Archive for the ‘Gnosticism’ Tag

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

Abimelech

Above:  Abimelech

Image in the Public Domain

Obeying or Resisting the Will of God

APRIL 9, 2019

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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:

Judges 9:7-15

Psalm 20

1 John 2:18-28

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Now I know that the LORD has given deliverance to his king;

from his heavenly sanctuary he responds to him,

sending his mighty power which always saves.

Some draw attention to their chariots, some to their horses,

 but for our part we draw attention to the LORD, our God.

They crumble and fall,

but we will rise and continue on our way.

The LORD had delivered the king;

he answers us when we call.

–Psalm 20:7-10, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)

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Psalm 20 contains a monarchical perspective, but Judges 9 does not.  In Judges 9 we read of Abimelech, son of Gideon (Jerubbabel).  We learn of Abimelech’s three-year-long local reign at Shechem, of his violent rise to power, and of his violent demise.  The text makes plain that Abimelech’s reign was contrary to the will of God and that of God was supposed to be the only king of the Israelites.  The thematic link of Samuel’s warning in 1 Samuel 8 is obvious.

1 John we find a letter to a congregation recovering from a traumatic schism.  The schismatics were probably Gnostics, based on internal evidence from the document.  The author, who was possibly St. John the Evangelist, advised his audience to remain strong in Christian faith and to continue to reject teachings of antichrists (note the plural form of the word, O reader), who reject Christ.  Gnostics seem like probable antichrists in this context, given their theological position that Jesus was not really incarnate and therefore could not have died on the cross.  That which is material, they said, is evil.  They taught, therefore, that Jesus was a phantom.  So much for Christianity!  There is no Christianity without the Incarnation and all that followed it in the earthly life of Jesus.

The thematic glue for this day’s assigned readings is the will of God–specifically, acting in accordance with it or contrary to it.  Stating that one should act according to the will of God is easy, but discerning that will can be difficult.  Many people who have claimed to know the divine will have acted such that their deeds have belied their protestations of righteousness.  I make no pretense of knowing the mind of God better than anyone else, but I affirm some helpful principles.  These include:

  1. Love you neighbor as you love yourself.
  2. Respect the image of God in all other people actively.
  3. Act toward others as you want them to behave toward you.
  4. Follow Jesus.
  5. Refrain from attempting to domesticate him and/or his message.
  6. If you must err, do so on the side of compassion, not fear or hatred.

Stating those principles is easier than practicing them, I realize, but one need not rely on one’s own power to live righteously in one’s society; grace abounds.  May God deliver each of us from all that stands between us and righteousness.

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/obeying-or-resisting-the-will-of-god/

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Second Sunday in Lent, Year C   17 comments

Above:  Celtic Cross Over a Church Door

The Narrow Door

MARCH 17, 2019

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Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 (New Revised Standard Version):

The word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision,

Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.

But Abram said,

O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?

And Abram said,

You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.

But the word of the LORD came to him,

This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.

He brought him outside and said,

Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.

Then he said to him,

So shall your descendants be.

And he believed the LORD; and the LORD reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Then he said to him,

I am the LORD who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.

But he said,

O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?

He said to him,

Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.

He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him.

When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying,

To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.

Psalm 27 (Revised English Bible):

The LORD is my light and my salvation;

whom should I fear?

The LORD is the stronghold of my life;

of whom then should I go in dread?

When evildoers close in on me to devour me,

is my adversaries, my enemies,

who stumble and fall.

Should an army encamp against me,

my heart would have no fear;

if armed men should fall upon me,

even though I would be undismayed.

One thing I ask of the LORD,

it is the one thing I seek:

that I may dwell in the house of the LORD

all the days of my life,

to gaze on the beauty of the LORD

and to seek him in his temple.

For he will hide me in his shelter

in the day of misfortune;

he will conceal me under cover of his tent,

set me high on a rock.

Now my head will be raised high

above my enemy all about me;

so I shall acclaim him in his tent with a sacrifice

and sing a psalm of praise to the LORD.

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.

Philippians 3:17-4:1 (Revised English Bible):

Join together, my friends, in following my example.  You have us for a model; imitate those whose way of life conforms to it.  As I have often told you, and now tell you with tears, there are many whose way of life makes them enemies of the cross of Christ.  They are heading for destruction, they make appetite their god, they take pride in what should bring shame; their minds are set on earthly things.  We, by contrast, are citizens of heaven, and from heaven we expect our deliverer to come, the Lord Jesus Christ.  He will transfigure our humble bodies, and give them a form like that of his own glorious body, by that power which enables him to make all things subject to himself.  This, my dear friends, whom I live and long for, my joy and crown, this is what it means to stand firm in the Lord.

Luke 13:22-35 (Revised English Bible):

He [Jesus] continued his journey through towns and villages, teaching as he made his way towards Jerusalem.  Someone asked him,

Sir, are only a few saved?

His answer was:

Make every effort to enter through the narrow door; for I tell you that many will try to enter but will not succeed.

When once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you may stand outside and knock and say, “Sir let us in!” but he will answer, “I do not know where you come from.”  Then you will protest, “We used to eat and drink with you, and you taught in our streets.”  But he will repeat, “I tell you, I do not know where you come from.  Out of my sight, all of you, you and your wicked ways!”  There will be wailing and grinding of teeth there, when you see prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves are driven away.  From east and west, from north and south, people will come and take their places at the banquet in the kingdom of God.  Yes, and some are now last who will be first, and some who are first will be last.

At that time a number of  Pharisees came and warned him [Jesus],

Leave this place and be on your way; Herod wants to kill you.

He replied,

Go and tell that fox, “Listen:  today and tomorrow I shall be driving out demons and working cures; However, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the next day, because it is unthinkable for a prophet to meet his death anywhere but in Jerusalem.”

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, city that murders the prophets and stones the messengers sent to her!  How often have I longed to gather your children, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings; but you would not let me.  Look!  There is your temple, forsaken by God.  I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, “Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord!”

The Collect:

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-second-sunday-in-lent/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/prayer-of-confession-for-the-second-sunday-in-lent/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-the-second-sunday-in-lent/

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/26/prayer-for-the-second-sunday-of-lent/

Hope of the World:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/hope-of-the-world/

A Prayer for Compassion:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/a-prayer-for-compassion/

A Prayer to Embrace Love, Empathy, and Compassion, and to Eschew Hatred, Invective, and Willful Ignorance:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/a-prayer-to-embrace-love-empathy-and-compassion-and-to-eschew-hatred-invective-and-willful-ignorance/

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Who were the “enemies of the cross” in Philippians?  They could have belonged to more than one camp, including early Gnostics, who thought that matter was evil, so the human body was evil.  So Jesus could not have died on a cross or then risen from the dead, according to Gnostics.  Hence Gnostics were not Christians.  And, since they considered the human body to be evil, some favored starving it.  Others gorged it.

Meanwhile, in Genesis, elderly Abram trusted God’s promise of progeny.

And because he put his trust in the LORD, He reckoned it to his merit.

–Genesis 15:6, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

The Lukan reading requires some textual context.  In Chapter 13:1-21 alone we find the following happening:

  1. Jesus encourages repentance. (1-5)
  2. Jesus tells a parable about giving a non-productive fig tree extra fertilizer and one more chance to avoid destruction. (6-9)
  3. Jesus heals a crippled woman on the Sabbath.  He incurs criticism for doing this deed on that day. (10-17)
  4. Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a small mustard seed, which produces a very large weed. (18-19)
  5. Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a small amount of yeast which produces enough to feed 150 people. (20-21)

Then we read about entering by the narrow door.  The Kingdom of God is generous, even weed-like, beyond human control, but the portal to it is narrow.

Who are the excluded?  Among them must be the “enemies of the cross,” those who are materialistic (even if some of them regard matter as evil, ironically).  And I propose that among the excluded are so persnickity about religious matters (such as the Sabbath) that they do not live compassionately.  They have the outward forms yet lack the substance.  God welcomes the repentance of all.  So God does not exclude anyone.  Yet the excluded define themselves as such by not repenting.

As we continue to read we find that our Lord’s life is at risk (31-35).  In the Gospel of Luke’s narrative Jesus had

resolute turned his face towards Jerusalem. (9:51, The New Jerusalem Bible)

So all of Chapter 13 occurs in the shadow of the cross to come.

To pass through a narrow door one must establish priorities.  Some items will never make the cut, for they are too large.  So one must travel lightly through the narrow door.  May we leave behind the bulky furniture of hatred, greed, resentment, prejudice, discrimination, and legalism, among other things.  And may we take compassion with us; it nullifies the items from the preceding sentence.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 14, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS MAKEMIE, FATHER OF U.S. PRESBYTERIANISM

THE FEAST OF NGAKUKU, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/01/20/the-narrow-door/

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