Archive for the ‘Beatitudes’ Tag

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

Above:  Icon of the Ministry of the Apostles

Image in the Public Domain

The Divine Mandate for Social Justice

MAY 7, 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 17:1-15

Psalm 33:1-11 (LBW) or Psalm 146 (LW)

1 Peter 2:4-10

John 14:1-12

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O God, form the minds of your faithful people into a single will. 

Make us love what you command and desire what you promise,

that, amid, all the changes of this world,

our hearts may be fixed where true joy is found;

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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O God, you make the minds of your faithful to be of one will;

therefore grant to your people that they may love what you command

and desire what you promise,

that among the manifold changes of this age our hearts

may ever be fixed where true joys are to be found;

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), 53

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…the people who have been turning the whole world upside down have come here now….

–Acts 17:6b, The Revised New Jerusalem Bible (2019)

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One need not be evil to favor maintaining the status quo, even when it is exploitative and for overturning.  Good, morally defensible change can cause disorientation and discomfort, even among conventionally pious people.  The terms “revolutionary,” “liberal,” “conservative,” and “reactionary” are inherently relative to the center, the definition of which varies according to time and place.  These four labels are, in the abstract, morally neutral.  In circumstances, however, they are not.  Being conservative, for example, may be right or wrong, depending on what one hopes to conserve.  And, if one is not a revolutionary in certain circumstances, one is morally defective.

The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., called for a

moral revolution of values

on April 4, 1967, when he finally unambiguously and unapologetically opposed the Vietnam War.  That address, which he delivered at the Riverside Church, Manhattan, proved to be extremely controversial, mainly because of King’s position on the Vietnam War.  That controversy obscured much of the rest of the contents of the speech.  (King was correct to oppose the Vietnam War, by the way.)  The other content of that speech remains prophetic and germane.  The call for a society that values people more than property, for example, has not come to fruition, sadly.

Sometimes “turning the world upside down” is really turning it right side up, as in Psalm 146 and the Beatitudes.  Giving justice to the oppressed, feeding the hungry, caring for the strangers, sustaining the orphan and the widow, and frustrating the way of the wicked are examples of turning the world right side up, not upside down.  You, O reader, and I live in an upside-down world.

This is theologically orthodox.  False theological orthodoxy mistakes social justice for heresy and bolsters social injustice.  However, the Law of Moses, the Hebrew prophets, and the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth are consistent in holding that social injustice is a divine mandate.

So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 21, 2022 COMMON ERA

THURSDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROMAN ADAME ROSALES, MEXICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1927

THE FEAST OF SAINT CONRAD OF PARZHAM, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF DAVID BRAINERD, AMERICAN CONGREGATIONALIST THEN PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY AND MINISTER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE B. CAIRD, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST THEN UNITED REFORMED MINISTER, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF GEORGIA HARKNESS, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, ETHICIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMON BARSABAE, BISHOP; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS, 341

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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

Above:  The Lost Piece of Silver,by John Everett Millais

Image in the Public Domain

Jesus and the Lost

MAY 2, 2021

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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 12:1-19

Psalm 148

1 Thessalonians 3:1-4:2

Luke 15:1-10

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The Gospel of Luke establishes the context for the Parables of the Lost Sheep/Good Shepherd and the Lost Coin:

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear [Jesus]. And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

–Luke 15:1-2, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

Do you, O reader, identify with the Pharisees and scribes or with the tax collectors and sinners in that passage?  Should not anyone be glad that Jesus was spending time in the company of those who knew they needed him?  The best translation of the first beatitude (Matthew 5:3) is not,

Blessed are the poor in spirit…,

but

Blessed are those who know their need for God….

God desires us, fortunately for us.

Psalm 148 invites all of creation to praise God.  The text never qualifies that principle or says, “unless….”  Indeed, times of affliction (as in the readings from Acts and 1 Thessalonians) are times to praise God.

If that principle confused you, O reader, I understand your confusion.  Praising God in times of joy and plenty is relatively easy.  Yet difficult times cast the blessings of God in stark contrast to what surrounds them.  Blessings become easier to recognize.  Nevertheless, one is in difficult circumstances.  Anxiety, uncertainty, and grief erect high walls to praising God.  Yet God is with us in our doldrums.  God seeks us, for we are valuable because God says we are.

That is a reason to rejoice and to praise God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

WEDNESDAY IN HOLY WEEK

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 AYRES, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERHOOD OF THE HOLY COMMUNION

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIONYSIUS OF CORINTH, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIE BILLIART, FOUNDRESS 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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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2020/04/08/jesus-and-the-lost/

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Devotion for Saturday Before the Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Christ Before Pilate

Above:  Christ Before Pilate, by Mihaly Munkracsy

Image in the Public Domain

Jesus, Threat

APRIL 2, 2022

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The Collect:

Creator God, you prepare a new way in the wilderness,

and your grace waters our desert.

Open our hearts to be transformed by the new thing you are doing,

that our lives may proclaim the extravagance of your love

given to all through 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 29

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 12:21-27

Psalm 126

John 11:45-47

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When the LORD restored Zion

it was as though we were dreaming.

We could not speak for laughing,

we could only utter cries of joy.

Then the saying arose among the nations,

“The LORD has done something great with these people.”

The LORD has done something great with us;

we were delighted.

–Psalm 126:1-3, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)

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The remembrance of what God has done (as in Psalm 126) and was about to do (as in Exodus 12) was supposed to inspire reverence for God, measurable in various ways, including how people treated others.  The plot to scapegoat Jesus (in John 11) contradicted that ethic.

Celebrating Passover, the annual commemoration of God liberating the Hebrew slaves from Egypt, in occupied Jerusalem was politically sensitive.  Furthermore, the Temple was the seat of collaboration with the Roman occupying forces.  Jesus was a threat to the Temple authorities and, by extension, to their Roman overlords and partners.  When he entered the city at the beginning of that fateful week leading up to his crucifixion, Jesus arrived in the manner of a triumphant king en route to peace talks after a battle.  Our Lord and Savior, the Gospel of John makes clear, rejected offers to seek to expel the Romans, but many people, including Pontius Pilate, thought that Jesus might lead an insurrection.  Even after Pilate realized that Jesus was not a political rebel, he understood our Lord and Savior to be a threat nevertheless.  Jesus was a threat, but not in the way Pilate thought.

Jesus was a threat to a form of piety which privileged wealth and depended on a certain amount of it in a society which consisted primarily of illiterate peasants.  Jesus was a threat to religious legalism.  Jesus was a threat to religious practices which draped economic injustice in the cloak of piety.

Man Nobody Knows

Above:  The Table of Contents from The Man Nobody Knows:  A Discovery of the Real Jesus (1925), by Bruce Barton

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Jesus remains a threat to such practices in our time.  We cannot kill him again.  Besides, he did not remain dead for long the last time.  We are capable, however, of attempting to domesticate Jesus.  People left, right, and center have been engaged in this practice for a very long time.  One might, for example, ignore the Beatitudes and Woes from Luke 6:17-26, downplay or ignore his apocalyptic teachings, or portray him as always nice and smiling.  The genuine article, however, was–and remains–a threat to a variety of misconceptions about Jesus.  I like to think that, even if I had not grown up in the Christian faith, I would have become a Christian because of the portrayal of Jesus in the four canonical Gospels.

The remembrance of what God has done and some awareness of what God is doing compel me to have reverence for God.  Among the examples to which I point is Jesus.  His life invites me to examine my life.  Much of what he reveals to me makes me uncomfortable, but identifying a problem is the first step in correcting them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS COTTERILL, ENGLISH PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CALABRIA, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE POOR SERVANTS AND THE POOR WOMEN SERVANTS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH MOHR, AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/12/04/jesus-threat/

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Devotion for the Forty-Ninth Day of Easter, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Moses with the Tablets of the Law, Rembrandt van Rijn

Above:  Moses With the Tablets of the Law, by Rembrandt Van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Wrestling With Biblical Texts

MAY 27, 2023

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The Collect:

O God, on this day you open the hearts of your faithful people

by sending us your Holy Spirit.

Direct us by the light of that Spirit,

that we may have a right judgment in all things

and rejoice at all times in your 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 36

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 20:1-21

Psalm 33:12-22

Matthew 5:1-12

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Shall we unpack the Ten Commandments, at least a little?

  1. Many more commandments follow immediately, starting in Exodus 20.
  2. Many of the Ten Commandments are self-explanatory, so not committing adultery against a neighbor are straight-forward, for example.
  3. Swearing falsely by the name of God refers to insincere oaths and to attempts to control God, not to certain curse words and related expressions.
  4. On the troubling side, the text classes wives with property and livestock (20:14) and allows for slavery (20:10).
  5. The commandment to have no other gods might deny the existence of other deities or mean simply not to worship them while acknowledging their existence.  Hebrew Bible scholars debate that point.  Yet I know that many Hebrews during Biblical times not only acknowledged the existence of other deities but worshiped some of them.
  6. Sometimes displaying the Ten Commandments constitutes idolatry, which intention defines.

Exodus 20:5-6 requires some explanation.  Does God really punish descendants for someone’s sins?  Or is this a description of behaviors repeated across generations?  The ultimate context in which to consider any passage of Scripture is the entire canon thereof.  Thus I point out that a note on page 149 of The Jewish Study Bible (2004) lists Deuteronomy 24:6; Jeremiah 31:29-30; and Ezekiel 18:1-20 as passages which state that God punishes a person for his or her sins alone.  This nuance helps to fill out the picture.  Sometimes Biblical authors wrote of effects as if they were divine purposes, even when they were not.  Human understandings have changed, even if God has not.

If we read Exodus 20:5-6 as descriptive and interpret it within the context of the previously listed passages from Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, a certain understanding takes shape.  One’s good and bad behaviors might echo for three or four or more generations.  I can, for example, identify positive and negative legacies from two of my paternal great-grandfathers which have affected me.  I, being aware of my responsibility for my own actions, have endeavored to keep the good and to break with the bad.  God know how successful that has proven so far.

The Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes are about, among other things, how faithful people of God ought to live with God and in community.  Depending on one’s community, living with God properly might contradict the former and lead to persecutions–even death.  The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12 and Luke 6:20-23) say that God’s order is not the dominant human one in which a person lives.  The Beatitudes are counter-cultural.  And Luke 6:24-26 (the Woes) goes beyond anything Matthew 5:3-12 indicates.  If one really reads them, one should recognize that the Beatitudes and Woes remain political hot potatoes.

One part of the honest–not autopilot–interaction with the Bible I like is that we must wrestle with texts and reconsider aspects of our opinions, culture, politics, and economics–even ones which we like and which benefit us.  This is healthy to do.  We will do it if we take the Bible seriously and seek to cut through confirmation bias and defense mechanisms.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF KATHERINA VON BORA LUTHER, WIFE OF MARTIN LUTHER

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/26/wrestling-with-biblical-texts/

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