Archive for the ‘Anointing of Jesus’ Tag

Devotion for Monday in Holy Week, Years A, B, and C (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  St. Mary of Bethany and Jesus (Nicholas Ge)

Image in the Public Domain

Selfless Love

APRIL 3, 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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Isaiah 42:1-9

Psalm 36:5-10

Hebrews 9:11-15

John 12:1-11

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O God, your Son chose the path which led to pain

before joy and the cross before glory. 

Plant his cross in our hearts,

so that in its power and love we may come at last to joy and glory;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 19

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Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ

chose to suffer pain before going up to joy,

and crucifixion before entering into glory,

mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross,

may find this path to be the way of life and peace;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 41

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In context, the servant in Isaiah 42:1-9 is the Jewish people personified, created and appointed to be a covenant people and a light to the nations.  In context, this group was about to emerge from the Babylonian Exile, which the Deuteronomistic theology of the Bible explained as divine punishment for persistent, collective violation of the moral mandates in the Law of Moses.  To identify this servant with sinless Jesus requires theological gymnastics.

Yet here we are.

Hebrews 9:11-15 presents Jesus as the mediator of a new covenant via his sacrificial death (and his resurrection).  Do not forget the resurrection, O reader.  Without it, we have dead Jesus, who can do nothing to redeem anyone.

But I am getting ahead of the story.

Each of the canonical Gospels contains a version of the story of a woman anointing Jesus.  Scholars tell us that there were two anointings–one of Christ’s head and another one of his feet–and that the Johannine account merges elements of both.  So be it.  In the Gospel of John, the setting was the home of Sts. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany, and St. Mary of Bethany was the anointer.  We read of her, with her hair down (in the style of a harlot, not a respectable woman who could afford expensive nard ointment from India), behaving in an undignified and loving way.  We read that this anointing foreshadowed the anointing of Jesus’s corpse a few days later.

Displays of selfless love may shock one.  Ponder what Jesus did later that week, O reader.  Ponder what St. Mary of Bethany did at the beginning of the week, too.  Consider that these acts were different from each other yet had much in common.  The application of any given timeless principle varies according to who, when, and where one is.

What does the playing out of selfless love entail and look like where and when you are, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 8, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MELCHIOR MUHLENBERG, PATRIARCH OF AMERICAN LUTHERANISM; HIS GREAT-GRANDSON, WILLIAM AUGUSTUS MUHLENBERG, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGICAL PIONEER; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, ANNE AYERS, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERHOOD OF THE HOLY COMMUNION

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIONYSIUS OF CORINTH, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF GODFREY DIEKMANN, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, PRIEST, ECUMENIST, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUGH OF ROUEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, ABBOT, AND MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIE BILLIART, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

THE FEAST OF TIMOTHY LULL, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, THEOLOGIAN, AND ECUMENIST

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the First Sunday in Lent, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Harvest

Image in the Public Domain

Yielding the Full Harvest of Righteousness

FEBRUARY 26, 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:

Obadiah 1-4, 11-15

Psalm 32

Philippians 1:1-14

Matthew 26:1-16

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The pericopes from Obadiah and Matthew recount perfidy.  In Obadiah, the briefest book in the Jewish Bible, with 291 Hebrew words, we read of the perfidy of the Edomites, descendants of Esau who, in the words of verses 12 and 13, gazed with glee and participated in the Fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E.  We read of God’s displeasure and promised judgment on the people of Edom.  The perfidy of Matthew 26:1-16 is that of those (including Caiaphas and Judas Iscariot) who plotted to kill Jesus.  In stark contrast to them, we read, was the unnamed woman of Bethany who anointed Jesus.

The author of Psalm 32 had recovered from a serious illness.  In his culture a common assumption was that such an illness was divine punishment for sin, regardless of what the Book of Job argued in its fullness.  The author seemed to accept that assumption, thus he focused on the confession of sins and linked that confession to his recovery.

Yielding the full harvest of righteousness (per Philippians 1:11) is possible only via grace.  One might have the best and most righteous of intentions, but free will, with which God can work, is a good start.  It is also insufficient by itself.  Confessing one’s sins is part of the process; repentance needs to follow it.  Loving one’s fellow human beings to the point of being ready, willing, and able to sacrifice for them, if that is what circumstances and morality require, is also part of yielding the harvest of righteousness, which we can do in community, not in isolation.

May our words and deeds glorify God and benefit others.  The difference between words and deeds proves hypocrisy, which undermines claims to moral authority.  Words also have power; they can tear down or build up.  Words can inspire justice or injustice, reconciliation or alienation, hatred or love or indifference, selflessness or selfishness.  Words can defile the one who utters or writes them or demonstrate one’s good character.

Yielding the full harvest of righteousness is a high and difficult calling.  It is a daunting challenge, but it is one we have a responsibility to accept.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 22, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK HERMANN KNUBEL, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA

THE FEAST OF GEORG GOTTFRIED MULLER, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN FOREST AND THOMAS ABEL, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1538 AND 1540

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIA OF CORSICA, MARTYR AT CORSICA, 620

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/05/22/yielding-the-full-harvest-of-righteousness/

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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 the Eighteenth Day of Easter (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Above:  Moses, by Jose de Ribera

Exodus and Luke, Part IX: Intimacy with God

APRIL 26, 2023

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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 everlasting 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:

Exodus 34:29-35:21

Psalm 99 (Morning)

Psalms 8 and 118 (Evening)

Luke 7:36-50

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Each of the four canonical Gospels contains a version of the story of a woman anointing Jesus.  She was either a anonymous or Mary of Bethany.  She was either of undefined character or of good character or a forgiven sinner.  The host was was either Mary of Bethany or Simon the Leper or Simon the Pharisee.

As I understand oral tradition, based on reading Historical Jesus books written from various points of view, oral tradition is neither ironclad nor completely unreliable with regard to details.  It is flexible, with a certain set spine.  (See N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, Minneapolis, MN:  Fortress Press, 1996, pages 135-136.)  So, as I read and read the Synoptic Gospels, I find parallel versions of the same incidents, sayings, and parables.  They are similar yet not identical.  To apply this to the anointing of Jesus, something happened at Bethany.  But who was the woman?  What was her background and character?  Who was the host?  And which part of Jesus did the woman anoint?  The Bible does not provide consistent answers.  This does not disturb me.  It did not bother the bishops who approved the canon of the New Testament either.  So I take the Lukan account as we have it, in textual context, and interpret it in relation to its paired reading from Exodus.

The woman expressed her gratitude for forgiveness.  Meanwhile, in Exodus, a distance between God and the people remained.  There was even a distance between Moses and the people.  But there was not distance between Jesus and the woman.  And there need be no distance between Jesus and any of us.

As long as I can recall, I have always had a sense of God.  My relationship with God has had its ups and downs, with the latter being my fault.  And, when times have been darkest for me, I have felt God wither drawing nearer to me or seeming to do so; I cannot be sure which was the reality.  It was, however, a distinction without a difference.  God, as the Sufis say, is closer to me (and to you) than my (and your) jugular vein.  Experience has taught me this.  Perhaps it has also taught you, O reader, the same lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 9, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBA OF IONA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY AND ABBOT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/exodus-and-luke-part-ix-intimacy-with-god/

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