Archive for the ‘Abraham’ Tag

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

abraham-and-lot-divided-the-land

Above:  Abraham and Lot Divided the Land

Image in the Public Domain

The Sin of Selfishness

MARCH 20, 2022

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 13:1-18 or 2 Samuel 7:18-29

Psalm 38

John 7:40-52

Galatians 3:1-22 (23-29) or James 3:1-18

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Abram and Lot had to separate their families and herds.  Abram (God’s covenant with whom is a topic in Galatians 3, Genesis 15, and Genesis 17) was generous in giving Lot the first choice of land.  It might have seemed like a good choice at the moment, but it was a selfish and short-sighted decision that placed him in the proximity of bad company and set up unfortunate events in Genesis 19.

David’s character flaws had begun to become obvious by the time of 2 Samuel 7.  Nevertheless, there was much good about him.  God’s covenant with him was a matter of pure grace, for not even the best of us has ever been worthy of such favor.  David became a great historical figure and, in the minds of many throughout subsequent centuries, a legendary figure.  Our Lord and Savior’s descent from him was a messianic credential.

Among David’s better qualities was a sense of honesty regarding his character, at least some of the time (2 Samuel 11 and 12).  He was a mere mortal, complete with moral blind spots and the tendency to sin.  Psalm 38, attributed to David, typifies this honesty at a time of distress.  This is a situation with which many people have identified.

Liberation in Christ is a theme of the Letter to the Galatians.  This is freedom to enjoy and glorify God.  This is freedom to build up others.  This is freedom to become the people we ought to be.  According to mythology God spoke the world into existence.  With our words, whether spoken or written, we have the power to bless people or to inflict harm upon them.  We have the power to build them up or to libel and/or slander them.  We have the power to help them become the people they ought to be or to commit character assassination.  We have the power to inform accurately or to mislead.  We have the power to heal or to soothe feelings or to hurt them.  We have the power to act out of consideration or out of a lack thereof.  We have the power to be defenders or bullies.  We have the power to create peace or conflict.  We have the power to work for justice or injustice.

The peace shown by peacemakers brings a harvest of justice.

–James 3:18, The New Jerusalem Bible (1989)

May we approach God humbly, avoid making selfish decisions, build up others, and generally function as vehicles of grace.  May our thoughts, words, and deeds glorify God and create a world better than the one we found.  May we recognize that pursuing selfish gain hurts us as well as others.  We might gain in the short term, but we hurt ourselves in the long term.  Our best and highest interest is that which builds up community, nation, and world.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 9, 2016 COMMON ERA

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

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUIS BERTRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GROSSETESTE, SCHOLAR

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

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/10/09/the-sin-of-selfishness/

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Devotion for Saturday Before the Third Sunday of Easter, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Abraham and the Three Angels--Gustave Dore

Above:  The Prophet Isaiah, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

Hospitality and Grace

APRIL 30, 2022

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The Collect:

Eternal and all-merciful God,

with all the angels and all the saints we laud your majesty and might.

By the resurrection of your Son, show yourself to us

and inspire us to follow Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 18:1-8

Psalm 30

Luke 14:12-14

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Genesis 18:1-8 and Luke 14:12-14 offer lessons regarding hospitality and the spirituality thereof.

Hospitality often defined the difference between life and death in Biblical times, as it continues to do.  Extending hospitality was a moral duty, according to Old Testament authors and Jesus.  It was, for them, part of the Law of Love and the web of obligations binding members of society together in mutual responsibility and in interdependence.

In the rural U.S. South in the 1800s it was commonplace for a farmhouse to have a guest room which opened onto the front porch and not into any room.  A traveling stranger might need to spend the night.  That type of accommodation saved the lives of many people.

The two examples of hospitality in the main readings for this day differ from each other.  In Genesis 18 Abraham lavishes hospitality on three men, presumably God and two angels.  We learn that they are present to announce Sarah’s upcoming and most improbable pregnancy.  One might project words from Psalm 30 backward in time and place them into the mouth of Sarah, once she stopped laughing:

You have turned my wailing into dancing;

you have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.

Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing;

O LORD my God, I will give you thanks for ever.

–Verses 12 and 13, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

The reading from Luke 14 is part of a scene.  Jesus is dining at the home of a leader of the Pharisees on the Sabbath.  Our Lord and Savior heals a man with dropsy in verses 1-6.  Already Christ’s host and the other guests are hostile, for they watch him closely.  Dropsy, aside from being a physical condition, functions as a metaphor for greed, for, although the affected man’s body retained too much fluid, he was thirsty for more.  Jesus heals the sick man–on the Sabbath, in the presence of critics, no less, and symbolically criticizes his greedy host and other guests while restoring the man to wholeness.  Then our Lord and Savior notices how the other guests choose the positions of honor in contrast to Proverbs 25:6-7a:

Do not exalt yourselves in the king’s presence;

Do not stand in the place of nobles.

For it is better to be told, “Stop up here,”

Than to be degraded in the presence of the great.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

This is a story from the Gospel of Luke, with a theme of reversal of fortune, so the incident fits the Gospel well.

Jesus sounds much like the subsequent James 2:1-13.  Sit in the lowest place, he advises; do not exalt oneself.

For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted?

–Luke 14:11, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Likewise, Jesus continues, invite and honor the poor, the lame, the blind, and the crippled with table fellowship.  This ethos of the Kingdom of God’s priorities being at odds with those of the dominant perspectives of the world is consistent with the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-11) and the Beatitudes and Woes (Luke 6:20-26).

Give to those who can never repay, Jesus commands us.  And why not?  Has not God given us so much that we can never repay God?  The demand of grace upon us is in this case is to do likewise to others–to do unto others as God has done unto us, to give without expectation of repayment.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN BLEW, ENGLISH PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/12/20/hospitality-and-grace/

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Devotion for Wednesday After Easter Sunday, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Women at the Empty Tomb--Fra Angelico

Above:  Women at the Empty Tomb, by Fra Angelico

Image in the Public Domain

Jesus, the Resurrection, and the Presence of God

APRIL 20, 2020

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you give us the joy of celebrating our Lord’s resurrection.

Give us also the joys of life in your service,

and bring us at last to the full joy of life eternal,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 32

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Samuel 6:1-15

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Luke 24:1-12

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The presence of God was a frightful thing in much of the Old Testament.  It was not always so, for Abraham and God got along quite well and casually, according to much of Genesis.  God seems to have been the patriarch’s best friend.  God seems to have been more distant (at least in presentation) by the Book of Exodus.  In 2 Samuel 6 unfortunate Uzzah, who reached out to steady the Ark of the Covenant because the oxen pulling the cart had stumbled, died.

The LORD was incensed at Uzzah.  And God struck him down on the spot for his indiscretion, and he died there beside the Ark of God.

–Verse 7, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Why acting to prevent the Ark of the Covenant from falling to the ground constituted an indiscretion, much less an act worthy of death by the proverbial hand of God, eludes me.  I do not think that it was indiscretion, but a faithful and respectful action.  Nevertheless, I acknowledge that the faith community which repeated this story as part of its oral tradition until someone thought to write it down understood the matter differently.

Getting too close to the presence of God was, according to many for a long time, fraught with peril.  But what about those stories of God and Abraham taking strolls together, once with the patriarch haggling with God over the lives of people he did not know?  Perceptions of God have changed much over time.

This is a devotion for Wednesday in Easter Week, hence the reading from the beginning of Luke 24.  There the tomb is empty and Jesus is elsewhere.  The narrative catches up with him in the pericope which begins with verse 13.  The link between the two main assigned readings is the physical presence of God.  It is a cause of peril for one who touches the Ark of the Covenant in 2 Samuel 6 yet not in the Gospels.  There Jesus walks, talks, and dines with people, much as God did with Abraham.

To focus on the resurrection theme in Luke 24 I turn to two other readings.  I imagine certain followers of Jesus, once they had recovered from the shock of the resurrection, reciting part of Psalm 118:

The same stone which the builders rejected

has become the chief cornerstone.

This is the LORD’s doing,

and it is marvelous in our eyes.

On this day the LORD has acted;

we will rejoice and be glad in it.

–Verses 22-24, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

I think also of 1 Corinthians 15:17-19 (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989):

If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.  Then those who have died in Christ have perished.  If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

I admit to doubts regarding certain doctrines and dogmas of the Church, but affirming the resurrection of Jesus is mandatory if one is to be a Christian.  Without the resurrection we are left with Dead Jesus, who cannot redeem anybody from anything.  The resurrection is therefore an indispensable of the process of atonement.  Actually, the resurrection is the final stage in that process, one I understand as having commenced with the Incarnation.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/12/18/jesus-the-resurrection-and-the-presence-of-god/

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

Abraham and Lot Separate

Above:  Abraham and Lot Separate

Image in the Public Domain

Legalism and Fidelity

MARCH 10 and 11, 2022

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The Collect:

God of the covenant, in the mystery of the cross

you promise everlasting life to the world.

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

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

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 13:1-7, 14-18 (Thursday)

Genesis 14:17-24 (Friday)

Psalm 27 (Both Days)

Philippians 3:2-12 (Thursday)

Philippians 3:17-20 (Friday)

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The LORD is my light and my salvation;

whom then shall I fear?

the LORD is the strength of my life;

of whom then shall I be afraid?

–Psalm 27:1, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Sometimes the portrayal of Abram/Abraham in the Bible puzzles me.  In Hebrews 10:8-22 the patriarch is a pillar of fidelity to God.  Yet he hedges his bets and lies in Genesis 12, and the only people who suffer are the Pharaoh of Egypt and members of the royal household.  Abram exiles his firstborn son, Ishmael, in Genesis 21:8-21.  The patriarch intercedes on behalf of strangers in Genesis 19 yet not for his second son, Isaac, three chapters later.  Abram, who is wealthy, refuses even to appear to have enriched himself by means of the King of Sodom in Genesis 14.  In so doing the patriarch, who has just paid a tithe of war booty to Melchizedek, King of Salem (Jerusalem) and priest of El Elyon, a Canaanite sky deity, invokes YHWH, not El Elyon.  I do not know what to make of Abram/Abraham.

Circumcision is a major issue in Philippians 3.  St. Paul the Apostle refers to rival missionaries who favor the circumcision of Gentile male converts to Christianity.  He calls these Judaizers “dogs,” a strong insult many Jews reserved for Gentiles.  One can find the mandate for circumcision of males (including some Gentiles) in Genesis 17:9-14, where it is a sign of the Abrahamic Covenant.  It has been, for Jews, a physical sign of the covenant for millennia.  It has become an emotional issue for people who favor it as a religious obligation and a mark of identity as well as for those who consider it cruel.

In Philippians 3 circumcision is, for St. Paul the Apostle, a physical sign of righteousness based on law, not on active faith in God.  The line between legalism and righteousness can be difficult to locate sometimes.  One should obey certain commandments out of fidelity and love and respect for God.  One loves and honors God, so one keeps the commandments of God.

If you love me you will obey my commands…,

John 14:15 (The Revised English Bible, 1989) quotes Jesus as saying.  But when does keeping commandments turn into a fetish of legalism?  And when does the maintenance of one’s identity transform into exclusion of others?  Where is that metaphorical line many people cross?

One sure way of knowing if one has crossed that line is catching that person obsessing over minute details while overlooking pillars of morality such as compassion.  If one, for example, complains not because Jesus has healed someone but because he has done this on the Sabbath, one is a legalist.  If one becomes uptight about personal peccadilloes yet remains unconcerned about institutionalized injustice (such as that of the sexist, racial, and economic varieties), one is a legalist.  If one’s spiritual identity entails labeling most other people as unclean or damned, one is a legalist.  If one thinks that moral living is merely a matter of following a spiritual checklist, one is a legalist.  If one becomes fixated on culturally specific examples of timeless principles at the expense of those principles, one is a legalist.

May we who claim to follow and love God eschew legalism.  May we also care for our close friends and relatives at least as much as we do suffering strangers for which we harbor concern.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 14, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN AMOS COMENIUS, FATHER OF MODERN EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF THE CONSECRATION OF SAMUEL SEABURY, FIRST EPISCOPAL BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ROMANIS, ANGLICAN BISHOP AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/11/14/legalism-and-fidelity/

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

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

Fleeing from Grace

MARCH 18-20, 2021

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The Collect:

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

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

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

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 28

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 30:15-18 (Thursday)

Exodus 30:1-10 (Friday)

Habakkuk 3:2-13 (Saturday)

Psalm 107:1-16 (All Days)

Hebrews 4:1-13 (Thursday)

Hebrews 4:14-5:4 (Friday)

John 12:1-11 (Saturday)

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Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness;

in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

Wash me through and through from my wickedness

and cleanse me from my sin.

–Psalm 51:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Through all generations you have made yourself known,

and in your wrath you did not forget mercy.

–Habakkuk 3:2b, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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For thus said my Lord GOD,

The Holy One of Israel,

“You shall triumph by stillness and quiet;

Your victory shall come about

Through calm and confidence.”

But you refused.

“No,” you declared.

“We shall flee on our steeds”–

Therefore you shall flee!

“We shall ride on swift mounts”–

Therefore your pursuers shall prove swift!

One thousand before the shout of one–

You shall flee at the shout of five;

Till what is left of you

Is like a mast on a hilltop,

Like a pole upon a mountain.

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Truly, the LORD is waiting to show you grace,

Truly, He will arise to pardon you.

For the LORD is a God of justice;

Happy are all who wait for Him.

–Isaiah 30:15-18, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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The concept of God changes between the covers of the Bible.  God is physically immediate to Abraham, for example, yet proximity to God is fatal in much of the Hebrew Scriptures.    Even touching the Ark of the Covenant accidentally proved fatal, according to the texts.  There was no fatal holiness in Jesus, however; St. Mary of Bethany anointed him in John 12:1-11, shortly before the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.

So we can draw near to God, who has drawn close to us and become incarnate (however that worked) as one of us.  The theological point of the full humanity and divinity of Jesus is one of those difficult knots great minds have tried to understand.  (For details, consult a history of Christian theology.)  I will not tread in their steps here except to assert that one ought to seek a balance between the humanity and the divinity of Jesus; one should not emphasize one at the expense of the other.  My experience in congregations (especially during my formative years) has been that people have usually been more comfortable with the divinity of Christ than with his humanity.  They have committed the heresy of Apollinarianism, or acknowledging his humanity while giving short shrift to it.

If attempting to untangle the mysteries of the Incarnation and of the nature(s) and will(s) of Christ proves insufficiently challenging, what about the balance between divine judgment and mercy?  I can provide a partial answer; the rest I am content to leave as a mystery.  Some things we do to ourselves, so we suffer the consequences of our actions.  Forgiveness of sins does not remove those consequences in this realm of existence, however.  Also, sometimes good news for the oppressed is catastrophic news for oppressors who refuse to change their ways.  That is the way life works.  In addition, some divine judgment is discipline meant to prompt repentance.  In such cases the metaphor of God as parent works well.  In some circumstances (especially from the Hebrew Scriptures) I refuse to affirm the argument that God has commanded people to commit genocide and other atrocities.  Maybe those who committed those deeds thought they were fulfilling a divine mandate, but they were wrong.  Against which population would Jesus commit or condone genocide?

Often we seek to use theology to justify our sins when we ought to confess and repent of those offenses.  Frequently we seek not God–in the context of whose holiness our sinfulness becomes evident–but confirmation of our imagined righteousness.  We flee from God, so we doom ourselves to face certain consequences.  We run away from God, who waits to show us mercy.  Maybe doing that is easier than facing the reality of our spiritual lives.  If that is true, this statement is a sad one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

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

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PROXMIRE, UNITED STATES SENATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/fleeing-from-grace/

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

Sacrifice of Isaac--Caravaggio

Above:  The Sacrifice of Isaac, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

To Argue Faithfully

MARCH 1 and 2, 2021

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The Collect:

O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death

to be for us the means on life.

Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ that we may gladly suffer shame and loss

for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 21:1-7 (Monday)

Genesis 22:1-19 (Tuesday)

Psalm 105:1-11, 37-45 (Both Days)

Hebrews 1:8-12 (Monday)

Hebrews 11:1-3, 13-19 (Tuesday)

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For he remembered his holy word

and Abraham, his servant.

–Psalm 105:42, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The New Testament defines faith three ways, for that anthology is the product of more than one writer.  Faith, in the Pauline sense, is inherently active, hence justification by grace.  Yet, in the Letter of James, faith is intellectual, hence that book’s theology of justification by works.  Those two schools of thought affirm active faith, so they are two ways of making the same point.  Then there is faith according to Hebrews 11:1:

Now faith is the assurance of things not hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Faith, according to this definition, which overlaps with the Pauline meaning, keeps one going in the absence of evidence in support of or in contradiction to a proposition.

Abraham, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews tells us, was an exemplar of that kind of faith.  As we have read in Genesis in this lectionary-based series of devotions, this was not always true.  (The author of Hebrews glossed over some content from Genesis.)  And I argue that, in Genesis 22, the patriarch failed the test of faith, for the faithful response was to argue.

Did I hear you correctly?  Do you want me kill my own son?  Have I not sacrificed Ishmael already by sending him away with Hagar?  What kind of God commands me to kill my son?

The near-sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham must have caused psychological damage to the son (how could it not?), for he became a passive, minor figure and the least of the patriarchs.

My favorite aspect of Judaism is arguing faithfully with God.  In Islam one is supposed to submit to God, but Jews get to confront the deity in good conscience.  This ethic is evident in the Psalms, with frequent complaints to God.  I recall, decades ago, reading a review of a translation of the Psalms.  The new translation avoided King James-style politeness, as in

Lord, I beseech thee,

preferring

Look, Yahweh.

The review, from a Christian magazine, was favorable.  I have kvetched to God with great honesty often.  Is not honesty essential to any healthy relationship?

Pondering the art of faithful arguing led me to remember an incident from the Gospels.  The four Gospels are wonderful texts, but they lack any description of tone of voice at some crucial points in the narratives.  Tone of voice, of course, can change the meaning of dialogue.  In Matthew 15, for example, Jesus was in Gentile country–the region of Tyre and Sidon.  There a Gentile woman begged our Lord and Savior to heal her daughter.  He replied,

It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.

–15:26, The Revised English Bible (1989)

She answered,

True, sir, and yet the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the master’s table.

–15:27, REB

Jesus replied,

What faith you have!  Let it be as you wish.

–15:28a, REB

The context if that story tells me that Jesus said what he did to prompt her to reply as she did.  She passed the test.  All she had to do was argue.  Isaac would have been better off had Abraham been as faithful as that Gentile woman.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 8, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE NINTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATUS OF LUXEUIL AND ROMARIC OF LUXEUIL, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS AND ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF MARTIN RINCKART, ARCHDEACON OF EILENBURG

THE FEAST OF RICHARD BAXTER, ANGLICAN THEOLOGIAN

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/11/to-argue-faithfully/

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

Abrahamic Covenant

Image Source = Lawrence G. Lovasik, S.V.D., New Catholic Picture Bible:  Popular Stories from the Old and New Testaments (New York, NY:  Catholic Book Publishing Company, 1960), page 16

Trusting in God

FEBRUARY 25-27, 2021

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The Collect:

O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death

to be for us the means on life.

Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ that we may gladly suffer shame and loss

for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 15:1-6, 12-18 (Thursday)

Genesis 16:1-6 (Friday)

Genesis 16:7-15 (Saturday)

Psalm 22:23-31 (All Days)

Romans 3:21-31 (Thursday)

Romans 4:1-12 (Friday)

Mark 8:27-30 (Saturday)

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My soul shall live for him;

my descendants shall serve him;

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

–Psalm 22:29, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Harboring doubts regarding extraordinary promises (as in Genesis 15) and not understanding who Jesus is despite spending much time in close quarters with him (as in Mark 8) are growth opportunities.  Information is the antidote to ignorance, but a lack of trust in God is a spiritual problem.  When one acts on it (as in Genesis 16, despite the glowing review of Abraham in Romans 4), one complicates matters horribly.

We are responsible to God and each other.  We also depend on God and each other.  We will not trust God all the time, for we are mere mortals.  We can, however, rely on divine grace and improve; we can trust God more often.  God expects us to improve, not be flawless.  When we fail to trust God then act out of fear and a misdirected sense of human agency, we harm others as well as ourselves, for what we do to others, we do to ourselves.  Mutuality works for the positive as well as the negative in our lives.

Recently someone asked me if I believe in God.  My answer surprised him, for I replied by asking him what he meant by “believe in.”  Biblical belief is trust in God, not the affirmation of divine existence.  So I continued my answer by stating that I affirm the existence of God all the time and trust God most of the time.  It was a precise and honest answer.

May we trust God more than we do.  May I trust God more than I do.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 6, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETIUS OF TRIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP; AND SAINT AREDIUS OF LIMOGES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABRAHAM OF KRATIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, BISHOP, AND HERMIT

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF MYRA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF PHILIP BERRIGAN, SOCIAL ACTIVIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/11/trusting-in-god-4/

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Devotion for the Thirty-Third, Thirty-Fourth, and Thirty-Fifth Days of Easter, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

BambergApocalypseFolio055rNew_Jerusalem

Above:  The New Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

And the Sea Was No More

THURSDAY-SATURDAY, MAY 14-16, 2020

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God,

you hold together all things in heaven and on earth.

In your great mercy, receive the prayers of all your children,

and give to all the world the Spirit of your truth and peace,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 34

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 6:5-22 (33rd Day)

Genesis 7:1-24 (34th Day)

Genesis 8:13-19 (35th Day)

Psalm 66:8-20 (All Days)

Acts 27:1-12 (33rd Day)

Acts 27:13-38 (34th Day)

John 14:27-29 (35th Day)

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You let enemies ride over our heads;

we went through fire and water;

but you brought us into a place of refreshment.

–Psalm 66:12, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.

–Revelation 21:1, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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Water can be scary, for it has the potential to destroy much property and end lives.  In much of the Bible water signifies chaos.  The first creation myth (Genesis 1:1-2:4a), actually not as old as the one which follows it, depicts a watery chaos as the foundation of an ordered, flat earth with a dome over it.  The lections from Genesis 6-8, being the union of of various texts (as evident in late Chapter 6 and early Chapter 7 with regard to the number of animals to take aboard the Ark), is a composite myth in which water is a force of divine destruction and recreation.  And the water is something to fear in Acts 27.  It is no accident that, in Revelation 21, the New Jerusalem has no sea; the city is free of chaos.

Professor Amy-Jill Levine, in her Teaching Company course, The Old Testament (2001), says that she does not like Noah.  He, in the story, could have tried to save lives if he had argued with God, as Abraham did, she says.  Maybe she has a valid point.  It is certainly one nobody broached in my juvenile or adult Sunday School classes, for my first encounter with the idea came via DVD recently.  Yet the story which the Biblical editor wanted us to hear was one of God’s covenant with Noah.

That theme of covenant fits well with the calm and confidence of St. Paul the Apostle en route to Rome.  He had a legal case arising from preaching (Acts 21:27 forward).  The Apostle had exercised his right as a Roman citizen to appeal directly to the Emperor (Acts 25:11).  Yet Herod Agrippa II (reigned 50-100), a client ruler of the Roman Empire, had stated that the Apostle could have gone free if he had not appealed to the Emperor (Acts 26:32), who, unfortunately, was Nero.  Anyhow, Paul’s calm and confidence during the storm on the Mediterranean Sea, with the danger on board the ship, came from a positive spiritual place.

That peace is the kind which Jesus bequeaths to us and which the world cannot give.  That peace is the sort which enables one to remain properly–seemingly foolishly, to some–confident during daunting times.  That peace carries one through the chaotic waters and the spiritual wilderness until one arrives at the New Jerusalem.  That peace is available via grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE EIGHTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY SAYERS, NOVELIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/and-the-sea-was-no-more/

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Devotion for the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Days of Lent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

3b49982r

Above:  Christ and the Woman of Samaria at Jacob’s Well

Image Creator = N. Currier (Firm)

Image Created Between 1835 and 1856

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZC2-2099

Living Water in the Wilderness

MONDAY, MARCH 16, 2020, and TUESDAY, MARCH 17, 2020

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The Collect:

Merciful God, the fountain of living water,

you quench our thirst and wash away our sin.

Give us this water always.

Bring us to drink from the well that flows with the beauty of your truth

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 24:1-27 (17th Day)

Genesis 29:1-14 (18th Day)

Psalm 81 (Both Days)

2 John 1-13 (17th Day)

1 Corinthians 10:1-4 (18th Day)

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Oh, that my people would listen to me!

that Israel would walk in my ways!

–Psalm 81:13, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The daily lectionary I am following in this series of posts focuses on the Revised Common Lectionary, building up to a Sunday’s readings Thursday through Saturday then glowing from those readings Monday through Wednesday.  Thus, for the purpose of this post, one needs to know that the Gospel lection for the Third Sunday in Lent, Year A, is Jesus speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well.  This is the longest recorded conversation of our Lord and Savior in the Gospels.  And it was, I have mentioned, not only with a woman but with a Samaritan–a radical step in that social milieu.  That Jesus, what will he do next?  Which social norm will he violate tomorrow?

I bring the discourse on living water in John 4 into this post, for that content belongs here also.  At a well a servant of Abraham found Isaac’s future wife and Jacob’s mother, Rebekah.  At a well Jacob met one of his future wives, Rachel.  Wells were crucial sources of life-giving and life-sustaining water, especially in an arid environment.  And, elsewhere in the biblical narrative, God provided water for the wandering Israelites in the desert after the Exodus and before the settlement of Canaan under the leadership of Joshua, son of Nun.  The tie between water and the sense of God providing for the people was palpable.

The metaphorical living water of which Jesus spoke in John 4 brings me to 2 John 6:

To love is to live according to [God’s] commandments:  this is the commandment which you have heard since the beginning, to live a life of live.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

As we journey through the wilderness of anxiety, fear, animosity, misunderstanding, and perhaps even hatred, may we drink deeply of the living water of Christ-like love–agape–which accepts others unconditionally and self-sacrificially.  May we trust that God will provide sufficiently and on time.  May we have the grace and strength to seek the best interests of others–also our own best interests–for we are all in in this life together and dependent on God.  May this living water enable us to help others–therefore ourselves–and to love and glorify God, regardless of how bleak the wilderness seems or is.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 25, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SQUANTO, COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEING

THE FEAST OF JAMES OTIS SARGENT HUNTINGTON, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE HOLY CROSS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/living-water-in-the-wilderness/

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

01202v

Above:  The Plain of Esdraelon and the Carmel Ridge, Palestine, Ottoman Empire, 1900

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-01202

The Lineage of Faithful Community

THURSDAY, MARCH 5, 2020

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The Collect:

O God, our leader and guide, in the waters of baptism

you bring us to new birth to live as your children.

Strengthen our faith in your promises, that by your

Spirit we may lift your life to all the world through

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 51:1-3

Psalm 121

2 Timothy 1:3-7

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I raise my eyes to the Mountain,

whence will my help come to me?

My help will come from the home of Yahweh,

who made heaven and earth.

He shall not put your foot in the Quagmire,

your guardian shall not slumber.

Indeed he never slumbers nor sleeps,

the guardian of Israel.

Yahweh is your guardian,

Yahweh is your shade,

the Most High is your right hand.

By day the sun

will not strike you

Nor the moon at night.

Yahweh will guard you

from every evil.

He will guard your life.

Yahweh will guard your going and your coming

from now unto eternity.

–Psalm 121, translated by Mitchell Dahood in The Anchor Bible (1970)

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The readings from 2 Timothy and Isaiah remind us of spiritual legacies.  Typical Jewish practice was to speak of the nature of God by retelling what God had done.  Thus we read in Isaiah 51 of Abraham, Sarah, and gracious acts of God in the context of other statements of divine faithfulness, mercy, and judgment.  In my copy of The Revised English Bible (1989), opened to Isaiah 51:1-3, I read of part of Chapter 49, in which God is like a mother who can never forget her child.  And, in 49:26, I read these words:

I shall make your oppressors eat their own flesh,

and they shall be drunk with their own blood

as if with wine,

and all mankind will know

that I the LORD am your Deliverer,

your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.

When the oppressors refuse to cease oppressing, how can the situation be otherwise?

I, drawing from 2 Timothy 1, acknowledge that family inheritance helps explain why I am a Christian.  There is more to it than that, of course, but the family inheritance helps.  I grew up a Christian because of my family, but I remain one because of the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  As I check the lectionary I am following, I note that John 3:1-17 is the assigned Gospel reading to which one strain of these lections is building.  So I notice that 2 Timothy 1, in the context of John 3, ought not to become an excuse to rest on one’s spiritual inheritance.  The epistle confirms the necessity of active faith.

And, as for John 3, the proper English-language term is

born from above,

not

born again.

I, a Christian, have never had a

born again

experience, but I am familiar in my spiritual life with the Roman Catholic-Lutheran-Anglican sense of baptismal regeneration.  I follow Martin Luther’s advice and trust in the promises of God pronounced at baptism.

Psalm 121 speaks of divine protection–in this case, of religious pilgrims.  The Ancients knew of sunstroke, of course, hence one line of the text.  And many of them believed erroneously that the Moon could also be dangerous, hence terms such as

moonstruck

and

lunatic.

God, the psalm says, will protect also from the Moon.  Our fears, whether based in objective reality or not, are real, and we need grace for their alleviation.  May we welcome that grace and act boldly in faithfulness to God.  And may we join or continue in the line of those who have walked with God and bring others to the procession.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 25, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SQUANTO, COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEING

THE FEAST OF JAMES OTIS SARGENT HUNTINGTON, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE HOLY CROSS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/the-lineage-of-faithful-community/

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