Archive for the ‘Revised Common Lectionary Year B’ Category

Fiftieth Day of Easter: Day of Pentecost, Year B   31 comments

Above:  Descent of the Holy Spirit

Our Advocate

MAY 20, 2018

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The Assigned Readings for This Sunday:

Acts 2:1-21 or Ezekiel 37:1-14

Psalm 104:25-35, 37

Romans 8:22-27 or Acts 2:1-21

John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

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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Some Related Posts:

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

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/fiftieth-day-of-easter-day-of-pentecost-year-a/

A Prayer for Those With Only the Holy Spirit to Intercede for Them:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/a-prayer-for-those-with-only-the-holy-spirit-to-intercede-for-them/

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I have written more than once that judgment and mercy coexist in the Bible.  This assertion is obvious from a close reading of the sacred anthology.  This day the emphasis belongs on mercy.

We read in John 16 that the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, is the Advocate.  This is a legal term; our Advocate is our defense attorney.  In other words, God stands with us, so why should we fear?

Nevertheless, many Christians have suffered persecution and martyrdom for twenty centuries.  Many still do.  And Jesus, from whose Greek title, Christ, we derive the label “Christian,” died on a cross.  So this divine companionship and defense does not guard every follower of God from physical or legal harm.  Yet the message of Christ has continued to spread, the blood of the martyrs continues to water the Church, and killing people cannot end the spread of Christianity.

Beyond all that, those who die faithful to God go to God in the afterlife.  No harm can touch them there.  This might seem like cold comfort or no comfort in this life, but it is something.  The world is imperfect, and only God can repair it.

Yet may we rejoice that we have an Advocate.  May the quality of our lives reflect this gratitude.

KRT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/our-advocate/

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Forty-Third Day of Easter: Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year B   19 comments

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Eternal Life

MAY 13, 2018

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Acts 1:15-17, 21-26 (New Revised Standard Version):

In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about one hundred twenty persons) and said,

Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus– for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry. So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us– one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.

So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed and said,

Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.

And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.

Psalm 1 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked,

nor lingered in the way of sinners,

nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

2 Their delight is in the law of the LORD,

and the meditate on his law day and night.

They are like trees planted by streams of water,

bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither,

everything they do shall prosper.

4 It is not so with the wicked;

they are like the chaff which the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when judgment comes,

nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.

For the LORD knows the ways of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked is doomed.

1 John 5:9-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has testified to his Son. Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony in their hearts. Those who do not believe in God have made him a liar by not believing in the testimony that God has given concerning his Son. And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

John 17:6-19 (New Revised Standard Version):

Looking up to heaven, Jesus prayed,

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. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

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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Some Related Posts:

Forty-Third Day of Easter:  Seventh Day of Easter, Year A:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/forty-third-day-of-easter-seventh-sunday-of-easter-year-a/

1 John 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/sixth-day-of-epiphany/

Feast of St. Matthias (February 24):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/12/feast-of-st-matthias-apostle-and-martyr-february-24/

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The Jesus of the Gospel of Mark speaks from time to time (mostly briefly) yet acts more often than he says much.  In contrast, the Jesus of the Johannine Gospel holds forth, often in private, at length.  This latter understanding of our Lord becomes apparent in this Sunday’s Gospel reading, part of Christ’s great intercessory prayer.

More interesting to me, however, is the concept of eternal life, which, according to John 17:3, is knowing God (the Father) and Jesus Christ (God the Son).  And we read in 1 John 5:11 that “God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”  So eternal life is life in Christ; its definition does not depend on time or the afterlife.

Simply put, there is no eternity without God.  There can be an afterlife without God; the term for that is Hell.  God, of course, is the final judge, and I do not presume to make judgments as to a person’s fate in the afterlife.  Who knows what happens between anyone and Jesus after one dies?

As a Christian–an intellectually honest one–I affirm the necessity of Christ.  I also testify to grace, the bounds of which exceed my imagination.  In other words, God does not fit into any proverbial box, and I try not to put God into one.  I do know a few things for sure, though:  God does exist, God does care about us actively, and I am not God.  Also, the historical person named Jesus of Nazareth was God incarnate.  Three of these four statements are great mysteries; may we accept and embrace them.  As to the non-mysterious statement (“I am not God.”), that is obvious.

KRT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/eternal-life-2/

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Thirty-Sixth Day of Easter: Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year B   20 comments

Above:  A Vineyard

Love of God–For Gentiles

MAY 6, 2018

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Acts 10:44-48 (New Revised Standard Version):

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said,

Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?

So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.

Psalm 98 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Sing to the LORD a new song,

for he has done marvelous things.

With his right hand and his holy arm

has he won for himself the victory.

The LORD has made known his victory;

his righteousness has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.

He remembers his mercy and faithfulness to the house of Israel,

and all the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

Shout with joy to the LORD, all you lands;

lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing.

Sing to the LORD with the harp,

with the harp and the voice of song.

With trumpets and the sound of the horn

shout with joy before the King, the LORD.

Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it,

the lands and those who dwell therein.

Let the rivers clap their hands,

and let the hills ring out with joy before the LORD,

when he comes to judge the earth.

10 In righteousness shall he judge the world

and the peoples with equity.

1 John 5:1-6 (New Revised Standard Version):

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth.

John 15:9-17 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said to his disciples,

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

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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Some Related Posts:

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

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-sixth-day-of-easter-sixth-sunday-of-easter-year-a/

John 15:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-third-day-of-easter/

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-fourth-day-of-easter/

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The Gospel reading this week continues the “Jesus as true” vine theme and picks up 1 John’s recurring “love one another” motif.  If all this seems redundant, it is.  But maybe it needs to be repetitive, for we human beings, generally speaking, seem quite often to have a difficult time loving one another.

Jesus, in John 15, says, “Abide in my love.”  This is self-sacrificial, unconditional love.  That is very hard to do, but the commandment stands.  This love, as Peter found out in Acts 10, extends to Gentiles.  God invites all of us to the party.  Some (the predestined) receive their invitations quite early, but the Holy Spirit delivers the invitations to the rest.

I have caught myself embracing embarrassing and sinful attitudes about who is acceptable in my religious inner circle.  But God does not check our pedigrees.  So may we not erect any barrier to anyone who truly and sincerely seeks to follow Christ.  And may God forgive us and give us grace to change our attitudes and ways when we do.

As the old Vacation Bible School song says,

Jesus loves the little children,

all the children of the world.

Red and yellow, black and white,

they are precious in his sight.

Jesus loves the children of the world.

KRT

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Twenty-Ninth Day of Easter: Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year B   17 comments

Above:  The Baptism of the Eunuch, by Rembrandt van Rijn

“Perfect love casts out fear….”

APRIL 29, 2018

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Acts 8:26-40 (New Revised Standard Version):

An angel of the Lord said to Philip,

Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.

(This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip,

Go over to this chariot and join it.

So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked,

Do you understand what you are reading?

He replied,

How can I, unless someone guides me?

And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this:

Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,

and like a lamb silent before its shearer,

so he does not open his mouth.

In his humiliation justice was denied him.

Who can describe this generation?

For his life is taken away from the earth.

The eunuch asked Philip,

About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?

Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said,

Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?

He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

Psalm 22:24-30 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

24 My praise is of him in the great assembly;

I will perform my vows in the presence of those who worship him.

25 The poor shall eat and be satisfied,

and those who seek the LORD shall praise him:

“May your heart love for ever!”

26 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD,

and all the families of the nations shall bow before him.

27 For kingship belongs to the LORD;

he rules over the nations.

28 To him alone who sleep in the earth bow down in worship;

all who go down to the dust fall before him.

29 My soul shall live for him;

my descendants shall serve him;

they shall be known as the LORD’s for ever.

30 They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn

the saving deeds that he has done.

1 John 4:7-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

John 15:1-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

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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Some Related Posts:

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

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/twenty-ninth-day-of-easter-fifth-sunday-of-easter-year-a/

Acts 8:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/nineteenth-day-of-easter/

1 John 4:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/third-day-of-epiphany/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/fourth-day-of-epiphany/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/fifth-day-of-epiphany/

John 15:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-second-day-of-easter/

O Love That Casts Out Fear:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/27/o-love-that-casts-out-fear/

Feast of St. Philip, Deacon and Evangelist (October 11):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-st-philip-deacon-and-evangelist-october-11-2/

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There is a classic scholarly work about racism in Southern United States religion; the title of the book is In His Image, But….  As a student of U.S., Southern, and religious history, I know well the arguments people have made, quoting the Bible, to justify slavery (to 1865) and enforced segregation (well into the Twentieth Century).  Many of the arguments for segregation were recycled from the days of slavery.

Of all the assigned readings for this Sunday, 1 John 4:7-21 stands out most in my mind.  This reading continues an earlier theme in that letter:  We ought to love one another.  Here, in 1 John, we read:

…those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. (4:21b)

Racial and ethnic differences are frequently quite obvious to any sighted person.  This, I suppose, helps explain why racism has been and remains common (even though many racists prefer to speak on code words).  Yet, to quote, 1 John 4 again, we cannot love God, whom we have not seen and cannot see, if we hate our fellow human beings, whom he have seen and can see.

St. Philip the Deacon reached out to the Ethiopian eunuch, a visibly different man, and helped him to become grafted onto the vine of Jesus.  Psalm 22 reminds us that all the Earth belongs to God.  Many people are quite different from anyone of us, and not all cultural differences will melt away.  Nor should they; variety is the spice of life.  We will retain our separate cultural and subcultural identities, which is healthy so long as we remember that we have one common identity in God, namely in Jesus, if we are Christians.

“Perfect love casts our fear,” we read in 1 John 4:18.  Out of fear we have one another, bomb each other, dehumanize and demonize one another, and behave in other inhumane ways toward each other.  The activities do not reflect the love of Jesus or bring glory to God.

May we know whose we are (God’s) and act accordingly, loving ourselves as bearers of the divine image and our fellow human beings as the same.  May we love our neighbors as ourselves.  It is that simple and that challenging.

KRT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/love-casts-out-fear/

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Twenty-Second Day of Easter: Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B   15 comments

The Good Shepherd

Loving One Another Can Be Risky

APRIL 22, 2018

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Acts 4:5-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

The day after they had arrested Peter and John for teaching about Jesus and the resurrection, the rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired,

By what power or by what name did you do this?

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them,

Rulers of the people and elders, if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus is “the stone that was rejected by you, the builders;/it has become the cornerstone.  There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.

Psalm 23 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The LORD is my shepherd;

I shall not be in want.

2 He makes me lie in green pastures

and leads me beside still waters.

3 He revives my soul

and guides me along right pathways for his Name’s sake.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I shall fear no evil;

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me;

you have anointed my head with oil,

and my cup is running over.

6 Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

1 John 3:16-24 (New Revised Standard Version):

We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us– and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?

Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.

And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.

John 10:11-18 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away– and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.

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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Some Related Posts:

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

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/twenty-second-day-of-easter-fourth-sunday-of-easter-year-a/

Acts 4:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/sixth-day-of-easter-friday-in-easter-week/

1 John 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/twelfth-day-of-christmas/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/second-day-of-epiphany/

John 10:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/twenty-third-day-of-easter/

Very Bread, Good Shepherd, Tend Us:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/very-bread-good-shepherd-tend-us/

Shepherd of Souls, Refesh and Bless:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/07/shepherd-of-souls-by-james-montgomery/

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We read in 1 John 3 that we ought to “love one another,” as the text tells us, “not in word or speech, but in truth an action.”  In other words, talk is cheap and writing nice sentiments is easy, but loving actively matters.  The Good Shepherd of John 10 lays down his life for the sheep, which is what Jesus did. And, when we turn to the lesson from Acts 4, we need to know that Peter and John are facing charges before the Sanhedrin.  Peter had just healed a crippled beggar at Temple’s Beautiful Gate then delivered a sermon.  Now he faced charges of “proclaiming that in Jesus there is resurrection of the dead.”  Peter, who had recently denied Jesus three times, did not back down this time.  He loved Jesus in truth and action.

Psalm 23 speaks poetically of God setting a table for us in the presence our enemies.  Yes, loving one another will make enemies for us.  What is so allegedly offensive about love?  Despite much rhetoric to the contrary, many of us, in our societies, enjoy privileges derived from unjust inequality.  There will always be some inequality, such as that based on the fact that some people are more talented in certain ways than are others.  This is fine, for absolute equality is not desirable, as constitutes universal mediocrity.  Those who stand out because of their talents have something valuable to teach the rest of us.

But there is artificial inequality, the sort I find offensive.  This results from marginalizing people unjustly, for reasons such as physical disability, sex (usually female), ethnicity, and race.  This treatment of people stifles their opportunities to explore and develop their God-given talents and, in so doing, retards the progress of the society which condones and practices it.

And, when the wages of many are unjustly depressed and the wealth of a relative few is vast and growing, there is a basic instability in an economic system.  We will always have the wealthy and the poor among us for a set of reasons, but a narrower gap between the two economic extremes is healthy for society.  It also comes nearer to reflecting God’s economy, in which there is enough for everybody.

To resist unjust inequality properly is to act out of love for one’s neighbors.  It also threatens the status quo and  is, in some cases, criminal.  Under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, for example, helping an escaped slave gain his or her freedom was a federal felony.  I think also of those courageous Righteous Gentiles (often Christians) in Europe who sheltered Jews at great risk to themselves during the time of the Third Reich.  I hope that, if dire circumstances and the Law of Love ever require, I will have the moral courage to become a criminal in the style of those who sheltered Jews and escaped slaves.

As risky as loving our neighbors can be, we can take comfort that God will set a table for us in the presence of our enemies.  If God is for us, who can be against us and triumph in the end?

May we love one another regardless of the risks.  We are sheep; may we recall what our shepherd has done for us and follow him.

KRT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/loving-one-another-can-be-risky/

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Fifteenth Day of Easter: Third Sunday of Easter, Year B   11 comments

Above: Supper at Emmaus, by Caravaggio, 1601

A Time for Courage

APRIL 15, 2018

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Acts 3:12-19 (New Revised Standard Version):

When Peter saw the astonishment of those who had seen the lame man healed, he addressed the people,

You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you.

And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out.

Psalm 4 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Answer me when I call, O God, defender of my cause;

you set me free when I am hard-pressed;

have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

2  “You mortals, how long will you dishonor my glory;

how long will  you worship dumb idols

and run after false gods?

3  Know that the LORD does wonders for the faithful;

when I call upon the LORD, he will hear me.

4  Tremble, then, and do not sin;

speak to your heart in silence upon your bed.

5  Offer the appointed sacrifices

and put your trust in the LORD.

6  Many are saying,

“Oh, that we might see better times!”

Lift up the light of your countenance upon us, O LORD.

7  You have put gladness in my heart,

more than when grain and wine and oil increase.

8  I lie down in peace; at once I fall asleep;

for only you, LORD, make me dwell in safety.

1 John 3:1-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.

Luke 24:36b-48 (New Revised Standard Version):

When the disciples were telling how they had seen Jesus risen from the dead, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them,

Peace be with you.

They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them,

Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.

And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them,

Have you anything here to eat?

They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.

Then he said to them,

These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you– that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.

Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them,

Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

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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Some Related Posts:

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

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/fifteenth-day-of-easter-third-sunday-of-easter-year-a/

Acts 3:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/fifth-day-of-easter-thursday-in-easter-week/

1 John 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/tenth-day-of-christmas/

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The Apostles were understandably perplexed.  Just a few days previously, the Roman Empire had executed Jesus.  More than once he had predicted this event as well as his Resurrection, but they did not understand what he meant.  So the reality took them aback.  Besides, might they be next?  How long might they survive?

Then they heard that Jesus was alive, and had spoken at length to two disciples on the road to Emmaus.  These followers could not be making this up, could they?

Then Jesus appeared to them and charged them to carry on his work.  They did.  This required great courage and, for most of them, ended in martyrdom.  Simon Peter, the impetuous redhead, became a great leader of the nascent movement.  The reading from Acts 3 occurs after he healed a crippled beggar at the Beautiful Gate, at the Jerusalem Temple.  Onlookers, understandably amazed, listened to the Apostles’ bold proclamation.

We are all children of God, albeit ones in various stages of rebellion against God.  Nevertheless, there is the hope of repentance, or turning around or changing one’s mind.  As we read in 1 John 3, sin is lawlessness, but we need not remain in that state, at least to the extend we are in it.

The eleven surviving Apostles plus Matthias, who filled the vacancy Judas Iscariot created, changed the world.  We who call ourselves Christians stand on their shoulders of faith.  These men acted courageously and boldly and, in so doing, left the world a better place.  How many positive social reform movements, inspiring works of musical and visual art, masterpieces of theological and devotional literature, improved communities, and changed lives have flowed from what the Apostles did?

Our impact might not be as great, but it does not need to be so in order to answer faithfully God’s call on our lives.  Each of us affects many other people directly and indirectly.  They, in turn, do likewise.  And so it goes.  May our impacts be positive, for the benefit of others and the glory of God.

We have much to do.  May we take courage, be bold, get to work, and continue it faithfully.

KRT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/a-time-for-courage/

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Eighth Day of Easter: Second Sunday of Easter, Year B   13 comments

Robert De Niro as Captain Mendoza in The Mission (1986)

(Image = A Screen Capture via PowerDVD)

Forgiving and Retaining Sins

APRIL 8, 2018

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Acts 4:32-35 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

Psalm 133 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Oh, how good and pleasant it is,

when brethren live together in unity!

2 It is like fine oil upon the head

that runs down upon the beard,

3 Upon the beard of Aaron,

and runs down upon the collar of his robe.

It is like the dew of Hermon

that falls upon the hills of Zion.

5 For there the LORD has ordained the blessing;

life for evermore.

1 John 1:1-2:2 (New Revised Standard Version):

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life– this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us– we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

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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Some Related Posts:

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

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/eighth-day-of-easter-second-sunday-of-easter-year-a/

Acts 4:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/tenth-day-of-easter/

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If you forgive men’s sins,

their sins are forgiven;

if you hold them,

they are held fast.

–John 20:23 (The Anchor Bible)

This is an interesting passage, is it not?  How one interprets it probably says much about where one stands in relation to the Protestant and Counter Reformations.  That, at least, has been my impression, based on a review of commentaries on the Gospel of John.  Almost without failing, Roman Catholic commentators favor the interpretation that the Christian community has the power to absolve and retain sins, but almost all Protestant scholars have argued that all the church has the power to do is pronounce what God has done.  I belong a tradition in the middle.  The Reconciliation of a Penitent in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer permits the priest either to absolve sins or to announce the forgiveness of sins.  Pick your flavor:  Catholic or Protestant; both are Christian.

I took some time to explore this passage.  It can, depending on how one wants to read the Greek, read in the present tense or the passive past perfect tense; the sins are either retained or forgiven or they have been forgiven and have been retained.  Also, to forgive means to “let go,” and a both “retain” an “hold” are literal translations of the same Greek word.  There is apparently some slight ambiguity in the text as to whether one or one’s sins are retained or forgiven (in whatever tense and voice), but, as Father Raymond Brown points out in Volume II of his massive commentary on the Gospel of John, textual parallelism points to the sins being retained or forgiven.

There is one more very interesting fact:  This is the only time the Greek words for “to forgive” and “to retain” appear in the Johannine Gospel.

With that much resolved, there is another question: Who retains the unforgiven sins?  The text seems to indicate that the unforgiven person does.

The major purpose of the series of devotional blog posts is to offer thoughts one can apply in life.  Fortunately, I have three such thoughts today:

  1. If we do not forgive the sins of those who have wronged us, we carry those sins around with us.  Grudges can become very heavy and cumbersome luggage we need not take from place to place.
  2. We need not, despite our Reformation heritage and/or Western individualistic asssumptions, overlook or give short shrift to the communal setting of forgiveness in John 20:23.  The Church, empowered by the Holy Spirit, must carry on Christ’s work of loving people, making them whole again, and building and restoring faith communities.
  3. There is great power in both the human forgiveness and the human proclamation of the forgiveness of sins.  In The Mission (1986), set in South America in the middle 1700s, a group of Jesuits works with the Guarini tribe in the rain forest.  Captain Mendoza, a former slave trader who has hunted the Guarini, changes his life after he kills his brother because the two of them love the same woman.  Father Gabriel, the Jesuit priest in charge of the Guarini mission, takes Mendoza to the Guarini.  Along the way, Mendoza lugs a heavy and rather inconvenient net containing instruments of war and violence.  At the mission site, the Guarini chief orders a tribesman to cut the burden away from Mendoza.  The former slave captain, forgiven by the people he once hunted, begins a new life among them.  First, however, he breaks down emotionally.

Here ends the lesson.

KRT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/forgiving-and-retaining-sins/

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