Archive for the ‘Ephesians 2’ Tag

Devotion for Ash Wednesday (Year D)   1 comment

christ-healing-the-paralytic-at-bethesda

Above:  Christ Healing the Paralytic at Bethesda, by Palma Giovane

Image in the Public Domain

The Sin of Legalism

FEBRUARY 17, 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:

Isaiah 57:1-21

Psalm 102

John 5:1-18

James 1:1-16 or Ephesians 2:11-22 or Galatians 1:1-24

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Penitence is related to repentance.  Frequently, in everyday vocabulary, they become interchangeable terms, but they are different.  To repent is to turn one’s back on sin–sin in general and a particular sin or set of sins.  The theological focus on Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent is repentance.

Timothy Matthew Slemmons has done an excellent job of selecting appropriate texts for Ash Wednesday while avoiding the usual suspects.

  1. We read in Isaiah 57 that Judah needs to repent of idolatry.  We also read that judgment will ensue, but that mercy will follow it.
  2. The penitence in Psalm 102 is individual.  In that text the consequences of the sins have caught up with the author, who is in distress and pleading for mercy.
  3. James 1 advises us to rejoice and to trust in God during times of trial, not to yield to temptation during them.  We read that Jesus breaks down barriers between us and God and among us.  Why, then, do many of us insist on maintaining and erecting barriers, especially for others?
  4. Galatians 1 informs us that Jesus liberates us to serve, enjoy, and glorify God.
  5. In John 5 we read of Jesus liberating  man from a physical disability and intangible, related problems.  Then, we read, some strict Sabbath keepers criticize the newly able-bodied man for carrying his bed roll on the Sabbath.  I detect misplaced priorities in the critics.

Each of us has much for which to be pentitent and much of which to repent.  At this time I choose to emphasize legalism, which is a thread in some of the readings.  Legalism, in some cases, has innocent and pious origins; one seeks to obey divine commandments.  Out of good intentions one goes astray and becomes a master nit picker lost amid the proverbial trees and unable to see the forest.  Rules become more important than compassion.  This might be especially likely to happen when one is a member of a recognizable minority defined by certain practices.  Creating neat categories, thereby defining oneself as set apart and others as unclean, for example, can become quite easily an open door to self-righteousness.  It is a sin against which to remain vigilant as one notices a variety of sins in one’s vicinity.

The list of sins I have not committed is long.  So is the list of sins of which I am guilty.  The former does not make up for the latter.  The fact that I have never robbed a liquor store speaks well of me yet does not deliver me from my sins and the consequences thereof; it does, however, testify to what Lutheran theology calls civic righteousness.  Although I have the right to condemn the robbing of liquor stores, I have no become self-righteous and legalistic toward those who have.  They and I stand before God guilty of many sins.  All of us need to be penitent and to repent.  All of us need the mercy of God and the merits of Jesus Christ.

I am no less prone to legalism than any other person is.  My inclination is to break down roadblocks to God, not to create or maintain them.  Nevertheless, I recognize the existence of certain categories and approve of them.  This is healthy to an extent.  But what if some of my categories are false? This is a thought I must ponder if I am to be a faithful Christian.  Am I marginalizing people God calls insiders?  Are you, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 8, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ABRAHAM RITTER, U.S. MORAVIAN MERCHANT, HISTORIAN, MUSICIAN, AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ERIK ROUTLEY, HYMN WRTIER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM DWIGHT PORTER BLISS, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND ECONOMIST; AND RICHARD THEODORE ELY, ECONOMIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/10/08/the-sin-of-legalism/

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

Job Illustration

Above:  One of William Blake’s Illustrations Based on the Book of Job

Image Source = William Safire, The First Dissident:  The Book of Job in Today’s Politics (New York, NY:  Random House, 1992)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Defense Mechanisms

FEBRUARY 22 and 23, 2021

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The Collect:

Holy God, heavenly Father, in the waters of the flood you saved the chosen,

and in the wilderness of temptation you protected your Son from sin.

Renew us in the gift of baptism.

May your holy angels be with us,

that the wicked foe may have no power over us,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 4:1-21 (Monday)

Job 5:8-27 (Tuesday)

Psalm 77 (Both Days)

Ephesians 2:1-10 (Monday)

1 Peter 3:8-18a (Tuesday)

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I think of God, I am restless,

I ponder, and my spirit faints.

You will not let my eyelids close;

I am troubled and I cannot speak….

Will the Lord cast me off for ever?

will he no more show his favor?

Has his loving-kindness come to an end for ever?

Has God forgotten to be gracious?

has he, in his anger, withheld his compassion?

–Psalm 77:3-4, 7-9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Those verses from Psalm 77 remind me of Job.  The assigned readings from the Book of Job come from a speech by Eliphaz the Temanite, who mocks the titular character of the book while reciting a combination of pious platitudes and works-based theology of righteousness.  Thus, according to Eliphaz, Job deserves his fate, for a just deity would not permit an innocent person to suffer.  1 Peter 3:8-18a and Ephesians contradict Eliphaz.

The character of Eliphaz acted partially out of the defense of tradition.  Certainly tradition provides comfort in the form of predictability, but sometimes it is wrong, as are many deeds people commit in defense of it.  Eliphaz should have obeyed the advice of 1 Peter 3:8 instead.  He should have been

full of brotherly affection, kindly and humbly.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

It is better to be compassionate than to be correct in one’s opinion.  To behave correctly is superior to acting badly in defense of one’s theological orthodoxy.  This is a devotion for the season of Lent, a time of repentance and of confession of sin.  May we confess and repent of our defense mechanisms which inflict harm on others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 6, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

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

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF MYRA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF PHILIP BERRIGAN, SOCIAL ACTIVIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/11/defense-mechanisms/

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Devotion for the Forty-First and Forty-Second Days of Easter, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Elisha-Eliseus

Above:  Elisha

Image in the Public Domain

The Passed Torch

FRIDAY, MAY 22, 2020, and SATURDAY, MAY 23, 2020

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The Collect:

O God of glory, your Son Jesus Christ suffered for us

and ascended to your right hand.

Unite us with Christ and each other in suffering and joy,

that all the world may be drawn into your bountiful presence,

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 35

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 2:1-12 (41st Day)

2 Kings 2:13-15 (42nd Day)

Psalm 93 (All Days)

Ephesians 2:1-7 (41st Day)

John 8:21-30 (42nd Day)

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Your testimonies are very sure,

and holiness adorns your house, O LORD,

forever and forevermore.

–Psalm 93:5, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The account from 2 Kings 2:1-15 is a story of the passing of the torch from Elijah to Elisha.  The transfer of a double portion of the former’s spirit to the latter, per Deuteronomy 21:17, marked Elisha as having the status of an elder son, therefore Elijah’s legitimate successor.  And, as a careful reader of 2 Kings knows well, stories of Elisha’s mighty deeds abound.  Some of these stories resemble incidents from the Gospels, down to a feeding of a multitude (with little food available) and to restoring dead people to life.

Speaking of Jesus, his Ascension passed the torch to his Apostles, some of whose subsequent stories we read in the Acts of the Apostles.  And each Christian generation has passed the torch to the next one.

The task of serving God in a wide variety of circumstances is a challenge–one which we have grace to help us accomplish.  This grace liberates us from spiritual death and other obstacles to glorifying and enjoying God forever.  By grace we can do more  for God’s glory and the benefit of our fellow human beings than we can imagine.  By grace members of previous generations have challenged (and eventually) ended race-based chattel slavery, for example.  That multi-generational task was daunting, but that adjective describes many worthwhile efforts.  Fortunately, many other tasks from God play out within a shorter timeframe.

What, O reader, is God commanding and empowering you to do?

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/2014/01/26/the-passed-torch/

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Devotion for the Twenty-Ninth and Thirtieth Days of Lent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Paul_raiseth_Eutychus_to_life

Above:  Paul Raiseth Eutychus to Life, 1728

Image in the Public Domain

Raised to New Life in Christ

MARCH 22 and 23, 2021

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The Collect:

Almighty God, your Son came into the world to free us

from all sin and death.  Breathe upon us the power

of your Spirit, that we may be raised to new life in Christ

and serve you in righteousness all our days,  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:

1 Kings 17:17-24 (29th Day)

2 Kings 4:18-37 (30th Day)

Psalm 143 (Both Days)

Acts 20:7-12 (29th Day)

Ephesians 2:1-10 (30th Day)

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My spirit faints within me;

my heart within me is desolate.

–Psalm 143:4, Common Worship (2000)

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The assigned readings for these two days pertain to death and restoration to life.  Elijah raised a widow’s son from the dead.  So did Elisha.  These deeds benefited the mothers in that society, making them less vulnerable economically.  Acts 20 tells us that St. Paul the Apostle, who probably spoke for too long into the night, restored young Eutychus, who had fallen asleep and fallen from a third-story window, to life.  Certainly the young man was important to his faith community.

The metaphor coexists with the literal fact in Ephesians 2:1-10.  Through Jesus, the text tells us, we who die in our trespasses find spiritual rebirth.  Although the Apostle does not say so in this passage, we then carry a mandate to bless others—to pass it on, to pay it forward.  We are responsible to and for each other.

May we act accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 27, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES INTERCISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEOLOGIAN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/raised-to-new-life-in-christ/

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Devotion for the Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Sixteenth Days of Lent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Gathering_of_the_Manna

Above:  The Gathering of the Manna, Part of a Fifteenth-Century Altarpiece

Image in the Public Domain

Anxiety Versus Faithfulness

THURSDAY-SATURDAY, MARCH 12-14, 2020

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The Collect:

Merciful God, the fountain of living water,

you quench our thirst and wash away our sin.

Give us this water always.

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

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 16:1-8 (14th Day)

Exodus 16:9-21 (15th Day)

Exodus 16:27-35 (16th Day)

Psalm 95 (All Days)

Colossians 1:15-23 (14th Day)

Ephesians 2:11-22 (15th Day)

John 4:1-6 (16th Day)

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The story which unites the assigned portions of Exodus is one of divine fidelity and human inconstancy.  Yet again people grumbled and failed to trust that God would provide in a timely fashion.  Out of faithfulness sinful acts flowed like a mighty river of perfidy.

This is a typical human pattern, is it not?  We should trust God, saying with Psalm 95:1,

Come, let us sing to the LORD;

let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

Yet often grumble then we hoard needlessly and out of faithlessness.

Forty years long I detested that generation and said,

“This people are wayward in their hearts;

they do not know my ways.”

–Psalm 95:10, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

Our worst behaviors usually flow from bad attitudes.  Out of such faithlessness we erect barriers between God and ourselves.  We do either that or we refuse to tear down such obstacles.  Out of such infidelity we build barriers between ourselves and others.  We do do either that or we refuse to tear down such obstacles.  The readings from Colossians and Ephesians speak of reconciliation via Christ.  This contradicts the human behaviors I have just mentioned.

Our faithful work is to cooperate with God, not to grumble and hoard greedily out of a sense of anxiety and insecurity.  Our task is to function as instruments of grace.  John 4:2 reads:

…although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized….

The New Revised Standard Version:  Catholic Edition (1993)

Our Lord and Savior’s disciples, despite their well-documented shortcomings, were crucial to the success of the Jesus movement, which became Christianity.  Likewise, we modern Christians have a mandate to show Jesus to others.  We cannot do this well unless we lay aside certain spiritual baggage.  We will remain deeply flawed, of course, but God can still shine through the cracks in our pots.

What kinds of attitudes will we seek to have toward God and each other?  We are powerless, of course, to do everything necessary on our own power.  Yet our attitudes matter greatly.  What we do is important.  So, by grace, may we succeed in fulfilling the sacred tasks God has assigned to us and which, hopefully, the best parts of our free wills want to complete.  May we do it because it is the right thing to do.  May we do it because it glorifies God.  May we do it because it helps others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 25, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SQUANTO, COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEING

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

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/anxiety-versus-faithfulness/

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Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B   23 comments

Above:  Stained-Glass Window:  Moses and the Snake, St. Mark’s Church, Gillingham, Kent, England

Image in the Public Domain

Sins and Suffering

MARCH 14, 2021

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Numbers 21:4-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

From Mount Hor the Israelites set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses,

Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.

Then the LORD sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said,

We have sinned by speaking against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD to take away the serpents from us.

So Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses,

Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.

So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.

Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

and his mercy endures for ever.

2  Let all those whom the LORD has redeemed proclaim

that he redeemed them from the hand of the foe.

3  He gathered them out of the lands;

from the east and from the west,

from the north and from the south.

17  Some were fools and took to rebellious ways;

they were afflicted because of their sins.

18  They abhorred all manner of food

and drew near to death’s door.

19  Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,

and he delivered them from their distress.

20  He sent forth his word and healed them

and saved them from the grave.

21  Let them give thanks to the LORD for his mercy

and the wonders he does for his children.

22  Let them offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving

and tell of his acts with shouts of joy.

Ephesians 2:1-10 (New Revised Standard Version):

You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ– by grace you have been saved– and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God– not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

John 3:14-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said to Nicodemus,

Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.

The Collect:

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year A:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

Numbers 21:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirtieth-day-of-lent/

John 3:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/second-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/tenth-day-of-easter/

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/eleventh-day-of-easter/

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Sometimes there is a link between one’s sin and one’s suffering. Actions do have consequences, after all.  But, as we read in Job and the Gospels, one’s sufferings, diseases, and disabilities do not always result from one’s sins.  Reason and experience confirm this conclusion.

Some suffering results from the sins of others.  Suppose, for example, that somebody steals my car, causing me inconvenience at least and perhaps suffering.  I was just minding my business, but the other person’s greed has hurt me.  Likewise, one can come down with lung cancer because of the cigarette smoke of others.  Living well is no guarantee against all bad ends.

Then there are the cases where suffering has no apparent cause.  Why are some people born blind, for example?  Jesus faced this question.  Nobody needed to have sinned for the blindness to have resulted.  So let us refrain from assuming that a person’s suffering has resulted from something he or she has done, for we run the risk of judging others unjustly.  Our knowledge is limited, but God’s is not.  And God is also prone to forgiving generously.

KRT

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