Archive for the ‘John 3’ Tag

Devotion for Pentecost Sunday (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Pentecost, by Phiddipus

Image in the Public Domain

Community and Faith

JUNE 5, 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 16:9-12

Isaiah 60:19-22

Galatians 3:1-5

John 3:31-36

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“Pentecost” comes from “fifty,” as in the formulation in Deuteronomy 16.  The harvest festival described in that text is a community celebration of gratitude to God.

That communal ethos, rampant in the Bible, runs counter to much of Western Civilization, with its emphasis on individualism.  To read past the blindness of individualism when pondering the Bible can be difficult, but it is essential.  The glory of YHWH, we read in Isaiah 60, will shine on the faithful community.  We also read of a foolish community (or a group of communities) in Galatians 3.

As St. Paul the Apostle argued correctly, one cannot break one part of the Law of Moses without violating the entire law code.  And nobody can keep all of the Law.  The emphasis on the Holy Spirit in Galatians 3:1-5 is appropriate for this Sunday, a commemoration of an extraordinary event–the birth of the Church.

In the Gospel of John (17:3) eternal life is simply knowing God via Jesus; time and timelessness has nothing to do with the definition.  There is no such thing as an eternity without God, for eternity is, by definition, in God.  Eternity is a quality of life, not the afterlife.  One can have an afterlife without God; the term for that is Hell.  Eternity, however, begins in this life and continues into the next one.  Eternal life comes via the Holy Spirit.  Community can reinforce this faith.

I will not attempt to explain the Holy Trinity, for a set of heresies has originated from such efforts.  No, I ponder the Trinity and affirm that God is at least that and certainly far more.  I cannot grasp the Trinity, so how can I understand the full nature of God?  What we mere mortals are worthy of grasping, however, is sufficient for salvation and justification.  That which is left for us is to stand in the awe of God, to trust in God, to recognize our complete dependence on God, and, by grace, to love each other selflessly and self-sacrificially, thereby following the example of Jesus, the visible manifestation of God.  We can do this via the power of the Holy Spirit.

Happy Pentecost!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HANS ADOLF BRORSON, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/06/14/community-and-faith/

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Devotion for Saturday Before the Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Moses Striking Water from the Rock

Above:  Moses Striking Water from the Rock, by Nicolas Poussin

Image in the Public Domain

Glorifying God (Or Not)

MARCH 13, 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:

Numbers 20:22-29

Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22

John 3:1-13

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The pericope from Numbers 20 (verse 22-29) is odd, for it seems redundant in the context of verses 6-13 of the same chapter.  In both units God tells Moses and Aaron that they will not enter the Promised Land because of their act of rebellion and distrust at Meribah.  Moses was supposed to speak to the rock, which would then release water.  He struck it instead.  Also, his words indicated that he and Aaron were providing the water, but God was actually fulfilling that role.

Numbers 20:22-29 is a difficult passage for another reason, which is that the contradicts Deuteronomy 10:6, where Aaron dies at Moserah.  In Numbers 20:22-20, Deuteronomy 32:50, and Numbers 33:38, however, Aaron dies at Mount Hor.  These are different places, not two names for the same place.  I mention these matters for the sake of intellectual honesty and leave the consideration of them to scholars of the Hebrew Scriptures.

Water is essential to life.  Those who dwell in a desert or another place where safely drinkable water is scarce know this better do those of who reside where safely drinkable water is plentiful.   Water also functions as a metaphor in the Gospel of John, a veritable playground for metaphors.  Our Lord and Savior speaks of spiritual water and spiritual life in John 3 and elsewhere in that Gospel.  The source of the water in the Johannine Gospel is always God–sometimes Jesus in particular.

Our life (physical and spiritual) depends on God.  True, human beings contribute to related processes of creating, sustaining, and destroying life (in both forms), but we depend entirely on God all the time.  May we know this truth  and act accordingly, drawing closer to, trusting in, and glorifying God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 14, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT VENANTIUS HONORIUS CLEMENTIUS FORTUNATUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS

THE FEAST OF CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/glorifying-god-or-not/

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Devotion for the Forty-Fourth, Forty-Fifth, and Forty-Sixth Days of Easter, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

PAT_2017

Above:  Thanksgiving Meal at Malachi’s Store House, St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, Dunwoody, Georgia, November 19, 2013

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Service and Glory

MAY 25-27, 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:

Leviticus 9:1-11, 22-24 (44th Day)

Numbers 16:41-50 (45th Day)

1 Kings 8:54-65 (46th Day)

Psalm 99 (All Days)

1 Peter 4:1-6 (44th Day)

1 Peter 4:7-11 (45th Day)

John 3:31-36 (46th Day)

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The LORD is great in Zion

and is high above all peoples.

Let them confess the name of the LORD,

which is great and awesome;

the LORD is the Holy One.

–Psalm 99:2-3, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Atonement liberates those who accept it and functions as an indictment of others.  C. H. Dodd explained this well in The Founder of Christianity (1970):

In [Jesus’] words and actions he made men aware of [the kingdom of God] and challenged them to respond.  It was “good news” in the sense that it meant opportunity for a new start and an unprecedented enrichment of experience.  But when a person (or a society) has been presented with such a challenge and declines it, he is not just where he was before.  His position is the worse for the encounter.  It is this that gives point to the tremendous warnings that Jesus is reported to have uttered about the consequences of rejection….The coming of the kingdom meant the open possibility of enhancement of life; it also meant the heightening of moral responsibility.

–Page 58 of the 1970 paperback edition

Hence we have another example of the juxtaposition of judgment and mercy.

Atonement, accomplished initially by animal sacrifices and an Aaronic priesthood then by Jesus, liberates people to glorify God and serve the needs of each other–to devote themselves to God and keep divine commandments.  There are many needs and therefore a host of specific ways to accomplish this goal.  One which a certain person might consider trivial another person might find vital, so may nobody say that he or she has little or nothing to offer.  No, grace has a multiplying effect on “minor” gifts and supplies us with “major” ones.  Nothing is too mundane for serving each other and glorifying God.

Part of the responsibility which free (yet not cheap) grace imparts to us is to pass grace along.  We might not be able to see God, but we can detect each other via senses.  Although none of us can solve every problem we detect, each of us can do something to ease some of them.  Each of us an do his or her part.  May each of us prove faithful in his or her part, responding positively to the call of God.

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/service-and-glory/

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Devotion for the Eighth Day of Lent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

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Above:  The Plain of Esdraelon and the Carmel Ridge, Palestine, Ottoman Empire, 1900

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-01202

The Lineage of Faithful Community

THURSDAY, MARCH 5, 2020

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The Collect:

O God, our leader and guide, in the waters of baptism

you bring us to new birth to live as your children.

Strengthen our faith in your promises, that by your

Spirit we may lift your life to all the world 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:

Isaiah 51:1-3

Psalm 121

2 Timothy 1:3-7

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I raise my eyes to the Mountain,

whence will my help come to me?

My help will come from the home of Yahweh,

who made heaven and earth.

He shall not put your foot in the Quagmire,

your guardian shall not slumber.

Indeed he never slumbers nor sleeps,

the guardian of Israel.

Yahweh is your guardian,

Yahweh is your shade,

the Most High is your right hand.

By day the sun

will not strike you

Nor the moon at night.

Yahweh will guard you

from every evil.

He will guard your life.

Yahweh will guard your going and your coming

from now unto eternity.

–Psalm 121, translated by Mitchell Dahood in The Anchor Bible (1970)

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The readings from 2 Timothy and Isaiah remind us of spiritual legacies.  Typical Jewish practice was to speak of the nature of God by retelling what God had done.  Thus we read in Isaiah 51 of Abraham, Sarah, and gracious acts of God in the context of other statements of divine faithfulness, mercy, and judgment.  In my copy of The Revised English Bible (1989), opened to Isaiah 51:1-3, I read of part of Chapter 49, in which God is like a mother who can never forget her child.  And, in 49:26, I read these words:

I shall make your oppressors eat their own flesh,

and they shall be drunk with their own blood

as if with wine,

and all mankind will know

that I the LORD am your Deliverer,

your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.

When the oppressors refuse to cease oppressing, how can the situation be otherwise?

I, drawing from 2 Timothy 1, acknowledge that family inheritance helps explain why I am a Christian.  There is more to it than that, of course, but the family inheritance helps.  I grew up a Christian because of my family, but I remain one because of the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  As I check the lectionary I am following, I note that John 3:1-17 is the assigned Gospel reading to which one strain of these lections is building.  So I notice that 2 Timothy 1, in the context of John 3, ought not to become an excuse to rest on one’s spiritual inheritance.  The epistle confirms the necessity of active faith.

And, as for John 3, the proper English-language term is

born from above,

not

born again.

I, a Christian, have never had a

born again

experience, but I am familiar in my spiritual life with the Roman Catholic-Lutheran-Anglican sense of baptismal regeneration.  I follow Martin Luther’s advice and trust in the promises of God pronounced at baptism.

Psalm 121 speaks of divine protection–in this case, of religious pilgrims.  The Ancients knew of sunstroke, of course, hence one line of the text.  And many of them believed erroneously that the Moon could also be dangerous, hence terms such as

moonstruck

and

lunatic.

God, the psalm says, will protect also from the Moon.  Our fears, whether based in objective reality or not, are real, and we need grace for their alleviation.  May we welcome that grace and act boldly in faithfulness to God.  And may we join or continue in the line of those who have walked with God and bring others to the procession.

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/the-lineage-of-faithful-community/

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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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Twelfth Day of Easter   14 comments

Christ the Redeemer, South America

Deeds Reveal Creeds

April 28, 2022

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Acts 5:27-33 (Revised English Bible):

When they  [apostles] had been brought in and made to stand before the Council, the high priest began his examination.

We gave you explicit orders,

he said,

to stop teaching in that name; and what has happened?  You have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you are trying to hold us responsible for that man’s death.

Peter replied for the apostles,

We must obey God rather than men.  The God of our fathers raised up Jesus; after you had put him to death by hanging him on a gibbet, God exalted him at his right hand as leader and saviour , to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins.  And we are witnesses to all this, as is the Holy Spirit who is given by God to those obedient to him.

This touched them to the raw, and they wanted to put them to death.

Psalm 34:15-22 (Revised English Bible):

The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous;

his ears are open to their cry.

The LORD sets his face against wrongdoers

to cut off all memory of them from the earth.

When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears

and sets them free from all their troubles.

The LORD is close to those whose courage is broken;

he saves those whose spirit is crushed.

Through the misfortunes of one who is righteous be many,

the LORD delivers him out of them all.

He guards every bone of his body,

and not one of them will be broken.

Misfortune will bring death to the wicked,

and punishment befalls those who hate the righteous.

The LORD delivers the lives of his servants,

and no punishment befalls those who seek refuge in him.

John 3:31-36 (Anchor Bible):

[John the Baptist continued,]

The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the earth is earthly, and he speaks of an earthly plane.  The one who comes from heaven [(who) is above all] testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony.  Whoever does accept his testimony has certified that God is truthful.  For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God; truly boundless is his gift of the Spirit.  The Father loves the Son and has handed over all things to him.  Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.  Whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath.

The Collect:

Grant, O Lord, that we may so live in the Paschal mystery that the joy of these fifty days may continually strengthen us, and assure us of our salvation; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Deeds reveal creeds.

If we love Jesus we keep his commandments.  Chief among those commandments are to love God with all our heart, mind, and strength, and our neighbors as ourselves.  Post-resurrection, Apostles preached fearlessly, facing imprisonment and the possibility of martyrdom.  Their bold actions confirmed their words.

What does Jesus require of you?  What will it cost you?  And what will the cost of disobedience be relative to that of obedience?

KRT

Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 6, 2010

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2022, April 28, Episcopal Church Lectionary

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Eleventh Day of Easter   9 comments

Moonlight

Image Source = Godoi

Light in the Darkness

April 27, 2022

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Acts 5:12-26 (Revised English Bible):

Many signs and wonders were done among the people by the apostles.  All the believers used to meet by common consent in Solomon’s Portico, no one from outside their number ventured to join them, yet people in general spoke highly of them.  An ever-increasing number of men and women who believed in the Lord were added to their ranks.  As a result the sick were carried out into the streets and laid there on beds and stretchers, so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on one or another as he passed by; and the people from the towns round Jerusalem flocked in, bringing those who were ill, or harassed by unclean spirits, and all were cured.

Then the high priest and his colleagues, the Sadducean party, were goaded by jealousy to arrest the apostles and put them in official custody.  But during the night, an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors, led them out, and said,

Go, stand in the temple and tell the people all about this new life.

Accordingly they entered the temple at daybreak and went on with their teaching.

When the high priest arrived with his colleagues they summoned the Sanhedrin, the full Council of the Israelite nation, and sent to the jail for the prisoners.  The officers who went to the prison failed to find them there, so they returned and reported,

We found the jail securely locked at every point, with the wardens at their posts by the doors, but on opening them we found no one inside.

When they heard this, the controller of the temple and the chief priests were at a loss to know what could have become of them, until someone came and reported:

The men you put in prison are standing in the temple teaching the people.

Then the controller went off with the officers and fetched them, but without use of force, for being stoned by the people.

Psalm 34:1-8 (Revised English Bible):

I shall bless the LORD at all times;

his praise shall ever be on my lips.

In the LORD I shall glory;

the humble will hear and be glad.

Glorify the LORD with me;

let us exalt his name together.

I sought the LORD ‘s help; he answered me

and set me free from all my fears.

They who look to him are radiant with joy;

they will never be put out of countenance.

Here is one who cried out in his affliction;

the LORD heard him and saved him from all his troubles.

The angel of the LORD is on guard

round those who fear him, and he rescues them.

Taste and see that the LORD is good.

Happy are they who find refuge in him!

John 3:16-21 (Anchor Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

…Yes, God loved the world so much that He gave the only Son, that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.  For God did not sent the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned for refusing to believe int he name of God’s only Son.  Now the judgment is this:  the light has come into the world, but men have preferred darkness to light because their deeds were evil.  For everyone who practices wickedness hates the light, and does not come to the light for fear his deeds will be exposed.  But he who acts in truth comes into the light, so that it may be shown that this deeds are done in God.

The Collect:

O God, by the waters of Baptism you have renewed those who believe in you: Come to the help of those who have been reborn in Christ, that they may overcome the wiles of the devil, and continue faithful to the gifts of grace they have received from you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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The light came into the world.  This light shone in the darkness, and the darkness neither understood nor overcame it.  The darkness attempted to extinguish the light, and, indeed, the flame extinguished briefly.  Then, a few days later, the flame reignited.

The light multiplied and the darkness was powerless to extinguish the new lights, also.  The darkness destroyed some candles and lamps, but more candles and lamps took their places.  So the light multiplied again.  Then the darkness fought back, imprisoning certain candles and lamps, and agents of God liberated many of them.

The struggle continues.  God will win.  Thanks be to God!

KRT

Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 6, 2010

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2022, April 27, Episcopal Church Lectionary

Tagged with , ,

Tenth Day of Easter   9 comments

Nicodemus Statue, by Giovanni Angelo Del Maino

Where Your Treasure Is…

April 26, 2022

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Acts 4:32-37 (Revised English Bible):

The whole company of believers was united in heart and soul.   Not one of them claimed any of his possessions as his own; everything was held in common.  With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and all were held in high esteem.  There was never a needy person among them, because those who had property in land or houses would sell it, bring the proceeds of the sale, and lay them at the feet of the apostles to be distributed to any who were in need.  For instance Joseph, surnamed by the apostles Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”), a Levite and by birth a Cypriot, sold an estate which he owned; he brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

Psalm 93 (Revised English Bible):

The LORD has become King, clothed with majesty;

the LORD is robed, girded with might.

The earth is established from of old;

from all eternity you are God.

LORD, the great deep lifts up,

the deep lifts up its voice;

the deep lifts up its crashing waves.

Mightier than the sound of great waters,

mightier than the breakers of the sea,

mighty on high is the LORD.

Your decrees stand firm,

and holiness befits your house,

LORD, throughout the ages.

John 3:7-15 (Anchor Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

…Do not be surprised that I told you: you must be begotten from above.  The wind blows about at will; you hear the sound it makes but do not know where it comes from or where it goes.  So it is with everyone begotten of the Spirit.

Nicodemus replied,

How can things like this happen?

Jesus answered,

You hold the office of teacher of Israel, and still you don’t understand these things?  I solemnly assure you, we are talking about what we know, and we are testifying to what we have seen; but you people do not accept our testimony.  If you do not believe when I tell you about earthly things, how are you going to believe when I tell you about heavenly things?  Now, no one has gone up into heaven except the one who came down from heaven–the Son of Man [who is in heaven].  And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him….

The Collect:

O Lord, you have saved us through the Paschal mystery of Christ: Continue to support your people with heavenly gifts, that we may attain true liberty, and enjoy the happiness of heaven which we have begun to taste on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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People matter more than possessions, money, and status.

I think of the example of St. Laurence, Deacon at Rome in the Third Century C.E.  When Roman imperial officials demanded that he turn over the treasures of the church, he pointed not to money and material goods, but to the sick and the poor.  They were the treasures of the church, he said.  The Roman Empire martyred St. Laurence.

The Second Person of the Trinity took on human form to suffer and die, and to identity with human beings.  This was an example of assuming lower status.

Some first-generation Christians banded together for mutual spiritual, material, and financial support.  (I can almost hear Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh condemning their practice as Socialism and social justice.  Well, it was, and the author of Luke-Acts approved of it.  And what is wrong with social justice, a major Biblical theme?  This theme is more prominent that sexuality, in fact.)  These early Christians valued each other more than their possessions.  They understood that they could not take their stuff with them to the afterlife.  These early Christians loved their neighbors as themselves.

That sounds consistent with the teachings of Jesus.

In 1967, when he denounced the Vietnam War, Martin Luther King, Jr., criticized the United States for having a “thing-oriented” society which emphasized profit motives and property rights, not a “person-oriented” society which stressed justice.  His point remains at least as relevant today as it was then.  May we value people more than things.  May we recognize the image of God in others and act accordingly, however that works in our circumstances.  And may we make clear that we are doing this for the sake of others and the glory of God.  May we follow the example and teachings of our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.

KRT

Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 6, 2010

Ninth Day of Easter   7 comments

Nicodemus and Jesus, by Alexander Ivanov (1850)

April 25, 2022

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Acts 4:23-31 (Revised English Bible):

As soon as they [Peter and John] were discharged the apostles went back to their friends and told them everything that the chief priests and elders had said.  When they heard it, they raised their voices with one accord and called upon God.

Sovereign Lord, Maker of heaven and earth and sea and of everything in them, you said by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of David your servant,

“Why do the Gentiles rage

and the peoples hatch their futile plots?

The kings of the earth took their stand

and the rulers made common cause

against the Lord and against his Messiah.”

They did indeed make common cause in this very city against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed as Messiah.  Herod and Pontius Pilate conspired with the Gentiles and with the peoples of Israel to do all the things which, under your hand and by your decree, were foreordained.  And now, O Lord, mark their threats, and enable those who serve you to speak your word with all boldness.  Stretch out your hand to heal and cause signs and portents to be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.

When they had ended their prayer, the building where they were assembled rocked, and all were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke God’s word with boldness.

Psalm 146:5-10 (Revised English Bible):

Happy is he whose helper is the God of Jacob,

whose hope is in the LORD his God,

maker of heaven and earth,

the sea, and all that is in them;

who maintains faithfulness for ever

and deals out justice to the oppressed.

The LORD feeds the hungry

and sets the prisoner free.

The LORD restores sight to the blind

and raises those who are bowed down;

the LORD loves the righteous

and protects the stranger in the land;

the LORD gives support to the fatherless and the widow,

but thwarts the course of the wicked.

The LORD will reign for ever, Zion

your God for all generations.

Praise the LORD.

John 3:1-8 (Anchor Bible):

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, who came to him [Jesus] at night.

Rabbi,

he said to Jesus,

We know you are a teacher who has come from God; for, unless God is with him, no one can perform the signs that you perform.

Jesus gave him this answer:

I solemnly assure you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being begotten from above.

Nicodemus retorted,

How can a man be born once he is old?  Can he re-enter his mother’s womb and be born all over again?

Jesus replied:

I solemnly assure you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being begotten of water and Spirit.  Flesh begets flesh, and Spirit begets Spirit.  Do not be surprised that I told you: you must be begotten from above.  The wind blows about at will; you hear the sound it makes but do not know where it comes from or where it goes.  So it is with everyone begotten of the Spirit.

The Collect:

Let your people , O Lord, rejoice for ever that they have been renewed in spirit; and let the joy of our adoption as your sons and daughters strengthen the hope of our glorious resurrection in Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Living in the U.S. Bible Belt, I am more familiar than I wish I were with Fundamentalist and Evangelical Protestant theology.  Among the ideas with which I disagree strongly is the popular interpretation of being “born again.”  Certain varieties of Protestantism err on the side of experience over intellect and on the side of the individual over the faith community.  The truth is that a balance in each case is necessary.  So, it is actually a case of both-and, not either-or.

Anyhow, the actual text means “begotten from above,” “born from above,” or “born from God,” not “born again.”  And it is a sacramental reference.  In the Christian context this refers to baptism, which is something God does, not something we do.   (Water baptism is one sacrament, an outward sign of God’s inward grace.)  A person who has not had a powerful religious experience can be a Christian.  I am, and I have not had a powerful, life-shaking religious experience.  My preferred variety of faith is lived, with an emphasis on works, in the style of the Letter of James.  In this regard I am more Roman Catholic than Protestant.

These works can assume a variety of forms, but love and holy boldness characterize them.  And these works are of divine, not human origin.  This is a simple matter:  one knows a tree by its fruit.  A spiritually healthy person produces spiritually healthy fruit.

This focus on divine actions via human beings runs counter to a strong strain in U.S. culture.  Many of us grew up hearing about self-made people who pulled themselves up by their bootstraps.  Yet undomesticated Christianity teaches that we are all dependent on God.  This is a frequently unpopular message, but it is true.

Thanks be to God, upon whom everybody depends!

KRT

Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 6, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/born-from-above-2/

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2022, April 25, Episcopal Church Lectionary

Tagged with , , ,

Second Sunday in Lent, Year A   26 comments

Above:  Abraham (Russian Orthodox Icon)

Justification by the Righteousness of Faith

MARCH 8, 2020

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Genesis 12:1-4a (New Revised Standard Version):

The Lord said to Abram,

Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him.

Psalm 121 (New Revised Standard Version):

I lift up my eyes to the hills–

from where where my help come?

My help comes from the LORD,

who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;

he who keeps you will not slumber.

He who keeps Israel

will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD is your keeper;

the LORD is your shade at your right hand.

The sun shall not strike you by day,

nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all evil;

he will keep your life.

The LORD will keep

your going out and your coming in

from this time on and forevermore.

Romans 4:1-5, 13-17 (New Revised Standard Version):

What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say?

Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.

Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.

For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.

For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, as it is written,

I have made you the father of many nations

)— in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

John 3:1-17 (New Revised Standard Version):

There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him,

Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.

Jesus answered him,

Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.

Nicodemus said to him,

How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?

Jesus answered,

Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.

Nicodemus said to him,

How can these things be?

Jesus answered him,

Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?

Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And 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.

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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As I begin to write I think about Psalm 121 and what composer Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy made of it in his oratorio Elijah.  (I own a Robert Shaw/Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus recording of this work. )  Two sopranos and a mezzo-soprano (a trio of angels) sing, their voices blending and dancing around each other:

Lift thine eyes to the mountains whence thy help cometh.  Thy help cometh from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.  He hath said, “Thy foot shall not be moved; thy Keeper will never slumber.”

Then the choir sings:

He, watching over Israel, slumbers not nor sleeps.  Shouldst thou, walking in grief, languish, He will quicken thee.

The music, which I have known for decades, is transcendent.  And it helps me remember a wonderful psalm, too.  Psalm 121 makes a wonderful companion piece to the reading from Romans, from which I take my central point:  Our justification with God begins with divine initiative.

Justification is the state of being right with God, especially at the final judgment.  This justification cannot flow from good deeds, as laudable as they are.  Instead, it comes through faith in God.  This faith extends beyond mere intellectual acceptance and verbal confession of certain theological propositions.  Faith makes orthodoxy (“right belief”) and orthopraxy (“right practice”) different sides of the same coin.  Faith is lived.  Our deeds are our professions.  You shall know a tree by its fruits.  Deeds reveal creeds.

O, and just one more thing.

One need not have had a dramatic conversion experience to be a Christian.  Not to boast, but I have led a relatively sedate life, abstaining from such practices such as using illegal drugs or robbing liquor stores.  So my personal story is not as interesting as some others you, O reader, might have heard.  I have never had a dramatic conversion experience, and do not feel “regenerated,” whatever that is supposed to mean.  Yet I know that I love God as revealed in Jesus and the rest of the Trinity, and have a deepening, lived faith in the God of Christianity.  I have been a Christian for a long time, but cannot state the day or time this process began.  And that is fine.  My spiritual reality does not satisfy certain individuals, and that is just the way things will have to be.  The most important question is where I stand with God, not them.  And I report that I stand on a path of spiritual pilgrimage, and in utter dependence on grace.  I stand relative to God largely because of divine initiative.

That is my testimony, for what it is worth.

KRT

Written on June 17, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/10/justification-by-the-righteousness-of-faith/