the facts of this objective matter.

Titus 2:1-10 is likewise troublesome.  Insisting upon submissive wives and slaves is indefensible.  If one thinks that Jesus might return during one’s lifetime, one might not argue for social reform.  God will take care of that, right?  Maybe not!  Besides, do we not still have the moral obligation to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  The epistle dates to the first century C.E.  I am typing this post in  2017, however.  The passage of time has proven the inaccuracy of the expectation that Jesus would return in the first century C.E.

David Ackerman summarizes these two readings as focusing

on ways in which God calls Christians to repent of misusing the Bible to the unjust exclusion and oppression of others.

Beyond the Lectionary (2013), pages 37-38

The lack of faith of certain scribes and Pharisees is evident in Matthew 12, for they request a sign from Jesus.  (Faith requires no signs.)  Our Lord and Savior replies in such a way as to indicate

rejection experienced in death yet God’s victory over it.

The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003), page 1768

The possibility of death is evident in Psalm 39.  A sense of awareness of one’s mortality and vulnerability pervades the text.  The author turns to God for deliverance.

Sometimes deliverance from death does not come.  Yet, in God, there is victory over death.

May, via God, there also be an end to

unjust exclusion and oppression of others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 6, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANKLIN CLARK FRY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA AND THE LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLAUDE OF BESANCON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF HENRY JAMES BUCKOLL, AUTHOR AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM KETHE, PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/06/06/difficulty/

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Devotion for the Second Sunday in Lent (Year D)   1 comment

lake-umbagog-wilderness-refuge

Above:  Umbagog Lake State Park, New Hampshire, United States of America

Image in the Public Domain

The Sin of Exclusionary Identity Politics

MARCH 8, 2020

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The Collect:

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 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:

Ezekiel 47:1-12

Psalm 143

John 7:14-36 (37-39)

James 2:(14-17) 18-26 or James 2:(1-10) 11-13 (14-17) 18-26 or Galatians 2:1-14 (15-21)

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Water is essential for life; one can life longer with water and without food than without water.  The preciousness of water is especially obvious in a parched and barren place.  In that context we read, from the early stage of the Babylonian Exile, a prediction of God’s recreation of the world and the restoration of the Kingdom of Judah and of worship at the Temple in Jerusalem.  The rebuilt temple will occupy the central place in creation, we read, and from beneath the new Temple will flow life-giving waters.

That vision of post-exilic paradise on earth proved to be overly optimistic, however.  Life in post-exilic Judea did not match the vision of Ezekiel 47.  Nevertheless, God had acted.  Certainly many post-exilic Jews recited Psalm 124 with gratitude.

Part of post-exilic Judaism was a renewed focus on obeying the Law of Moses.  Some, however, took this principle to legalistic extremes.  One was supposed to do no work on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11), under pain of death (Numbers 15:32-36), with few exceptions.  Among these exceptions was circumcising a newborn boy on the eighth day, even if that day fell on the Sabbath (Leviticus 12:3).  Jesus healed on the Sabbath, pronounced the performing of good deeds on that day holy, and even noted the value of basic human needs, such as gathering food, permissible on that day.  He pointed to the hypocrisy of certain critics, who condemned him for healing on the Sabbath yet approved of removing valuable livestock from peril on that day.  In John 7 had Jesus committed a capital offense by healing on the Sabbath?  Some thought he had.  The poor man stoned in Numbers 15 had only gathered sticks on the Sabbath.

As James 2 reminds us, faith without works is dead and one should fulfill the law by acting according to the Golden Rule.  When I read the lection from John 7 I detect identity politics among the critics of our Lord and Savior.  I recall that they had set themselves apart from the Gentile-dominated world via their religion, with its laws and rituals.  I also detect such identity politics in the background of Galatians 2, although St. Paul the Apostle won approval for his mission to Gentiles, fortunately.

Religion should be about glorifying God, not our psyches.  It should teach us of our proper identities in God, not function as an excuse to exclude others, whom God considers insiders, wrongly.  Religion, with necessary rules, ought never to become an excuse for ignoring the commandment to act compassionately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 9, 2016 COMMON ERA

PROPER 21:  THE TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT DENIS, BISHOP OF PARIS, AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUIS BERTRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GROSSETESTE, SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF WILHELM WEXELS, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; HIS NIECE, MARIE WEXELSEN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER; LUDWIG LINDEMAN, NORWEGIAN ORGANIST AND MUSICOLOGIST; AND MAGNUS LANDSTAD, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, FOLKLORIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/10/09/the-sin-of-exclusionary-identity-politics/

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Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before the Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Noah's Ark

Scan Source = Lawrence G. Lovasik, S.V.D., New Catholic Picture Bible:  Popular Stories from the Old and New Testaments (New York Publishing Company, 1960), page 14

Waiting Faithfully for the Mysterious God

MARCH 8, 2018, and MARCH 9, 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:

Genesis 9:8-17 (Thursday)

Daniel 12:5-13 (Friday)

Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22 (Both Days)

Ephesians 1:3-6 (Thursday)

Ephesians 1:7-14 (Friday)

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“O give thanks, for the Lord is gracious:

God’s steadfast love endures for ever.”

So let the people say whom the Lord has redeemed:

whom the Lord has redeemed from the hand of the enemy,

and gathered out of the lands,

from the east and from the west:

from the north and from the south.

–Psalm 107:1-3, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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Sometimes that deliverance–from exile, tyranny, religious persecution, foreign occupation, et cetera–does not come soon enough according to our human expectations.  That is part of the context of the epilogue to the Hebrew version of the Book of Daniel.  That version (distinct from the one with Greek additions) ends:

Many will be purified and purged and refined; the wicked will act wickedly and none of the wicked will understand….But you, go on to the end; you shall rest, and arise to your destiny at the end of days.

–12:10, 13, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

A sense of living between the pronouncement of the divine promise and the end of days also pervades the assigned reading from Ephesians 1.  That letter, probably Pauline without being of St. Paul the Apostle, encourages faithful Christians to live for the praise and glory of Christ.  That counsel is as sound today as it was in the late first century C.E.  God will act when God will act.  I refuse to predict when that might be, for

  1. I can do nothing to change the divine schedule, into which I have no insight, and
  2. the list of failed prophets and prophecies (especially of the Second Coming of Jesus) is long.

But what of the character of this God, whom the author of Psalm 107 described as gracious?  We mere mortals are wise to proceed in theological humility, but we are not entirely lacking in knowledge on this point.  One lens through which to consider this topic is the story of the Great Flood and Noah’s Ark.  It is an oft-told tale with many inconsistencies within the Biblical narrative itself, due to the number of sources cut and pasted together.  The composite Biblical account is also just one variation on a much older story, which probably goes back to a massive flood in the area of the Black Sea.  (The world, as the ancient authors of the Bible understood it, was much smaller than the planet I see represented on globes today.)

A myth is a story which communicates a truth without being literally accurate.  So what does the composite Biblical account of Noah’s Ark tell us about God?  A rival version of the tale, of Zoroastrian origin, says that Ahriman (read:  Satan in post-Exilic Jewish and in Christian theology) started the flood, which Ahura-Mazda (the chief deity) ended.  But there is one actor–God–responsible for starting and ending the flood in Genesis.  In a monotheistic system the deity commits all that people perceive as good or bad; God is always on the hook for the theological problem of good and evil.

This is God for whom we wait and whom many people profess to stand in awe of, to love, and to follow.  This is God, who encompasses judgment and mercy.  This is God, properly a mystery.  This is God, whose schedule is not ours.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 14, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

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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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/waiting-faithfully-for-the-mysterious-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

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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