Archive for the ‘Islam’ Tag

Devotion for Easter Sunday Morning (Year D)   1 comment

angel-in-the-tomb

Above:  The Angel in Christ’s Tomb

Image in the Public Domain

Divine Power and Perfect Love

APRIL 17, 2022

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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:

Deuteronomy 7:1-26

Psalms 71:15-24 or Psalm 75 or Psalm 76

John 5:19-30

2 Corinthians 1:1-17 (18-22) or Philippians 1:1-2 (3-11) 12-20

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Concepts of God interest me.  God, we read, delivers the faithful (sometimes).  On other occasions, faithful people suffer for the sake of righteousness, without deliverance.  God is a judge, we read, but God also acts mercifully and finds the Hebrew people attractive, despite the record of murmuring, of committing idolatry, and of committing other violations of the Law of Moses.

Deuteronomy 7, placed in the mouth of Moses long after his death, commands Hebrews to destroy the people of Canaan, not to marry them or to come under their influence otherwise.  That is a description of genocide.  That is something I cannot imaging Jesus advocating.  When I read Deuteronomy 7 I do so through the lenses of what the late Donald Armentrout called “Gospel glasses.”  To do otherwise would be for me to be disingenuous as a Christian.

Jesus died violently for a set of reasons.  Among them was the fact that some people considered him to be an enemy of God.  After all, Leviticus 24 orders the execution of blasphemers.  If I am to be consistent while condemning the execution of alleged blasphemers in the Islamic world because of my values of religious toleration and of attempting to emulate Christ, I must also condemn such violence committed in the name of God in the Jewish and Christian traditions.

One meaning of the crucifixion is that human beings executed Jesus unjustly.  One meaning of the resurrection is that God defeated the evil plans of those human beings–not with violence, but with power and perfect love.

May we leave terminal retribution to God, whose judgment is infinitely better than ours, and of whom mercy is also a quality.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN NITSCHMANN, SR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; DAVID NITSCHMANN, JR., THE SYNDIC, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, THE MARTYR, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CECIL FRANCES ALEXANDER, POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN LUDWIG BRAU, NORWEGIAN MORAVIAN TEACHER AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD OF LUCCA; AND JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/divine-power-and-perfect-love/

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

Candle Flame and Reflection

Above:  Candle Flame and Reflection

Image in the Public Domain

Resisting the Darkness with Light

MARCH 17, 2022

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The Collect:

Eternal God, your kingdom has broken into our troubled world

through the life, death, and resurrection of your Son.

Help us to hear your word and obey it,

and bring your saving love to fruition in our lives,

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:

Daniel 3:19-30

Psalm 63:1-8

Revelation 2:8-11

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O God, you are my God, I seek you,

my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you,

as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,

beholding your power and glory.

Because your steadfast love is better than life,

my lips will praise you.

So I will bless you as long as I live;

I will lift up my hands and call on your name.

My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,

and my mouth praises you with joyful lips

when I think of you on my bed,

and meditate on you in the watches of the night;

for you have been my help,

and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.

My soul clings to you;

your right hand upholds me.

–Psalm 63:1-8, The Book of Worship of the Church of North India (1995)

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Psalm 63:1-8 is the happy pericope for this day.  The author praises God for divine, steadfast love and provisions.  The other readings encourage readers and listeners to trust in God during extremely trying times.  That is a positive and timeless message, but each of the other pericopes presents its own difficulties.

The story from Daniel 3 is ahistorical.  That fact presents no problem for me, for I am neither a fundamentalist nor an evangelical.  No, my difficulty with the account is that the monarch threatens anyone who blasphemes YHWH with death by dismemberment.  I oppose blasphemy, but temporal punishment for it is something I refuse to support.  Besides, one person’s religious expression is another person’s idea of blasphemy.  I know of cases of (Christian) religious expression in foreign (majority Muslim) countries leading to charges of blasphemy and sometimes even executions (martyrdoms).  Religious toleration is a virtue–one much of the Bible frowns upon severely.

The pericope from Revelation 2 comes from an intra-Jewish dispute.  Non-Christian Jews were making life very difficult for Christian Jews at Smyrna.  The Christian invective of “synagogue of Satan” (verse 9) is still difficult to digest, even with knowledge of the historical contexts.  Passages such as these have become fodder for nearly two millennia of Christian Anti-Semitism, one of the great sins of the Church.

As we who call ourselves follow Jesus, may we cling to him during all times–the good, the bad, and the in-between.  And may we eschew hatred, resentment, and violence toward those who oppose us.  Christ taught us to bless our persecutors, to fight hatred with love and darkness with light.  This is difficult, of course, but it is possible by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 18, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL JOHN STONE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR TOZER RUSSELL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILDA OF WHITBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS

THE FEAST OF JANE ELIZA(BETH) LEESON, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/11/18/resisting-the-darkness-with-light/

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

Sacrifice of Isaac--Caravaggio

Above:  The Sacrifice of Isaac, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

To Argue Faithfully

MARCH 1 and 2, 2021

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The Collect:

O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death

to be for us the means on life.

Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ that we may gladly suffer shame and loss

for the sake of 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 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 21:1-7 (Monday)

Genesis 22:1-19 (Tuesday)

Psalm 105:1-11, 37-45 (Both Days)

Hebrews 1:8-12 (Monday)

Hebrews 11:1-3, 13-19 (Tuesday)

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For he remembered his holy word

and Abraham, his servant.

–Psalm 105:42, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The New Testament defines faith three ways, for that anthology is the product of more than one writer.  Faith, in the Pauline sense, is inherently active, hence justification by grace.  Yet, in the Letter of James, faith is intellectual, hence that book’s theology of justification by works.  Those two schools of thought affirm active faith, so they are two ways of making the same point.  Then there is faith according to Hebrews 11:1:

Now faith is the assurance of things not hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Faith, according to this definition, which overlaps with the Pauline meaning, keeps one going in the absence of evidence in support of or in contradiction to a proposition.

Abraham, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews tells us, was an exemplar of that kind of faith.  As we have read in Genesis in this lectionary-based series of devotions, this was not always true.  (The author of Hebrews glossed over some content from Genesis.)  And I argue that, in Genesis 22, the patriarch failed the test of faith, for the faithful response was to argue.

Did I hear you correctly?  Do you want me kill my own son?  Have I not sacrificed Ishmael already by sending him away with Hagar?  What kind of God commands me to kill my son?

The near-sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham must have caused psychological damage to the son (how could it not?), for he became a passive, minor figure and the least of the patriarchs.

My favorite aspect of Judaism is arguing faithfully with God.  In Islam one is supposed to submit to God, but Jews get to confront the deity in good conscience.  This ethic is evident in the Psalms, with frequent complaints to God.  I recall, decades ago, reading a review of a translation of the Psalms.  The new translation avoided King James-style politeness, as in

Lord, I beseech thee,

preferring

Look, Yahweh.

The review, from a Christian magazine, was favorable.  I have kvetched to God with great honesty often.  Is not honesty essential to any healthy relationship?

Pondering the art of faithful arguing led me to remember an incident from the Gospels.  The four Gospels are wonderful texts, but they lack any description of tone of voice at some crucial points in the narratives.  Tone of voice, of course, can change the meaning of dialogue.  In Matthew 15, for example, Jesus was in Gentile country–the region of Tyre and Sidon.  There a Gentile woman begged our Lord and Savior to heal her daughter.  He replied,

It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.

–15:26, The Revised English Bible (1989)

She answered,

True, sir, and yet the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the master’s table.

–15:27, REB

Jesus replied,

What faith you have!  Let it be as you wish.

–15:28a, REB

The context if that story tells me that Jesus said what he did to prompt her to reply as she did.  She passed the test.  All she had to do was argue.  Isaac would have been better off had Abraham been as faithful as that Gentile woman.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 8, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE NINTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATUS OF LUXEUIL AND ROMARIC OF LUXEUIL, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS AND ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF MARTIN RINCKART, ARCHDEACON OF EILENBURG

THE FEAST OF RICHARD BAXTER, ANGLICAN THEOLOGIAN

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/11/to-argue-faithfully/

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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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Devotion for the Thirty-Third Day of Easter (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   7 comments

Above:  St. Stephen’s Gate, Jerusalem, Ottoman Empire, 1900-1920

Image Source = Library of Congress

Leviticus and Luke, Part VII:  Blasphemy and Repentance

MAY 19, 2022

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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:

Leviticus 24:1-23

Psalm 47 (Morning)

Psalms 68 and 113 (Evening)

Luke 12:54-13:17

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A Related Post:

Feast of Shabbaz Bhatti and Other Christian Martyrs of the Islamic World (March 2):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/feast-of-shabbaz-bhatti-and-other-christian-martyrs-of-the-islamic-world-march-2/

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Slightly edited versions of definitions from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition (1996) follow.  For full entries, consult the dictionary.

blaspheme.  1.  To speak of (God or a sacred entity) in an irreverent, impious manner.  2.  To revile; execrate.

blasphemous.  Impiously irreverent.

blasphemy.  1.a.  A contemptuous or profane act, utterance, or writing concerning God or a sacred entity.  b.  The act of claiming for oneself the attributes and rights of God.  2.  An irreverent or impious act, attitude, or utterance in regard to something considered inviolable or sacrosanct.

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Today, when one one from my perspective (the Western world, complete with secular government, not theocracy) hears or reads about someone (often a Christian in mainly Islamic parts of the world) being sentenced to death and/or imprisonment for committing blasphemy, the response is negative.  It should be.  Blasphemy, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder; one person’s pious opinion is another’s blasphemy too much of the time.  I am glad that I live in the United States, not Pakistan or a similar nation, for much of what I say and write from my Christian perspective would trigger a blasphemy charge in Pakistan or a similar place.

The blasphemer in Leviticus 24 had cursed God.  His offense was not to have pronounced the divine name; no, it was to have reviled God.  The blasphemer’s penalty according the narrative was one which God had commanded:  death by stoning.

Such rampant violence in the Torah and elsewhere in the Hebrew Scriptures disturbs me.  I know; my proverbial tapes are running.  People tried to stone Jesus on the charge of blasphemy in the Gospel of John.  St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, died by stoning per the charge of blasphemy.  As I wrote, blasphemy is in the eye of the beholder.

The blasphemer in Leviticus 24 had a bad attitude toward God.  Our Lord’s critics in Luke 13:10-17 had a bad attitude toward him.  He had just committed a good deed, and people criticized him for doing it on the Sabbath.  (There is no wrong day to commit a good deed.) They needed to change their minds.  I wonder what would have happened if the blasphemer in Leviticus 24 had changed his mind.

As for punishments for blasphemy, real or imagined, may we leave that matter to God alone to enforce.  It would be wrong to commit murder.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 16, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RUFUS JONES, QUAKER THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN FRANCIS REGIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BUTLER, ANGLICAN BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/leviticus-and-luke-part-vii-blasphemy-and-repentance/

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