Archive for the ‘Revised Common Lectionary Year A’ Category

Fiftieth Day of Easter: Day of Pentecost, Year A   30 comments

Above:  Tree of Jesse, from the Recipian Bible, 12th Century C.E.

(The doves around Jesus’ head represent the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit.)

“For the Common Good”

JUNE 4, 2017

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The Assigned Readings for This Sunday:

Acts 2:1-21 or Numbers 11:24-30

Psalm 104:25-35, 37

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13 or Acts 2:1-21

John 20:19-23 or John 7:37-39

The Collect:

Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The Apostle Paul provided a partial list of manifestations of the Holy Spirit:

  1. the utterance of wisdom
  2. the utterance of knowledge
  3. faith
  4. healing
  5. the working of miracles
  6. prophecy
  7. the discernment of spirits
  8. tongues
  9. the interpretation of tongues

And he cautioned people to use them for the common good, not building up oneself.  A spiritual gift ought not to become an occasion of the illusion of spiritual spirituality over those who lack that gift, he wrote, for the variety of gifts is essential to the proper functioning of the church.  And the greatest gift is love, or charity as some Biblical translators render the original Greek word.

(An Aside:  Some of my coreligionists insist that to pray one needs a “prayer language.”  My prayer language is English, which God understands very well.)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church identifies seven gifts of the Holy Spirit:

  1. wisdom
  2. understanding
  3. counsel
  4. fortitude
  5. knowledge
  6. piety
  7. fear of the Lord (see paragraph 1831).

And the Catholic Catechism lists the fruits of the Holy Spirit, “perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory,: identifying twelve of them:

  1. charity
  2. joy
  3. peace
  4. patience
  5. kindness
  6. goodness
  7. generosity
  8. gentleness
  9. faithfulness
  10. modesty
  11. self-control
  12. chastity (see paragraph 1832).

I believe that each of us enters this world with much potential to do much good.  We can fulfill this potential if we obey God, making wise decisions which liberate us to live into our divine vocations.  Trying to decide wisely does not guarantee success, of course, but that is at least better than not caring at all.  And our vocations from God might not be what we think they are.

As I survey world history I wonder how much better the world would be if more of us had spent more time nurturing joy, patience, kindness, generosity, fortitude, and other great virtues.  Leaving one’s corner of the world (or, on a grander scale, the world) is insufficient to grant salvation; only God can do that.  But this is a noble and achievable goal God empowers us to complete.

One might say, however, “What does it matter?  The world is a screwed-up place, and will be so for a long time.”  Yes, the world is screwed-up, but it can be less so.  I do not think of the world as the enemy camp, the bastion of Satan (in whom I do not believe anyway, although I accept the reality of evil).  Instead, I think of the world as my neighborhood, for which I am partially responsible.  I am partially to blame for its screwed-up nature.  If I am not part of the solution, I am part of the problem.  And I want to be part of the solution.  I can do my part, you can do your part, another person can do his or her part, et cetera, and together we can accomplish much good.

Empowered by God, may we do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 21, 2010 COMMON ERA

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/for-the-common-good/

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Forty-Third Day of Easter: Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year A   21 comments

Above: Praying Hands, by Albrecht Durer

The Power of Prayer

MAY 28, 2017

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Acts 1:6-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

When the apostles had come together, they asked Jesus,

Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?

He replied,

It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said,

Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.

Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35 (New Revised Standard Version):

Let God rise up, let his enemies be scattered;

let those who hate him flee before him.

As smoke is driven away, so drive them away;

as wax melts before the fire,

let the wicked perish before God.

But let the righteous be joyful;

let them exult before God;

let them be jubilant with joy.

Sing to God, sing praises to his name;

lift up a song to him who rides upon the clouds–

his name is the LORD–

be exultant before him.

Father of orphans and protector of widows

is God in his holy habitation.

God gives the desolate a home to live in;

he leads out the prisoners to prosperity,

but the rebellious live in a parched land.

O God, when you went out before your people,

when you marched through the wilderness,

the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain

at the presence of God, the God of Sinai,

at the presence of God, the God of Israel.

Rain in abundance, O God, you showered  abroad;

you restored your heritage when it languished;

your flock found a dwelling in it;

in your goodness, O God, you provided for the needy.

Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth;

sing praises to the Lord.

O rider in the heavens the ancient heavens;

listen, he sends out his voice, his mighty voice.

Ascribe power to God,

whose majesty is over Israel;

and whose power is in the skies.

Awesome is God in his sanctuary,

the God of Israel;

he gives power and strength to his people.

Blessed by God!

1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.

John 17:1-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus looked up to heaven and said,

Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.

The Collect:

O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

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First a definition of prayer is appropriate.  The best and most succinct definition comes from the catechism in the Book of Common Prayer (1979).  Prayer, it says, “is responding to God, by thought and by deeds, with or without words.”  Furthermore, Christian prayer is “response to God the Father, through Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit.”

A few thoughts about prayer, mostly in relation to the assigned lections, come to mind.

  1. Primary among these is that a number of Biblical readings indicate that God listens to prayers, sometimes reversing a decision.  Hence we are not mere peons in the eyes of God.
  2. Then I suggest that implicit in the lection from Luke is an assumption that one is in tune with God, hence the statements about God answering our prayers in the affirmative.  Sometimes the best (for us) answer to our prayers is, “No, I have a better plan for you.”
  3. Prayer has the power also to transform the one who prays.  Ponder this:  If you pray for, not pray about, someone whom you despise, that person might or might not change.  Yet your way of thinking about that individual will probably change.  You can become a better and more spiritual person.
  4. Also, silent prayer is at least as important as spoken prayer.  Much of the time it is appropriate to be quiet in the presence of God, to watch, and to listen.  This is quite transformational.
  5. Finally, there is no one method by which all people must pray.  Growing up in the Baptist Belt of the U.S. South, I became familiar with a style of prayer which entails a cadence and great deal of talking.  This type of praying has never appealed to me.  My preference turns toward a combination of corporate liturgical prayer, private liturgical prayer, informal chattiness, and periods of listening.  Furthermore, I have long been uncomfortable praying aloud in public without a Prayer Book.  Informal prayer is an inherently private matter for me; I want no eavesdroppers.   I have gleaned from conversations I have had from people the late, great, and frequently funny Molly Ivins would have described as “Shi’ite Baptists” that they think that I do not really pray because I pray differently than they do.  Actually, I know that there is a link between personality type and prayer style preference; a large body of literature exists on the subject.  In prayer one size does not fit all.

KRT

Written on June 21, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/the-power-of-prayer/

Thirty-Sixth Day of Easter: Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year A   18 comments

Above:  A Depiction of the Holy Spirit as a Dove (from St. Charles’s Church, Vienna, Austria)

If You Love Jesus…

MAY 21, 2017

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Acts 17:22-31 (New Revised Standard Version):

Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said,

Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him– though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For `In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said,

For we too are his offspring.

Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.

Psalm 66:8-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

Bless our God, O peoples,

let the sound of his praise be heard,

who has kept us among the living,

and has not let our feet slip.

For you, O God, have tested us;

you have tried us as silver is tried.

You brought us into the net;

you laid burdens on our backs;

you let people ride over our heads;

we went through fire and through water;

yet you have brought us out of a spacious place.

I will come into your house with burnt offerings;

I will pay you my vows,

those that my lips uttered

and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.

I will offer to you burnt offerings of fatlings,

with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams;

I will make an offering of bulls and goats.

Come and hear, all you who fear God,

and I will tell what he has done for me.

I cried aloud to him,

and he was extolled with my tongue.

If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,

the Lord would not have listened.

But truly God has listened;

he has given heed to the words of my prayer.

Blessed by God,

because he has not rejected my prayer

or removed his steadfast love from me.

1 Peter 3:13-22 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you– not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

John 14:15-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said to his disciples,

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.

The Collect:

O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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We cannot love God, whom we cannot see, unless first we love our fellow human beings, whom we can see.  This is an old standard, one I use to determine whether an action one commits in the name of God is consistent with God.

And what is the standard of love, which many older translations render as charity?  The answer to that question comes from the Apostle Paul, who wrote the following in 1 Corinthians 13, as the Confraternity Version (1941) renders it:

And I point out to you a yet more excellent way.  If I should speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have charity, I have become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.  And I have prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith as to remove mountains, yet do not have charity, I am nothing.  And if I distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, yet do not have charity, it profits me nothing.

Charity is patient, is kind; charity does not envy, is not pretentious, is not puffed up, is not ambitious, is not self-seeking, is not provoked; thinks no evil, does not rejoice over wickedness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Charity never fails, whereas prophecies will disappear, and tongues will cease, and knowledge will be disappeared.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when that which is perfect has come, that which is imperfect will be done away with.  When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I spoke as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child.  Now that I have become a man, I have put away the things of a child.  We now see through a mirror in an obscure manner, but then face to face.  Now I know in part, but then I shall know even as I have been known.  So there abide faith, hope, and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

So, when I read about people killing their daughters for become pregnant outside of wedlock or their sons for watching soccer matches on television then quoting back religion to justify murder, I believe these acts are inconsistent with God, who is love.  Such love, or charity, if you prefer that translation, can take the form of tough love sometimes.  I recognize this fact readily.  Yet it can never become manifest as an honor killing.

May we love each other actively, emphasizing the benefits to the others around us.

Note where we are in the Easter season with this post.  There are two weeks left the season, which ends with the Day of Pentecost.  The designers of the Revised Common Lectionary have placed this Gospel reading on this day to start the short countdown to Pentecost.  This example demonstrates one strength of a lectionary, for organization is an advantage in planning the Christian year.

KRT

Written on June 20, 2010

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Easter, May, Revised Common Lectionary Year A

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Twenty-Ninth Day of Easter: Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A   15 comments

“Do not let your hearts be troubled….”–Jesus

MAY 14, 2017

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Acts 7:55-60 (New Revised Standard Version):

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Stephen gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

Look,

he said,

I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!

But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed,

Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.

Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice,

Lord, do not hold this sin against them.

When he had said this, he died.

Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 (New Revised Standard Version):

In you, O LORD, I seek refuge;

so not let me ever be put to shame;

in your righteousness deliver me.

Incline your ear to me;

rescue me speedily.

Be a rock of refuge for me,

a strong fortress to save me.

You are indeed my rock and my fortress;

for your name’s sake lead me and guide me,

take me out of the net that is hidden for me,

for you are my refuge.

Into your hand I commit my spirit;

you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.

My times are in your hand;

deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.

Let your face shine upon your servant;

save me in your steadfast love.

1 Peter 2:2-10 (New Revised Standard Version):

Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander.  Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation–if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  For it stands in scripture:

See, I am laying in Zion a stone,

a cornerstone chosen and precious;

and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.

To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe,

The stone that the builders rejected

has become the head of the corner,

and

A stone that makes them stumble,

and a rock that makes them fall.

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Once you were not a people,

but now you are God’s people;

once you had not received mercy,

but now you have received mercy.

John 14:1-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.

Thomas said to him,

Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?

Jesus said to him,

I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.

Philip said to him,

Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.

Jesus said to him,

Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

The Collect:

Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The Authorized Version of the Bible translates “dwelling places” from John 14:2 as “mansions.”  This is a poor translation, for, depending on the scholar one consults, the reference in Greek can have three possible meanings:

1.  There are “many rooms” (as the New International Version renders the text).  The location of one’s room in the afterlife depends on one’s life:  good for good and evil for evil.  Some Jewish literature of the time contained this idea.

2.  There is a series of roadside rooms where a traveler sleeps overnight before rising the next morning and going on his or her way.  So there are stages of one’s spiritual journey, even in Heaven.

3.  There are many rooms in God’s house, with plenty of room for everybody.

I like #2.  But who knows, really?  The main idea we should remember that Jesus is central to this afterlife.

Let us remember, too, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”  Given the literary context within the Johannine Gospel, Jesus had many reasons to be troubled.  And yet he said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”  And Paul the Apostle endured his share of difficulties after become a Christian and evangelist.  Yet the epistles he wrote and dictated reflect a deep and abiding faith, great determination, and moments of frustration and pique, but not a greatly troubled heart.

I was a student at Valdosta State University and a member of Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, Georgia, from 1993 to 1996.  One day I attended the funeral for Deacon Stella Clark’s son.  I arrived at the church just before the funeral, for I chose not to skip a class meeting.  The church was full, so I had to sit in the Parish Hall and listen to the service on a speaker.  I recall Stella reading the Gospel, which began “Do not let your hearts be troubled…,” her voice breaking.  That was great faith indeed.  During that service she administered communion, the bread of life, to me.

Life contains the good and the bad, the joyous and the excruciating, and all degrees in the middle.  Through it all we are not alone, no matter how much we feel that way.  Experience has taught me that grace is most noticeable when the need for it is greatest.  So I carry meaningful memories related to traumatic times.  I rejoice in the great joy during those troubled times and thank God for the spiritual growth which has flowed from them, but take no delight in those times themselves.  And I have learned more deeply the truth of “Do not let your hearts be troubled….”  This is a lesson one can learn only by living.

KRT

Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on June 20, 2010

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Easter, May, Revised Common Lectionary Year A

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Twenty-Second Day of Easter: Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year A   12 comments

Above:  Logo of the Moravian Church

Jesus:  Shepherd and Lamb

MAY 7, 2017

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Acts 2:42-47 (New Revised Standard Version):

Those who had been baptized devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Psalm 23 (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures;

he leads me beside still waters;

he restores my soul.

He leads me in right paths

for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,

I fear no evil;

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff–

they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me

in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD

my whole life long.

1 Peter 2:19-25 (New Revised Standard Version):

It is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.

He committed no sin,

and no deceit was found in his mouth.

When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.  He himself bore our sins in the body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.  For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the guardian of your souls.

John 10:1-10 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.

Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So again Jesus said to them,

Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

The Collect:

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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A shepherd is  a shepherd only if there are sheep to guard and lead.

The imagery of sheep and shepherds runs throughout the Old and New Testaments.  Various groups of people–royal subjects, people in front of Jesus, et cetera–filled the role of sheep, depending on the text in question.  Depending on the passage of Scripture one considers, the shepherd was God, a king, or Jesus.  And some shepherds neglected their flocks.  Jesus, we read, is the Good Shepherd.  And he is, indeed.

We, as sheep, need a shepherd to protect us from ourselves, for we want to wander off to dangerous places.  Despite what we like to think about ourselves, we are not always the brightest crayons in the box.  Dealing with this issue effectively begins with recognizing the truth about ourselves and how much we need God, specifically in the form of Jesus.  May we acknowledge our shepherd and follow his lead.

Yet Jesus is also the victorious and worthy sacrificial lamb.  Members of the Church Triumphant wash their robes in his blood, and their robes become white. This poetic image communicates a great truth regarding atonement.  So, as the logo of the Moravian Church encourages us, may we follow the lamb.  Considering what he sacrificed and why he did it, we should reciprocate in love, devotion, and gratitude.

KRT

Written on June 20, 2010

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Easter, May, Revised Common Lectionary Year A

Tagged with , ,

Fifteenth Day of Easter: Third Sunday of Easter, Year A   10 comments

Above: Supper at Emmaus, by Caravaggio, 1601

Jesus = The Bread of Heaven and The Cup of Salvation

APRIL 30, 2017

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Acts 2:14a, 36-41 (New Revised Standard Version):

Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed the multitude,

Let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles,

Brothers, what should we do?

Peter said to them,

Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.

And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying,

Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.

So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.

Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19 (New Revised Standard Version):

I love the LORD, because he has heard

my voice and my supplications.

Because he has inclined his ear to me,

therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

The snares of death encompassed me;

the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;

I suffered distress and anguish.

Then I called on the name of the LORD;

O LORD, I pray, save my life!

What shall I return to the LORD

for all his bounty to me?

I will lift up the cup of salvation

and call on the name of the LORD,

I will pay my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all his people.

Precious in the sight of the LORD

is the death of his faithful ones.

O LORD, I am your servant;

I am your servant, the child of your serving girl.

You have loosed my bonds.

I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice

and call on the name of the LORD.

I will pay my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all his people,

in the courts of the house of the LORD,

in your midst, O Jerusalem.

Praise the LORD!

1 Peter 1:17-23 (New Revised Standard Version):

If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God.

Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.

Luke 24:13-35 (New Revised Standard Version):

That very day, the first day of the week, two of the disciples were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them,

What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?

They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him,

Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?

He asked them,

What things?

They replied,

The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.

Then he said to them,

Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?

Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying,

Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.

So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other,

Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?

That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying,

The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!

Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

The Collect:

O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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I grew up in a series of rural United Methodist congregations my father pastored in the South Georgia Annual Conference.  The celebration of the Sacrament of Holy Communion was usually quarterly, every three months, per the traditions of the congregations.  This did not sit well with me after a while, for my spirituality included a need for more frequent Communion.

Now I am an Episcopalian, and I take the Holy Eucharist once a week at least.  And for years I have helped administer this sacrament (one of seven), holding a chalice containing wine, offering it to someone who either sips from it or dips a wafer or piece of bread into it, and saying, “The blood of Christ, the cup of salvation.”  I mean it; that is, in some way I cannot explain, the blood of Jesus in the chalice.  And the bread I just finished eating was his flesh, mysteriously.  If we are what we eat, the Holy Eucharist is a proper meal.  Why not partake of it frequently?

Each week I meet Jesus many times and in numerous ways.  One of them is through the breaking of bread and the drinking of a little wine.

KRT

Written on June 20, 2010

Eighth Day of Easter: Second Sunday of Easter, Year A   14 comments

Above:  Exterior Statue of St. Thomas the Apostle from St. Thomas Catholic Church, Hyde Park, Chicago, Illinois

Defending “Doubting Thomas”

APRIL 23, 2017

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Acts 2:14a, 23-32 (New Revised Standard Version):

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them…

You that are Israelites, listen to what I say:  Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know–this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by hands of those outside the law.  But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.  For David says concerning him,

“I saw the Lord always before me,

for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken;

therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;

moreover my flesh will live in hope.

For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,

or let your Holy One experience corruption.

You have made known to me the ways of life;

you will make me full of gladness with your presence.”

Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.  Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne.  Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying,

“He was not abandoned to Hades,

nor did his flesh see corruption.”

This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.

Psalm 16 (New Revised Standard Version):

Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.

I say to the LORD,

You are my Lord;

I have no good apart from you.

As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble,

in whom is all my delight.

Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows;

their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out

or take their names upon my lips.

The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;

you hold my lot.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

I have a goodly heritage.

I bless the LORD who gives me counsel;

in the night also my heart instructs me.

I keep the LORD always before me;

because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices;

my body also rests secure.

For you do not give me up to Sheol,

or let your faithful one see the Pit.

You show me the path of life.

In your presence there is fullness of joy;

in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

1 Peter 1:3-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith– being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire– may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

John 20:19-31 (New Revised Standard Version):

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said,

Peace be with you.

After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again,

Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.

When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,

Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him,

We have seen the Lord.

But he said to them,

Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said,

Peace be with you.

Then he said to Thomas,

Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.

Thomas answered him,

My Lord and my God!

Jesus said to him,

Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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My father served as pastor of Cooks Union United Methodist Church, about eight miles outside Colquitt, Georgia, in Miller County, from June 1985 to June 1986.  One Sunday morning during that year, a laywoman whose name I forget delivered a children’s sermon about St. Thomas.  She held a small book about the Apostles.  You, O reader, might have seen this book or even own a copy.  It features color paintings of each of the main Apostles with a brief profile on the facing page.  The book is thin, with a two-tone hard cover.  The church member explained that Thomas had doubted the resurrection of Jesus and that he had later taken the Gospel to India, where he died for the Christian faith.  So, she said, Thomas was not all bad.

But Thomas not all bad, anyway.  The presumption behind her concluding statement was that the Apostle’s doubt constituted a great stain on his character.  This was a great misunderstanding.

Let us back up for a few moments, though.

St. Thomas was a twin, hence the Greek designation Didymus, which means “twin.”  The canonical Gospels contain few details about him, and he did not write the Gnostic, non-canonical Gospel of Thomas.  (I have read the Gospel of Thomas in three translations, and think that its non-canonical status is proper.)  St. Thomas traveled through Persia all the way to India, where he introduced Christianity to the subcontinent by the 50s C.E.  The modern-day Mar Thoma Church is the heir of this efforts.  In India the Apostle met his martyrdom by spearing at Madras; Mylapore is his burial site.  Today one can visit his tomb at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Thomas at Mylapore.

St. Thomas was a healthy skeptic.  The resurrection was hardly a frequent event, so doubting it was natural.  The Apostle was not the only follower of Jesus at the time to harbor doubts.  The canonical Gospels indicate that St. Peter was initially skeptical, too.  Yet I hear about Doubting Thomases, not Doubting Peters.  Anyway, St. Thomas, the healthy skeptic, believed the evidence when he saw it, and dedicated the rest of his life to telling people about Jesus.

I am sufficiently a product of the Enlightenment to accept the premise that doubt is a legitimate path to knowledge.  I ask questions when I harbor doubts, and I seek answers when I ask questions.  Thus I increase the probability of finding answers when I experience and embrace doubt.  Thomas admitted his doubt, received his answer, accepted it, and lived accordingly.

So, let us treat the label “Doubting Thomas” as a great compliment.

Finally, a personal note:  St. Thomas is my favorite Biblical figure.  He was an honest doubter and seeker, a good skeptic.  So am I.  If I were a Biblical character, I would be St. Thomas the Apostle.

KRT

Written on June 20, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/defending-doubting-thomas/