Archive for the ‘John 8’ Tag

Devotion for Maundy Thursday (Year D)   1 comment

the-denial-of-saint-peter-caravaggio

Above:  The Denial of Saint Peter, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

Repentance and Restoration

APRIL 1, 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:

Deuteronomy 30:1-14

Psalm 115 or 113

John 7:53-8:11 or Luke 22:1-38 (39-46)

Romans 2:12-29

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Maundy Thursday is an especially appropriate day to repent.  We all need to turn our backs to our sins daily, of course, but the commemoration of the final events leading to the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior should remind us all to take a spiritual inventory and turn over some new leaves.  Deuteronomy 30, following directly from Chapter 29, tells us that, after idolatry and other sins, as well as their consequences, will come the opportunity for repentance and restoration.  The psalms extol God, for whom no idol is a good substitute.  Idols come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.  Some are tangible, but many are not.  That which is an idol for one person is not an idol for another individual.  All idolatry must cease.  Repentance and restoration can still occur.

The pericope from John 7:53-8:11 really belongs in the Gospel According to Luke.  One can, in fact, read John 7:52 and skip to 8:12 without missing a beat.  The story, whenever it occurred in the life of Jesus, teaches vital lessons.  The religious authority figures, we learn, sought to entrap our Lord and Savior.  In so doing, we discover, they violated the law, for they provided no witnesses and did not care about the location of the man (Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22).  As we read, Jesus reversed the trap, outwitted his opponents, and sent the woman away forgiven.  I conclude that certain words from Romans 2 would have fit well in our Lord and Savior’s mouth, given the circumstances:

You teach others, then; do you not teach yourself?

–Verse 21a, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Falling into sin is easy; one can simply stumble into it out of fear or ignorance.  St. Simon Peter acted out of fear when he denied knowing Jesus.  Fear was understandable, although that fact did not reduce the sin.  Yet, as we read in John 21, Christ gave St. Simon Peter the opportunity to profess his love for him as many times as he had denied knowing him.  The Apostle accepted the opportunity, although he was not aware of what Jesus was doing at the time.

May we strive, by grace, to sin as rarely as possible.  And, when we do sin (many times daily), may we express our penitence and repent.  Christ, simultaneously priest and victim as well as master and servant, beckons us to follow him.  We will stumble and fall often; he knows that.  Get up yet again and resume following me, he says.

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/repentance-and-restoration/

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Devotion for Palm Sunday (Year D)   1 comment

entry-into-jerusalem-giotto

Above:  Entry Into Jerusalem, by Giotto

Image in the Public Domain

The Sin of Religious Violence

MARCH 28, 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:

Deuteronomy 11:1-17 or Isaiah 43:8-15

Psalm 94 or 35

John 8:48-59

Romans 1:8-15 (16-17) 18-32; 2:1-11 or Galatians 6:1-6 (7-16) 17-18

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Accuse my accuser of Yahweh,

attack my attackers.

–Psalm 35:1, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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That verse summarizes much of Psalms 35 and 94.  The plea of the persecuted for God to smite their enemies, although understandable and predictable, but it is inconsistent with our Lord and Savior’s commandment to love our enemies and to pray for our persecutors (Matthew 5:43).  Sometimes divine smiting of evildoers is a necessary part of a rescue operation, for some persecutors refuse to repent.  Nevertheless, I suspect that God’s preference is that all people repent of their sins and amend their lives.

We read in Deuteronomy 11 (placed in the mouth of Moses long after his death) of the importance of following divine laws–or else.  Then, in Isaiah 43, set in the latter phase of the Babylonian Exile, which, according to the Biblical narrative, resulted from failure to obey that law code, we read of impending deliverance by God from enemies.  Both readings remind us of what God has done for the Hebrews out of grace.  Grace, although free, is never cheap, for it requires a faithful response to God.  We are free in God to serve God, not be slaves to sin.  We are free in God to live as vehicles of grace, not to indulge inappropriate appetites.  We are free in God to lay aside illusions of righteousness, to express our penitence, and to turn our backs on–to repent of–our sins.

This is a devotion for Palm Sunday.  We read in John 8 that some Jews at Jerusalem sought to stone Jesus as a blasphemer (verse 59).  I suppose that they thought they were acting in accordance with Leviticus 24:10-23.  Later in the Fourth Gospel (Chapters 18 and 19) certain religious authority figures are complicit in his death–as a scapegoat (11:47-53).

This desire to kill those who offend our religious sensibilities strongly is dangerous for everyone.  It is certainly perilous for those who suffer because of it.  Furthermore, such violence causes spiritual harm to those who commit it.  And what if one’s judgment is wrong?  One has committed a most serious offense before God.  This tendency toward religious violence exists in various traditions, has a shameful past and an inexcusable present reality, and does nothing inherently to glorify God.  In fact, it detracts from the glory of God.  That God can work through such abominations committed in His name testifies to divine sovereignty.  Exhibit A is the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

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/the-sin-of-religious-violence/

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Devotion for the Fifth Sunday in Lent (Year D)   1 comment

cain-and-abel

Above:  Cain and Abel

Image in the Public Domain

God’s Inscrutable Grace

MARCH 21, 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:

Genesis 4:1-16 or Isaiah 63:(7-9) 10-19

Psalm 101

John 8:31-47

Galatians 5:(1) 2-12 (13-25) or James 5:1-6 (7-10) 11-12 (13-20)

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Divine judgment and mercy share the stage with repentance in these readings.  We who sin (that is, all of us) make ourselves slaves to sin, but Christ Jesus liberates us from that bondage and empowers us to become people who practice the Golden Rule–to be good neighbors, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, et cetera.  Christ breaks down spiritual barriers yet many of us become psychologically attached to them.  In so doing we harm others as well as ourselves.

Much of Psalm 101 seems holy and unobjectionable:

I will walk with integrity of heart within my house;

I will not set before my eyes anything that is base.

–Verses 2b-3a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

So far, so good.  But then we read verse 8:

Morning by morning I will destroy

all the wicked in the land,

cutting off all evildoers

from the city of the LORD.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

That psalm is in the voice of the king.  Given the human tendency to mistake one’s point of view for that of God, is smiting all the (alleged) evildoers morally sound public policy?

A clue to that psalm’s point of view comes from Genesis 4, in which we read that sin is like a predator:

And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.

–Genesis 4:7b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

This quote, from God to Cain, comes from after God has rejected his sacrifice of “fruit of the soil” in favor of Abel’s sacrifice of “the choicest of the firstlings of his flock” and before Cain kills Abel.  I know of attempts to explain God’s rejection of Cain’s sacrifice by finding fault with him.  The text is silent on that point; God never explains the reason for the rejection.  Nevertheless, we read of how badly Cain took the rejection, of how he reacted (violently), of how he expressed penitence and repented, and of how God simultaneously punished and acted mercifully toward the murderer.

The irony is pungent:  The man who could not tolerate God’s inscrutable grace now benefits from it.

The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014), page 17

Cain, spared the death penalty, must relocate and enjoys divine protection.

“God’s inscrutable grace” frequently frustrates and offends us, does it not?  Is is not fair, we might argue.  No, it is not fair; it is grace, and it protects even those who cannot tolerate it.  “God’s inscrutable grace” breaks down barriers that grant us psychological comfort and challenges to lay aside such idols.  It liberates us to become the people we ought to be.  “God’s inscrutable grace” frees us to glorify and to enjoy God forever.  It liberates us to lay aside vendettas and grudges and enables us to love our neighbors (and relatives) as we love ourselves (or ought to love ourselves).

Will we lay aside our false senses of justice and embrace “God’s inscrutable grace”?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 9, 2016 COMMON ERA

PROPER 21:  THE TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT DENIS, BISHOP OF PARIS, AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUIS BERTRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GROSSETESTE, SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF WILHELM WEXELS, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; HIS NIECE, MARIE WEXELSEN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER; LUDWIG LINDEMAN, NORWEGIAN ORGANIST AND MUSICOLOGIST; AND MAGNUS LANDSTAD, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, FOLKLORIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/10/09/gods-inscrutable-grace/

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Devotion for the Fourth Sunday in Lent (Year D)   1 comment

st-augustine

Above:  Saint Augustine, by Philippe de Champaigne

Image in the Public Domain

The Sin of Not Loving

MARCH 14, 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 54:1-17 or 37:14-38

Psalm 39

John 8:12-30

James 4:(1-3) 4-6 (7-8a) 8b-17 or Galatians 4:1-3 (4-7) 8-3, 5:1

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Love, and do what you will:  whether you hold your peace, through love hold your peace; whether you cry out, through love cry out; whether you correct, through love correct; whether you spare, through love do you spare; let the root of love be within, of this root can nothing spring but what is good.

–St. Augustine of Hippo

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The more familiar version of that excerpt from a sermon is:

Love God and do as you please:  for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.

One might identify a plethora of scriptural verses consistent with this nugget of wisdom from St. Augustine.  The reading from James comes to mind immediately.  In the background of St. Augustine’s counsel is the fidelity of God (evident in the readings from Isaiah).  Yes, we will not escape all the consequences of our sins, but, for the Hebrews in the Old Testament, divine mercy follows God’s judgment.  We are free in Christ to follow him.  Nevertheless, many choose the yoke of slavery to sin.  Maybe they prefer that which is familiar or seemingly easier.  After all, grace, although free, is never cheap; it costs us something.  Yet following Christ is the way of ultimate life, in this realm of existence as well as in the next one.

I like the advice from St. Augustine, for it cuts through legalism (as Jesus did, to the ire of certain religious people) and offers a concise path, one more different from legalism.  Legalism leans toward a checklist morality, which is shallow and typical, for example, of the alleged friends of Job.  Loving God (and, by extension, our fellow human beings) is about relationships.  The Holy Trinity itself is about, among other things, relationships.  We human beings are, by nature, relational.  We are, according to divine law, responsible to and for each other in a web of interdependence.

Taking up one’s cross and following Christ requires one to surrender much, including one’s selfish desires and illusions of independence.  It requires one to grow into a mindset that will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.  In so doing it liberates one to do as one pleases–as one ought to wish to do.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 9, 2016 COMMON ERA

PROPER 21:  THE TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT DENIS, BISHOP OF PARIS, AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUIS BERTRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GROSSETESTE, SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF WILHELM WEXELS, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; HIS NIECE, MARIE WEXELSEN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER; LUDWIG LINDEMAN, NORWEGIAN ORGANIST AND MUSICOLOGIST; AND MAGNUS LANDSTAD, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, FOLKLORIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/10/09/the-sin-of-not-loving/

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

Moses

Above:  Moses

Image in the Public Domain

Bickering and Murmuring

MARCH 15-17, 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:

Exodus 15:22-27 (Monday)

Numbers 20:1-13 (Tuesday)

Isaiah 60:15-22 (Wednesday)

Psalm 107:1-16 (All Days)

Hebrews 3:1-6 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 10:6-13 (Tuesday)

John 8:12-20 (Wednesday)

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Some sat in darkness and deep gloom,

bound fast in misery and iron;

Because they rebelled against the words of God

and despised the counsel of the Most High.

So he humbled their spirits with hard labor;

they stumbled and there was none to help.

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,

and he delivered them from their distress.

He led them out of darkness and deep gloom

and broke their bonds asunder.

Let them give thanks to the LORD for his mercy

and the wonders he does for his children.

For he shatters the doors of bronze

and breaks in two the iron bars.

–Psalm 107:10-16, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Some of the assigned readings for these three days overlap with the content of the previous new post, so I refer you, O reader, to those comments while I pursue a different line of thought here.

A motif of bickering and murmuring recurs in the stories of the Exodus and the ensuing events.  There was a ubiquitous lack of trust in God.  At Meribah even Moses, whom the author of Hebrews 3:1-6 described as a faithful servant, had a moment of faithlessness.  Moses was mostly faithful, which is as well as any of we mere mortals can hope to be.

The bickering and murmuring have continued long past the times of the Book of Exodus.  How much more must God do–such as incarnate–before people stop bickering and murmuring?  Before that, was not restoring exiles to their ancestral homeland enough?  Examples of what not to do and of what to do are plentiful.

So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall.

–1 Corinthians 10:12, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

I could not have said it better myself.

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/bickering-and-murmuring/

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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 Thirtieth, Thirty-First, and Thirty-Second Days of Easter, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

01946v

Above:  To Sinai Via the Desert:  The Wilderness of Shur, Between 1900 and 1920

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-01946

The Challenge of Trusting God

MONDAY-WEDNESDAY, MAY 11-13, 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:

Exodus 13:17-22 (30th Day)

Proverbs 3:5-12 (31st Day)

Proverbs 3:13-18 (32nd Day)

Psalm 102:1-17 (All Days)

Acts 7:17-40 (30th Day)

Acts 7:44-56 (31st Day)

John 8:31-38 (32nd Day)

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You will arise and have compassion on Zion,

for it is time to have mercy upon it;

indeed, the appointed time has come.

–Psalm 102:13, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Perhaps the most daunting challenge the first generation of post-Exodus Israelites faced was overcoming the slave mentality.  The Book of Exodus is replete with accounts of people murmuring against God and Moses while waxing nostalgic for the days of servitude in Egypt.  But, as Roy Batty said in Blade Runner (1982), to be a slave is to live in fear.  And to have faith in God is to trust God, who never let the Israelites starve or die of thirst in the desert.

As the Christian saints we call the Desert Fathers and the Desert Mothers knew well, life in the barren wilderness takes away all illusions that one does not depend on God for everything.  Learning to accept dependence on God can be a difficult spiritual task, regardless if one is a former slave or if one has grown up in a culture enamored of rugged individualism.  No, in the desert one knows that all comes from God, often via people.  Thus the twin realities of dependence upon God and interdependence of people become inescapable.

God, in one Biblical metaphor, is our gracious parent–usually our father yet our mother on occasion.  Thus those who follow God are metaphorically children of God–heirs, even–and siblings of each other.  May this be the most functional of families!  May we treat each other with the respect and love which comes with the status of child of God.  May we treat God with the respect and love due such a parent.  May we learn how to trust God better and more than we do now.

Whenever someone asks if I believe in God, I assume that he or she seeks to learn if I affirm the existence of God.  The answer to that query is that I do–all of the time, in fact.  Yet, since belief (in the Biblical sense) in God is trust in God, the better question is:

Do you trust God?

My answer to that inquiry is that I do most of the time, but that I seek to improve that frequency, by grace.  The fact that I want to trust God more constitutes a good start–something upon which God can build.  Certainly such a desire is preferable to apathy or hostility to the subject.  Yet my free will alone proves insufficient.

I have learned through living that the most fruitful periods of spiritual growth for me have included difficult passages, times when I have seen dreams shattered and illusions slain, when I have had to depend on others and on God for the most basic necessities in such ways as to injure my ego.  I have emerged a spiritually stronger person, although I have no desire to repeat the process by which I arrived at that state.  Sometimes I have clung so tightly to illusions and idols that I have paid sufficient attention to God only when I have had no distractions.  The ripping away of them was traumatic sometimes, but grace abounded in their absence.   Now, years after those experiences, I seek to live in a way which indicates that I have learned the appropriate lessons.  Any extent to which I have succeeded constitutes evidence of empowering grace.

Where is God leading you, O reader?  May your time in the spiritual wilderness (we all have such times) forge you so that you resemble more closely your potential in God.  And may you emerge better suited to encouraging others to trust God, your mother and father.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE EIGHTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY SAYERS, NOVELIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/the-challenge-of-trusting-god/

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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 Thirteenth Day of Lent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Christ_and_the_Woman_Taken_in_Adultery_Bruegel

Above:  Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery, by Pieter Brueghel the Elder

Image in the Public Domain

Shame, Blushing, and Forgiveness

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 11, 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:

Ezekiel 36:22-32

Psalm 128

John 7:53-8:11

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The LORD bless you from Zion,

and may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.

–Psalm 128:5, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Ezekiel 36:32, in announcing return from exile, says,

I assure you that I am not doing this for your sake–declares the Lord Yahweh.  Be ashamed and blush for your conduct, House of Israel.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

This tone differs from that of another Hebrew text:

Can a woman forget her suckling child,

that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?

Even these may forget,

yet I will not forget you.

Behold, I have graven you on the palms of my hands;

your walls are continually before me.

–Isaiah 49:15-16, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

Both are true, of course, for God is one of the more interesting and complex characters in the Old Testament.  And yes, there is always ample reason for human blushing and shame.

Some of those who had such reasons brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus.  This was a trap for him, for these accusers did not seem concerned about the whereabouts of the man with whom she had sinned.  So she was a tool, and her accusers might have permitted the sexual intercourse to occur.  If so, they were also guilty of an offense punishable by death by stoning.  If this was the case, Jesus probably reminded them of that, hence their flight from the scene.

That woman, who had her own reasons for shame and blushing, was also a beloved daughter of God, one whom God would not forget.  Jesus gave her another chance.  We are much like that woman, for we have done terrible things.  Yet God keeps forgiving us.  And grace, although free, is not cheap; it requires much of us.  May we do what grace commands of us.

I wonder what the erst of the unnamed woman’s life was like.  How did the experience change her?  And how did that reality affect those around her?

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/shame-blushing-and-forgiveness/

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Thirty-Second Day of Lent   17 comments

Christ Pantocrator

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Collect and lections from the Episcopal Lesser Feasts and Fasts Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints

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Follow the assigned readings with me this Lent….

Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Genesis 17:1-8 (Revised English Bible):

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said,

I am God Almighty.  Live always in my presence and be blameless, so that I may make my covenant with you and give you many descendants.

Abram bowed low, and God went on,

This is my covenant with you: you are to be the father of many nations.  Your name will no longer be Abram, but Abraham; for I shall make you father of many nations.  I shall make you exceedingly fruitful; I shall make nations out of you, and kings shall spring from you.  I shall make my covenant with you and your descendants after you, generation after generation, an everlasting covenant: I shall be your God, yours and your descendants.’  As a possession for all time I shall give you the land in which you now are aliens, the whole of Canaan, and I shall be their God.

Psalm 105:4-11 (Revised English Bible):

Look to the LORD and be strong;

at all times seek his presence.

You offspring of Abraham his servant,

the children of Jacob, his chosen ones,

remember the marvels he has wrought,

his portents, and the judgements he has given.

He is the LORD our God;

his judgements cover the whole world.

He is ever mindful of his covenant,

the promise he made with Abraham,

his oath given to Isaac,

and confirmed as a statute for Jacob,

as an everlasting covenant for Israel:

I shall give you the land of Canaan,

he said,

as your allotted holding.

John 8:51-59 (The New Testament in Modern English–Revised Edition):

[Jesus replied,]

Believe me when I assure you that if anybody accepts my words, he will never see death at all.

The Jews replied,

Now we know you’re mad.  Why, Abraham died and the prophets, too, and yet you say, ‘If a man accepts my words, he will never experience death!”  Are you greater than our father, Abraham?  He died, and so did the prophets–who are you making yourself out to be?

Jesus returned,

If I were to glorify myself, such glory would be worthless.  But it is my Father who glorifies me, the very one whom you say is God–although yo have never known him.  But I know you, and if I said I did not know him, I should be as much a liar as you are!  But I do know him and I am faithful in what he says.  As for your Father, Abraham, his great joy was that he would see my coming.  Now he has seen it and he is overjoyed.

The Jews said to him,

Look, you are not fifty yet–and have you seen Abraham?

Jesus returned,

I tell you in solemn truth, before there was an Abraham, I AM!

At this they picked up stones to hurl at him, but Jesus was nowhere to be seen; and he made his way out of the Temple.

The Collect:

O God, you have called us to be your children, and have promised that those who suffer with Christ will be heirs with him of your glory: Arm us with such trust in him that we may ask no rest from his demands and have no fear in his service; 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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An understanding of this day’s excerpt from John requires context, for it comes from a narrative.  Jesus has been arguing with a group of Jews in the Temple.  They had believed in him briefly, until he said that they would know the truth, which would set them free.  Then they began to argue that they were descendants of Abraham who had never known slavery, so they did not need to be set free.  Jesus replied anyone who sins is a slave, and that he, as the Son, could liberate them.  Our Lord and Savior continued by saying that the individuals around him were not acually children of Abraham, for Abraham responded to God faithfully; children of Abraham would follow his example.  Jesus continued by telling these individuals that the devil was their father, for the truth was not in them, either.  Then the crowd questioned Jesus’ sanity, and accused them of dishonoring not only himself, but God, also.  This is a summary of John 8:31-50.

In John 8:51-59 Jesus identifies himself with “I AM,” which harkens back to the burning bush episode from Exodus, and pulls rank.  (If anyone deserved to pull rank, it was Jesus.)  He says that he knows Abraham (I have no doubt.) and references the divine prediction of the conception of Isaac by the aged Abraham and Sarah.  God had acted to initiate a covenant with human beings and to continue a lineage to which Jesus was heir.  Referring to this, Jesus says that Abraham was faithful despite how unlikely this promise seemed.  So the people standing in front of him were not children of Abraham because they acted faithlessly in the presence of the fulfillment of divine promises.

The Johannine Gospel tells us that people tried to stone Jesus on the premises.  That behavior did not demonstrate faithfulness, certainly.

It is easy and appropriate to condemn such behavior.  Indeed, as I write these words I rest on nearly two thousand years of tradition.  The mob of the Johannine story rested on thousands of years of tradition, too.  They had become complacent within their tradition.  Is the same statement true about us today?  Useful tradition can be beautiful and necessary; I do not advocate throwing out the baby with the bath water.  All I say is this:  May we avoid religious complacency and smugness.  When God speaks to us, may we recognize that voice and respond faithfully, not defensively.  May we be dutiful children of the living God, I AM.  May we go where God commands us to go and follow divine instructions, as Abraham did.  Abraham had abandoned his home and culture–his traditions–to follow God literally and figuratively.  What does God require of you?

KRT

Written on March 10, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/14/what-god-requires/