Archive for the ‘Acts 1’ Tag

Devotion for the Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Church Row, Louvale, Georgia

Image Source = Google Earth

Spiritual Unity

MAY 21, 2023

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Acts 1:(1-7) 8-14

Psalm 47 (LBW) or Psalm 133 (LW)

1 Peter 4:12-17; 5:6-11

John 17:1-11

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Almighty and eternal God,

your Son our Savior is with you in eternal glory. 

Give us faith to see that, true to his promise,

he is among us still, and will be with us to the end of time;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

OR

God, our creator and redeemer,

your Son Jesus prayed that his followers might be one. 

Make all Christians one with him as he is with you,

so that in peace and concord

we may carry to the world the message of your love;

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 23

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O King of glory, Lord of hosts,

uplifted in triumph above all heavens,

we pray, leave us not without consolation,

but send us the Spirit of truth,

whom you promised from the Father;

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 57

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My theme in this post is unity.

John 17:1-11 opens with the Johannine definition of eternal life (knowing God via Jesus) and concludes with another Johannine motif–spiritual indwelling.

Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are.

–John 17:11b, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

In the Gospel of John, Jesus dwells in the Father.  Christians dwell in Jesus, therefore, they dwell in the Father.

In John 17:11b, the prayer is that God will keep the disciples as a unity, not as units–that the unity of the faith community will mirror the unity of Jesus and the Father.

Spiritual unity and organic unity differ.  One can exist in the absence of the other one.  Denominations or congregations may cooperate harmoniously while bitter infighting divides a denomination or congregation.  Organic unity may not always be desirable or feasible, but ecumenical cooperation may be effective.

Psalm 133 opens:

Oh, how good and pleasant it is when brethren live together in unity.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

One subtext to this may be hopes for the reunion of the northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah.  If so, we have an example of another dashed hope.  One may also recall the argumentative house churches in Corinth, thanks to epistles from St. Paul the Apostle.

Spiritual unity is a noble goal.  Yet I know from experience that it is frequently elusive on the small scale.  Within my family, for example, I feel as if I exist on a parallel spiritual track, even to the other professing, practicing Christians to whom I am related.  I own a tee-shirt that reads,

HERETIC.

I wear it with pride and defiance.  I also belong to a congregation that suffered a schism in 2012, before I moved to town.  And, as I write these words, my childhood denomination, The United Methodist Church, is proving that “Untied Methodist Church” is far more than a typographical error.  This contemporary manifestation of Donatism grieves me.

Such is life.  The ideal of spiritual unity persists.  It beckons.  How many of us are paying attention?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 24, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C

GENOCIDE REMEMBRANCE

THE FEAST OF SAINT EGBERT OF LINDISFARNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK; AND SAINT ADALBERT OF EGMONT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT FIDELIS OF SIGMARINGEN, CAPUCHIN FRIAR AND MYSTIC, 1622

THE FEAST OF JAKOB BÖHME, GERMAN LUTHERAN MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF JOHANN WALTER, “FIRST CANTOR OF THE LUTHERAN CHURCH”

THE FEAST OF SAINT MELLITUS, BISHOP OF LONDON, AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the Ascension of Our Lord, Years A, B, and C (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Ascension of Christ

Image in the Public Domain

Enthronement

MAY 18, 2023

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Acts 1:1-11

Psalm 110

Ephesians 1:16-23

Luke 24:44-53

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Almighty God, your only Son was taken up into heaven

and in power intercedes for us. 

May we also come into your presence

and live forever in your glory;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 22

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Grant, we pray, almighty God,

that even as we believe your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,

to have ascended into heaven,

so may also in heart and mind ascend and continually

dwell there with him;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 55-56

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Luke-Acts is a composite work.  Given this fact, the discrepancy in the timing of the Ascension confuses me.  Luke 24 places the Ascension on the same day as the Resurrection.  Yet Acts 1 times it forty days after the Resurrection and ten days before Pentecost.  O, well.

By the 300s, the Feast of the Ascension our Lord, set forty days after Easter Day, was commonplace.  St. Augustine of Hippo wrote that churches

all over the world

celebrated the feast.

I understand the Ascension as theological poetry, not theological prose, because of science.  I accept that, one day, Jesus was present with his Apostles until he left.  Given cultural and theological assumptions of the time, we have the metaphor of ascension.  May we–you, O reader, and I–not become lost in technical details.

The Feast of the Ascension is about enthronement–of Jesus, mainly.  It is about the enthronement of humanity itself.  To quote St. John Chrysostom:

Our very nature…is enthroned today high above all cherubim.

Happy Ascension Day!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 23, 2022 COMMON ERA

SATURDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF TOYOHIKO KAGAWA, RENEWER OF SOCIETY AND PROPHETIC WITNESS IN JAPAN

THE FEAST OF MARTIN RINCKART, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA MARIA OF THE CROSS, FOUNDER OF THE CARMELITE SISTERS OF SAINT TERESA OF FLORENCE

THE FEAST OF WALTER RUSSELL BOWIE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, SEMINARY PROFESSOR, AND HYMN WRITER

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for Easter Day–Evening Service, Years A, B, and C (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above: Supper at Emmaus, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

Limited Expectations and Vision

APRIL 9, 2023

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Daniel 12:1c-3 or Jonah 2:2-9

Psalm 150 (LBW) or Psalm 146 (LW)

1 Corinthians 5:6-8

Luke 24:13-49

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Almighty God, 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 your Son Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 21

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Almighty God the Father,

through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ

you have overcome death and opened the gate of everlasting life to us. 

Grant that we, who celebrate with jo the day of the Lord’s resurrection,

may be raised from the depth of sin by your life-giving Spirit;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 49

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Major lectionaries for Sundays and other holy days usually provide readings without specifying a morning or an evening service.  Some exceptions exist.  There are, for example, the main and the evening for services for Easter Day, as well as the Easter Vigil.

The main purpose for the evening service on Easter Day is to tell the story in Luke 24:13-49–the road to Emmaus story.  One textual curiosity is the timing of the Ascension of Jesus–immediately after the events of Luke 24:13-49 or forty days later (Acts 1:6-12).  That the same author (St. Luke) wrote both accounts adds to the confusion.

Anyway, Luke 14:13-49 tells us that God prevented the disciples on the road to Emmaus from recognizing Jesus for a while.  That explanation seems unnecessary; one may surmise reasonably that those disciples did not expect to encounter Jesus.  Therefore, they did not recognize him.  Are you, O reader, likely to recognize someone walking around when you think that person is dead?  We humans tend not to see what we do not expect to see.  We look yet we do not see.

God acts.  The evidence surrounds us, and we miss much of it.  The proof is not wearing camouflage.  No, we are paying inadequate attention.  This statement applies daily.  In science, people speak of

life as we know it.

I suspect that the universe teems with life, most of it not life as we know it.  If we were to encounter it, we would probably not recognize it.   Blessings often assume forms we do not recognize.  We encounter a plethora of blessings daily and fail to recognize many of them.

How do you, O reader, and I need to expand our definitions and expectations so we can recognize more of what God has done and is doing?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 17, 2022 COMMON ERA

EASTER DAY

THE FEAST OF DANIEL SYLVESTER TUTTLE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF EMILY COOPER, EPISCOPAL DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF LUCY LARCOM, U.S. ACADEMIC, JOURNALIST, POET, EDITOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAX JOSEF METZGER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1944

THE FEAST OF WILBUR KENNETH HOWARD, MODERATOR OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the Feast of the Ascension, Years A, B, C, and D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Ascension.  Olivet With Clouds, Between 1934 and 1939

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-12383

Empowered by God

MAY 18, 2023

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The Collect:

Almighty God, your only Son was taken up into heaven and in power intercedes for us.

May we also come into your presence and live forever in your glory;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Acts 1:1-11

Psalm 47

Ephesians 1:15-23

Luke 24:44-53

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The Feast of the Ascension celebrates the enthronement of Jesus as the King of Heaven.  Ascension is an ancient commemoration, one nearly universal in the Church by the 300s.  On some calendars it falls on a Thursday, on the fortieth day of Easter, to be precise.  On other calendars it transfers to the following Sunday.  On still other calendars Ascension is absent, thrown out with the proverbial bath water of Roman Catholic tradition.

For many the rejection of tradition has become a tradition.

The departure of Jesus from this realm placed a great responsibility on the surviving Apostles, whose number did not yet include St. Matthias.  They were to have divine assistance, however.  So they did.  The Apostles’ responsibility to be witnesses of Jesus has passed to we Christians of today.  Fortunately, God’s assistance in fulfilling this mission has never ceased.

People have different abilities and personality types.  I, for example, am an introvert.  People who knock on my door with the intention of converting me always fail.  One reason is that I dislike that interruption when I am at home.  Annoying me is a bad first step.  Besides, I have always been uncomfortable while engaging in excessively extroverted activities for too long.  I will not, therefore, knock on anyone’s door with the intention of evangelizing him or her, but I feel at ease sitting at a computer keyboard.  What I do there can reach people I will never get to meet anyway.  There are many useful roles for introverts in the Church.

Whatever God is calling you, O reader, to do, God also empower you to do.  May you do it, for the glory of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, CHRISTIAN APOLOGIST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA, BIBLE SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL STENNETT, ENGLISH SEVENTH-DAY BAPTIST MINISTER AND HYMN-WRITER; AND JOHN HOWARD, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/06/01/empowered-by-god-part-vi/

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Devotion for the Second Sunday of Easter, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  St. Matthias

Image in the Public Domain

Resurrected Lives, Part II

APRIL 16, 2023

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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:

Acts 1:12-26

Psalm 16:5-11

1 Peter 1:3-9, 14-25

Matthew 28:11-20

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Since by your obedience to the truth you have purified yourselves so that you can experience the genuine love of brothers, love each other intensely from the heart….

–1 Peter 1:22, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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As one’s soul rejoices in God, who resurrected Jesus, who has issued the Great Commission, one requires guidance in how to follow Christ.  Certain rules are specific to times and places, but principles are timeless.  In 1 Peter 1:22 and elsewhere the germane principle is genuine love for God and others.  Love of the unconditional and self-sacrificial variety, we read in 1 Corinthians 13, prioritizes others and is not puffed up.  Such love builds up others.

This is a high standard; each of us falls short of it.  By grace we can succeed some of the time, however.  Furthermore, we can strive for agape love more often than we act on it.  We need not attempt moral perfection, which is impossible, but we must seek to do as well as possible, by grace.  We are imperfect; God knows that.  Yet we can improve.

The surviving Apostles regrouped and restored their number to twelve.  They selected St. Matthias to fill the vacancy the death of Judas Iscariot had created.  St. Matthias became a martyr; he loved God to the point of dying for the faith.  We might not have to make the choice, but we still owe God everything.

Grace is always free yet never cheap.  In the wake of Easter it demands that we who accept it lead resurrected lives defined by love.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 30, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOAN OF ARC, ROMAN CATHOLIC VISIONARY AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF APOLO KIVEBULAYA, APOSTLE TO THE PYGMIES

THE FEAST OF JOSEPHINE BUTLER, ENGLISH FEMINIST AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LUKE KIRBY, THOMAS COTTAM, WILLIAM FILBY, AND LAURENCE RICHARDSON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/05/30/resurrected-lives-part-ii/

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Devotion for the Fortieth Day of Easter: The Feast of the Ascension, Years A, B, and C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

12383v

Above:  Ascension.  Olivet With Clouds, Between 1934 and 1939

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-12383

The Ascension of Jesus as Theological Poetry

MAY 18, 2023

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The Collects:

Almighty God, your Son was taken into the heavens

and in your presence intercedes for us.

Receive us and our prayers for all the world,

and in the end bring everything into your glory,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

or

Almighty God, your blessed Son, our Savior Jesus Christ,

ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things.

Mercifully give us faith to trust that, as he promised,

he abides with us on earth to the end of time,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 35

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The Assigned Readings:

Acts 1:1-11

Psalm 47 or 93

Ephesians 1:15-23

Luke 24:44-53

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God reigns over the nations;

God sits upon heaven’s holy throne.

–Psalm 47:8, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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You, O LORD, are Sovereign;

you have put on splendid apparel;

you, O LORD, have put on your apparel

and girded yourself with strength.

–Psalm 93:1, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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I file the Transfiguration, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus in the same category:

Too Marvelous and Mysterious for Words to Describe Adequately.

Something like what accounts describe happened, but one had to be there to grasp the full flavor of the event.  The words we have–the best ones possible–impart tantalizing hints of that full reality.  Thus may we not be so literal-minded as to discourage healthy religious imagination.

In the Ascension Jesus returned to God, assumed in our Lord’s culture to live above the sky.  Thus his return was metaphorically an ascension.  I have no idea how the actual mechanics worked, but they are unimportant anyway.  The mystery of clouds, long associated with God since at least the Book of Exodus, is beautiful; I have no desire to quench it.  The number forty–also a metaphor–recalls forty days of the Great Flood in Genesis, forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness, about forty years of King David’s reign, forty years in a generation, et cetera.  The number indicates a significant period of time, not necessarily more than thirty-nine and less than forty-one.

The Ascension accounts invite us to think like poets, not writers of historical accounts or technical manuals.  They tell us that Jesus is back in Heaven and that he will return someday.  They set the stage for another event in the

Too Marvelous and Mysterious for Words to Describe Adequately

category:  Pentecost.  They tell us that God is with us spiritually yet not physically, as God once was, and indicate that we have great responsibilities.

May we be good and faithful servants of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 19, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE NINETEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF LARS OLSEN SKRESFSRUD, LUTHERAN MISSIONARY

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/the-ascension-of-jesus-as-theological-poetry/

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

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Eternal Life

MAY 16, 2021

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

Above: Praying Hands, by Albrecht Durer

The Power of Prayer

MAY 21, 2023

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

When the apostles had come together, they asked Jesus,

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

He replied,

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

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

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

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

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

Let God rise up, let his enemies be scattered;

let those who hate him flee before him.

As smoke is driven away, so drive them away;

as wax melts before the fire,

let the wicked perish before God.

But let the righteous be joyful;

let them exult before God;

let them be jubilant with joy.

Sing to God, sing praises to his name;

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

his name is the LORD–

be exultant before him.

Father of orphans and protector of widows

is God in his holy habitation.

God gives the desolate a home to live in;

he leads out the prisoners to prosperity,

but the rebellious live in a parched land.

O God, when you went out before your people,

when you marched through the wilderness,

the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain

at the presence of God, the God of Sinai,

at the presence of God, the God of Israel.

Rain in abundance, O God, you showered  abroad;

you restored your heritage when it languished;

your flock found a dwelling in it;

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

Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth;

sing praises to the Lord.

O rider in the heavens the ancient heavens;

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

Ascribe power to God,

whose majesty is over Israel;

and whose power is in the skies.

Awesome is God in his sanctuary,

the God of Israel;

he gives power and strength to his people.

Blessed by God!

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

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

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

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

Jesus looked up to heaven and said,

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

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

The Collect:

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

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

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

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

KRT

Written on June 21, 2010

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

Fortieth Day of Easter: Feast of the Ascension   8 comments

Jesus:  Gone, Yet Still Present

May 18, 2023

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Acts 1:1-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father.

This,

he said,

is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.

So when they had come together, they asked him,

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

He replied,

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

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

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

Psalm 47 (New Revised Standard Version):

Clap your hands, all you peoples;

shout to God with loud songs of joy.

For the LORD, the Most High, is awesome,

a great king over all the earth.

He subdued peoples under us,

and nations under our feet.

He chose our heritage for us,

the pride of Jacob whom he loves.

God has gone up with a shout,

the LORD with the shout of a trumpet.

Sing praises to God, sing praises;

sing praises to our King, sing praises.

For God is the king of all the earth;

sing praises with a psalm.

God is king over the nations;

God sits on his holy throne.

The princes of the peoples gather

as the people of the God of Abraham.

For the shields of the earth belong to God;

he is highly exalted.

Ephesians 1:15-23 (New Revised Standard Version):

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Luke 24:44-53 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said to his disciples,

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. See, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

The Collect:

Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

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I am convinced that words are inadequate to describe some Biblical events, and that the Ascension is among these.  Something happened, but I am not certain it was a literal ascension.  I believe, however, that, when it (whatever it was) was over, Jesus no longer physically present on the Earth.

In fiction and non-fiction narratives the teacher or mentor must exit before the students can come into their own.  Obi-Wan Kenobi had to die before Luke Skywalker could become a Jedi Knight in the original Star Wars trilogy.  And, in real life, Jesus had to leave the Earth before the Apostles could become leaders of the Christian movement and the figures we read about in Acts. Yet the Apostles were not alone; in about a week and a half they would receive the Holy Spirit, to which we have access today.

Jesus is present with us, although not in the historical sense.  Historical Jesus left the stage almost 2000 years ago.  Yet the Christ of faith has been with Christians for nearly two millennia.  And we have a call to be Jesus to each other.  I have had this experience when I have needed it the most.  You might have known divine love in this form, also.  So, Jesus is still with us.  Thanks be to God!

KRT

Posted originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 6, 2010