Archive for the ‘Acts 6’ Tag

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

Above:  Stoning of St. Stephen, by Giovanni Battista Lucini

Image in the Public Domain

Martyrdom

APRIL 19, 2020

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The Collect:

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Acts 6:1-15

Psalm 133

2 Peter 1:1-12

Mark 16:9-20

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The solution to the lack of fraternal unity (see Psalm 133) in the church at Jerusalem was the creation of the diaconate.  St. Stephen was one of the first deacons.  His diaconal duties did lead to his martyrdom, though.  No, his preaching (see Mark 16:16) did.

The martyrdom of St. Stephen occurred soon after the crucifixion of Jesus.  The death of St. Stephen was the first Christian martyrdom.  The martyrdom of Christians has continued into the present day, unfortunately.  Many who have caused a host of these martyrdoms have done so in the name of God.  A plethora of Christians have gone to their martyrdoms at the hands of other Christians.

One can correctly derive more than one valid lesson from the death and resurrection of Jesus.  One of these lessons is never to take life in the name of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 27, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CORNELIUS HILL, ONEIDA CHIEF AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HUGH THOMSON KERR, SR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITURGIST; AND HIS SON, HUGH THOMSON KERR, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JAMES MOFFATT, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND BIBLE TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE GEORGIAN, ABBOT; AND SAINTS EUTHYMIUS OF ATHOS AND GEORGE OF THE BLACK MOUNTAIN, ABBOTS AND TRANSLATORS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/06/27/martyrdom/

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Devotion for the Twenty-Sixth, Twenty-Seventh, and Twenty-Eighth Days of Easter, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Paolo_Uccello_-_Stoning_of_St_Stephen_-_WGA23196

Above:  Stoning of Saint Stephen, by Paolo Uccello

Image in the Public Domain

Allegedly Righteous Violence

THURSDAY-SATURDAY, MAY 7-9, 2020

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The Collect:

Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.

Give us grace to love one another,

to follow in the way of his commandments,

and to share his risen life with all the world,

for he 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 12:1-3 (26th Day)

Exodus 3:1-12 (27th Day)

Jeremiah 26:20-24 (28th Day)

Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 (All Days)

Acts 6:8-15 (26th Day)

Acts 7:1-16 (27th Day)

John 8:48-59 (28th Day)

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Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe,

for you are my crag and my stronghold;

for the sake of your name, lead me and guide me.

Take me out the net that they have secretly set for me,

for you are my tower of strength.

Into your hands I commend my spirit,

for you have redeemed me,

O LORD, O God of truth.

–Psalm 31:3-5, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Blasphemy is a capital crime in the Law of Moses, which frowns upon perjury.  In fact, the penalty for perjury is whatever fate the falsely accused suffered or would have suffered.  So, according to the Law of Moses, the authorities stoned the wrong man in Acts 7.

The stoning of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, is just one of several accounts of violence, attempted and otherwise, of which we read in these lections.  That kind of violence–done in the name of God by heirs of Abraham (physically or spiritually or both), members of a nation God has freed more than once–is always unbecoming.  To disagree with a person is one thing, but to seek to kill him or her because of that difference is quite another.  It constitutes an attempt to prove one’s righteousness by sinful means.  Thus such an act defines as a lie that which the perpetrator seeks to affirm.

I, as a Christian, follow one who died for several reasons, among them the motivation I just mentioned.  Thus I am especially aware of the perfidy of such violence, which, unfortunately, continues.  Christians in certain Islamic countries are subject to charges of blasphemy then to execution.  Honor killings continue to occur around the world.  They seem to attract the most attention in the Western press when immigrants commit them in Western countries, but they happen daily, often without the press noticing them.  I am also aware of the long, shameful history of “Christian” violence against Jews.  Ritual washing of hands, for example, contributed to greater cleanliness among European Jews relative to other populations on the continent and therefore helped to reduce their vulnerability to the Black Death in the 1300s.  Many fearful, Anti-Semitic Gentiles blamed Jews for the plague and attacked them.  God, please save us from your alleged followers!

May mutual love and respect prevail.  And, when we disagree with someone whose presence threatens our notions of our own righteousness, may we refrain from violence.  Even if the other person is wrong, partially or entirely, that does not justify killing or attempting to kill an innocent person.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ADELAIDE, HOLY ROMAN EMPRESS

THE FEAST OF MARIANNE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/allegedly-righteous-violence/

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Eighteenth Day of Easter   8 comments

Kudzu

The Unstoppable Kingdom of God

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

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Acts 6:1b-8 (Revised English Bible):

That day [the martyrdom of Stephen] was the beginning of a time of violent persecution for the church in Jerusalem; and all except the apostles were scattered over the country districts of Judaea and Samaria.  Stephen was given burial by devout men, who made a great lamentation for him.  Saul, meanwhile, has harrying the church; he entered house and house, seizing man and women and sending them to prison.

As for those who had been scattered, they went through the country preaching the word.  Philip came down to a city in Samaria and began proclaiming the Messiah there.  As the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, everyone paid close attention to what he had to say.  In many cases of possession the unclean spirits came out with a loud cry, and many paralyzed and crippled folk were cured; and there was great rejoicing in that city.

Psalm 66:1-9 (Revised English Bible):

Let all the earth acclaim God.

Sing to the glory of his name,

make his praise glorious.

Say to God,

How awesome are your deeds!

Your foes cower before the greatness of your strength.

The whole world bows low in your presence;

they praise your name in song.

Come and see what God has done,

his awesome dealings with mankind.

He changed the sea into dry land;

his people passed over the river on foot;

there we rejoiced in him

who rules for ever by his power.

His eyes keep watch on the nations;

let no rebel rise in defiance.

Bless our God, you nations;

let the sound of his praise be heard.

He preserves us in life;

he keeps our feet from stumbling.

John 6:35-40 (Anchor Bible):

Jesus explained to them [the crowd]:

I myself am the bread of life.  No one who comes to me shall ever be hungry, and no one who believes in me shall ever again be thirsty.  But, as I have told you, though you have seen [me], still you do not believe.  Whatever the Father gives me will come to me; and anyone who comes to me I will never drive out, because it is not to do my own will that I have come down from heaven, but to do the will of Him who sent me.  And it is the will of Him who sent me that I should lose nothing of what He has given me; rather,  should raise it up on the last day.  Indeed, this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks upon the Son and believes in him should have eternal life.  And I shall raise him up on the last day.

The Collect:

O God, by the abundance of your grace you unfailingly increase the number of your children: Look with favor upon those whom you have chosen to be members of your Church: that, having been born again in Baptism, they may be granted a glorious resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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One of the parables of Jesus likens the Kingdom of God to a pesky plant which grows from the humble mustard seed.  The plant goes where it will, regardless of human efforts to combat it.  I live in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, which contains much kudzu.  Stubborn, persistent plants are part of my daily environment.

In Serenity, the movie follow-up to the cult series Firefly, Mr. Universe tells Captain Malcolm Reynolds, “Can’t stop the signal, Mal.”  The truth got out in that movie, despite the efforts of authorities keep their secret and defend their position.

Authorities executed Jesus and consented to that murder.  Yet God raised him from the dead.  Authorities stoned Stephen the Deacon.  Yet the work of the nascent Christian movement flourished.

The Kingdom of God will continue to expand.  The mustard plant will spread out.  Kuzdu will keep growing.  And nobody can stop the signal. Thanks be to God (except for the kudzu)!

KRT

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

Sixteenth Day of Easter   11 comments

Christ in Majesty, Chartres Cathedral

Faith in Jesus, Not Tradition(s)

Monday, April 27, 2020

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Acts 6:8-15 (Revised English Bible):

Stephen, full of grace and power, began to do great wonders and signs among the people.  Some members of the synagogue called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, comprising Cyrenians and Alexandrians and people from Cilicia and Asia, came forward and argued with Stephen, but could not hold their own against the inspired wisdom with which he spoke.  They then put up men to allege that they had heard him make blasphemous statements against Moses and against God.  They stirred up the people and the elders and scribes, set upon him and seized him, and brought him before the Council.  They produced false witnesses who said,

This fellow is for ever saying things against this holy place and against the law.  For we have heard him say this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and alter the customs handed down to us by Moses.

All who were sitting in the Council fixed their eyes on him, and his face seemed to them like the face of an angel.

Psalm 27:7-14 (Revised English Bible):

Hear, LORD, when I cry aloud;

show my favour and answer me.

Come,

my heart has said,

seek his presence.

I seek your presence, LORD;

do not hide your face from me,

nor in your anger turn away from your servant,

whose help you have been;

God my saviour, do not reject me or forsake me.

Though my father and my mother forsake me,

the LORD will take me into his care.

Teach me your way, LORD;

do not give me up to the greed of my enemies;

lead me by a level path

to escape the foes who beset me:

liars breathing malice come forward

to give evidence against me.

Well I know that I shall see the goodness of the LORD

in the land of the living.

Wait for the LORD; be strong and brave,

and put your hope in the LORD.

John 6:22-29 (Anchor Bible):

The next day the crowd which had remained on the other side of the sea observed that there had only been one boat there and that Jesus had not gone along with his disciples in that boat, for his disciples had departed alone.  Then some boats came out from Tiberias near the place where they had eaten the bread [after the Lord had given thanks].  So, once the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they too embarked and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.

And when they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him,

Rabbi, when did you come here?

Jesus answered,

Truly, I assure you, you are not looking for me because you have seen signs, but because you have eaten your fill of the loaves.  You should not be working for perishable food but for food which the Son of Man will give you; for it is on him that God the Father has set His seal.

At this they said to him,

What must we do, then, to ‘work’ the works of God?

Jesus replied,

This is the work of God; have faith in him whom He sent.

The Collect:

O God, you have united diverse peoples in the confession of your Name: Grant that all who have been born again in the font of Baptism may also be united in faith and love; 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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Faith is an often used and frequently misunderstood word.  In its most unfortunate misapprehension the word means checking one’s brain at the church door and assenting blindly to what a designated ecclesiastical authority says.  This version of faith rests on accumulated tradition without questioning that tradition.  It states that people today need to accept propositions X, Y, and Z because that was what some people understood as truth in some previous year or era.

That is insufficient, and, in my opinion, simply wrong-headed.

In the context this day’s assigned reading from the Johannine Gospel faith is trust in one person, Jesus.  Faith and truth are related, for both depend on reliability.  Jesus is reliable, for he did what he said he would do.  His deeds and words were of a piece, so we can place our faith in him wisely.  Faith in Jesus can empower a person to withstand great hardship.  It empowered Stephen the Deacon to “have the face of an angel” in the company of those who, shortly after this day’s reading from Acts ended, had him executed.

Jesus of Nazareth is the Word of God.  May we who have faith in him deepen that faith, and may those who do not have faith in him come to it then deepen it.

KRT

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

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2020, April 27, Episcopal Church Lectionary

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Fourteenth Day of Easter   12 comments

St. Simon’s Island, Georgia, Lighthouse, 1848

Fear Not

Sunday, April 25, 2020

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Acts 6:1-7 (Revised English Bible):

During this period, when disciples were growing in number, a grievance arose on the part of those who spoke Greek, against those who spoke the language of the Jews; they complained that their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution.  The Twelve called the whole company of disciples together and said,

It would not be fitting for us to neglect the word of God in order assist in the distribution.  Therefore, friends, pick seven men of good repute from your number, men full of the Spirit and of wisdom, and we will appoint them for this duty; then we can devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.

This proposal proved acceptable to the whole company.  They elected Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, along with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas of Antioch, who had been a convert from Judaism, and presented them to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

The word of God spread more and more widely; the number of disciples in Jerusalem was increasing rapidly, and very many of the priests adhered to the faith.

Psalm 33:1-5, 18-22 (Revised English Bible):

Shout for joy in the LORD, you that are righteous;

praise comes well from the upright.

Give thanks to the LORD on the lyre;

make music to him on the ten-stringed harp.

Sing to him a new song;

strike up with all your skill and shout in triumph,

for the word of the LORD holds true,

and all his work endures.

He is a lover of righteousness and justice;

the earth is filled with the LORD’s unfailing love.

The LORD’s eyes are turned towards those who fear him,

towards those who hope for his unfailing love

to deliver them from death,

and in famine to preserve them alive.

We have waited eagerly for the LORD;

he is our help and our shield.

In him our hearts are glad,

because we have trusted in his holy name.

LORD, let your unfailing love rest on us,

as we have put our hope in you.

John 6:16-21 (Anchor Bible):

As evening drew on, his [Jesus’] disciples came down to the sea.  Having embarked, they were trying to cross the sea to Capernaum.  By this time it was dark, and still Jesus had not joined them; moreover, with a strong wind blowing, the sea was becoming rough.  When they had rowed about three or four miles, they sighted Jesus walking upon the sea, approaching the boat.  They were frightened, but he told them,

It is I; do not be afraid.

So they wanted to take him into the boat, and suddenly the boat reached the shore toward which they had been going.

The Collect:

O Lord, the life of the faithful, the glory of the saints, and the delight of those who trust in you: Hear our supplications, and quench, we pray, the thirst of those who long for your promises; 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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There are two kinds of fear:  good and bad.  Good fear tells me not to touch a hot surface, for example.  This variety of fear preserves me from needless and avoidable foolishness.  This day’s readings concern bad fear, however.

Bad fear is spiritually corrosive.  It prompts us to take our eyes off Jesus and not to trust in God.  Bad fear shifts our focus from our blessings to our anxieties.  These can assume a variety of forms:  financial, psychological, emotional, food-related, legal, et cetera.  And they are real and genuine reasons for concern.  Everyone who has lived long enough has accumulated these.  I know fear as I write this devotional.  Sometimes I experience episodes of crippling fear, but these end.  From late 2006 to middle 2007 I was at my low point; I would have welcomed death, not that I would have committed suicide then.  (I was too afraid to do that.)  But, with much divine and human help, I emerged from the crisis.  And I am stronger spiritually today because of it.

Experience teaches me that God casts out fear and calls me seek the divine face.  Life tells me that when I occupy a dark valley God is with me.  If I do not recognize this fact, I have not looked closely enough.

I write this devotional during a recession which affects mostly people who did not cause it.  During economic difficulties many people give voice to resentments, especially those located at the intersection of racism and economics.  Much of talk radio and 24-hour news channel programming relies on fear and fear-related anger to fill airtime and attract audiences.  Positive programming, although edifying, is less of a draw that fear-baiting.  Political strategists have known for many years that scaring people is more effective electoral strategy than appealing to the higher angels of human nature.

Who can deliver us from negative fear?  Only God.

KRT

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

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/fear-not/

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2020, April 25, Episcopal Church Lectionary

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