Archive for the ‘Kingdom of God’ Tag

Devotion for the Seventh Sunday of Easter (Ackerman)   2 comments

Above:  Jeremiah Lowered into the Dungeon

Image in the Public Domain

The In-Between Time

MAY 13, 2018

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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:

Jeremiah 38:1-13

Psalm 142

Revelation 21:15-21

John 7:32-36

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This is Ascension Sunday.  For this date David Ackerman schedules an interesting set of readings.  The lives of Jeremiah and Jesus are in peril.  Certain officials arrest the prophet.  Other officials seek to arrest Jesus.  One might imagine Jeremiah uttering Psalm 142 while in the muddy pit on the prison grounds.  As Ackerman writes, in Jeremiah 38 we have a story about

a righteous Gentile raising a faithful Jewish prophet from the mud of death to new life.

Beyond the Lectionary (2013), page 60

Opposite the ascension of Jeremiah is the descent of what the Gospel of Matthew usually–not always– called the Kingdom of Heaven (not out of piety but for other theological reasons; see the germane works of Jonathan Pennington) to the earth.

The imagery of the ascension of Jesus and the descent of the Kingdom of God/Heaven comes from a three-tiered cosmology in which the realm of dead is the underworld, God lives above the sky, and we mere mortals reside in the middle.  I know that this cosmology is scientifically inaccurate yet recognize that the ancient world view informs the narrative.   To quote Galileo Galilei, my favorite theologian,

The Bible tells us how to go to Heaven, not how the heavens go.

Thus I interpret the ascension of Jesus and the descent of the Kingdom of God/Heaven as metaphors.  I accept that Jesus, for lack of a better explanation, went home, not necessarily upward.  I suppose that one might file the event under the heading of

You had to be there,

so even the best words prove inadequate to describe the event adequately.  As for Revelation 21, the entire book is replete with imagery, given its genre (apocalyptic writing).  To read the Apocalypse of John literally is to miss to point and to read the text in a manner in which the author did not intend.

Hang in there, the Book of Revelation tells persecuted Christians.  God will win eventually, the last book of the New Testament says, even if the victory follows one’s martyrdom.  The Bible opens with God creating order from chaos then with people ruining paradise.  The sacred anthology concludes with God’s creative destruction of human-made chaos and the restoration of paradise.  We live in the in-between time, with those, who like Jeremiah, long ago, suffer for the sake of righteousness and do not necessarily meet happy ends in this life.  But we must hang in there.

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/the-in-between-time/

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Devotion for Friday and Saturday Before the Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Cloud Over a Mountain

Above:  Cloud Over a Mountain 

Image in the Public Domain

Transcendence and Imminence

MAY 11, 2018, and MAY 12, 2018

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The Collect:

Gracious and glorious God, you have chosen us as your own,

and by the powerful name of Christ you protect us from evil.

By your Spirit transform us and your beloved world,

that we may find joy in your Son, Jesus Christ,

our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with and

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 35

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 24:15-18 (Friday)

Deuteronomy 34:1-7 (Saturday)

Psalm 47 (Both Days)

Revelation 1:9-18 (Friday)

John 16:4-11 (Saturday)

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God reigns over the nations;

God sits upon his holy throne.

The nobles of the peoples have gathered together

with the people of the God of Abraham.

The rulers of the earth belong to God,

and he is highly exalted.

–Psalm 47:8-10, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Once I read a summary of the differences between The Book of Common Prayer (1928) and The Book of Common Prayer (1979) of The Episcopal Church.  The most basic difference, the author concluded, was theological, for God is transcendent in the 1928 Prayer Book yet imminent in the 1979 Prayer Book.  We read of both divine transcendence and imminence in the pericopes for these two days.

God is transcendent in Exodus 24 and Deuteronomy 34.  There Moses meets God in dramatic mountaintop settings.  In Exodus 24 there us even cloud cover to add to the mystery.  A sense of mystery remains in the symbolic language of Revelation 1:9-18, a report of a vision of the triumphant, cosmic Christ.  By then the crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension were in the past, as was the most famous Pentecost from the New Testament.

Jesus is present in John 16, where the Holy Spirit is imminent.  I like the spiritual reality of God being both present and imminent, as the Kingdom of God is both.  It has become a reality partially, with its fullness reserved for the future.  The unveiling of the Kingdom of God is incomplete, but we are far from bereft.  That theology works better for me than does that of a remote, transcendent deity whose holiness is fatal to mere mortals.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIRST DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF KATHARINA VON BORA LUTHER, WIFE OF MARTIN LUTHER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/transcendence-and-imminence/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Peter's Conflict with Simon Magus

Above:  Peter’s Conflict with Simon Magus, by Avanzino Nucci

Image in the Public Domain

Simony and Mustard Seeds

APRIL 26, 2018

APRIL 27, 2018

APRIL 28, 2018

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The Collect:

O God, you give us your Son as the vine apart from whom we cannot live.

Nourish our life in his resurrection,

that we may bear the fruit of love

and know the fullness of your joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 34

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 8:1-7 (Thursday)

Amos 8:11-13 (Friday)

Amos 9:7-15 (Saturday)

Psalm 22:25-31 (All Days)

Acts 8:1b-8 (Thursday)

Acts 8:9-25 (Friday)

Mark 4:30-32 (Saturday)

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The poor shall eat and be satisfied,

and those who seek the LORD shall praise him:

“May your heart live for ever.”

–Psalm 22:25, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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As I have written many times, a recurring theme in the Bible is that God cares deeply about how we treat each other, especially the poor and the other vulnerable individuals.  In Amos, for example, we read of predators who long for the next religious observance so they can cheat many people.  God promised to destroy such malefactors and never to forget their deeds.

Another bad actor was Simon Magus from Acts 8.  He tried to purchase God’s free blessings, earning the rebuke of St. Simon Peter.  From this account has come the word “simony,” or the buying and selling of ecclesiastical offices.  That practice has been the avoidable cause of much scandal in the Church for millennia.

The third strain of this devotion comes from Mark 4.  Some seeds are actually smaller than mustard seeds.  This fact proves that Jesus was a better theologian than horticulturist.  The points remain applicable, however, for a large plant–a weed, really–grows from a tiny seed.  The mustard plant goes where it will; the Kingdom of God is unstoppable.

So, to put all the pieces together, the great Kingdom of God, in which the last are first, the first are last, and the servant of all is the greatest, comes via small vehicles.  The Kingdom of God is the opposite of exploitative and corrupt human systems.  Also, grace is free but not cheap, for it requires commitment from its recipients.  Buying grace, if possible, might be easier from a human point of view, but it would not be better from a moral perspective.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 19, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF LARS OLSEN SKRESFRUD, LUTHERAN MISSIONARY

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/simony-and-mustard-seeds/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After the Third Sunday of Easter, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

16052v

Above:  F. W.  de Klerk and Nelson Mandela in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1993

Photographer = Carol M. Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-16052

Renouncing Hatred

APRIL 16, 2018, and APRIL 17, 2018

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The Collect:

Holy and righteous God, you are the author of life,

and you adopt us to be your children.

Fill us with your words of life,

that we may live as witnesses of the resurrection 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 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 30:1-11a (Monday)

Hosea 5:15-6:6 (Tuesday)

Psalm 150 (Both Days)

1 John 3:10-16 (Monday)

2 John 1-6 (Tuesday)

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For this is the message we have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another….Whoever does not love abides in death.  All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them.

–1 John 3:11, 15, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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But now, dear lady, I ask you, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning, let us love one another.  And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment just as you have heard it from the beginning–you must walk in it.

–2 John 5-6, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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If one is truly as one thinks, the logic of 1 John 3 (as well as Jesus in Matthew 5:21 forward) is impeccable.  Actions flow flow from attitudes, after all.  The call from 1 John 3 and 2 John is for Christians to build up each other and to seek the best for each other–to love one another actively.  Such love often entails doing that which the other person needs but does not desire, but the commandment is love one another, not to please one another.

The pericopes from Hosea 5 and Jeremiah 30, taken together, point toward the familiar theological formulation of the failure to keep the covenant as the root cause for the demise of the Kingdoms of Israel (northern) and Judah (southern).  Ritual actions are wonderful when people perform them properly, not as talismans meant to protect them from the consequences of their sinful actions for which they are not repentant.  Idolatry, judicial corruption, and economic exploitation were ubiquitous.  People needed to address those problems first, not attempt to hide behind sacred rituals, which they profaned with their lack of sincerity.

The commandment to love one another–a core component of the Law of Moses–is difficult to keep.  It tells us to lay selfishness aside and to sacrifice ourselves for others.  It stands on the bedrock of complete dependence on God and of mutual dependence among human beings.  There are no self-made people in the Kingdom of God.  The rule of the Kingdom of God is not to tell people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.  No, in the Kingdom of God we pull each other up and tend to our own responsibilities, for whatever we do, even in private, affects others for good or for ill.

The difficult commandment to love one another also requires us to cease nursing grudges.  If we cannot forgive someone just yet and know that we should do so, we can rely rely on grace to help us to do that in God’s time.  We are flawed creatures, something God knows well, so moral perfectionism makes no sense to me.  The best good deeds we can muster by our own power call into the Lutheran category of civil righteousness–laudable yet insufficient to save us from our sins.  We ought, therefore, to forgive ourselves for being mere mortals; God has.

I ponder the statement that those who hate are not of God.  Then I consider the numerous incidents of hatred (from ancient times to current events) among people who have claimed to be of God.  In particular I recall the narrative of an African-American slave who escaped (with help from conductors of the Underground Railroad) to freedom in Canada, then British North America.  One of his owners had been a Southern Baptist deacon and a brutal man.  The former slave recalled the fact that this master had died.  Then the free man, a professing Christian, wrote that he did not know whether the deacon had gone to Heaven or to Hell, but that he did not want to share the same destination with this former master.  That sentiment makes sense to me, for the deacon’s actions belied his profession of Christian faith.

A good spiritual practice is to, by grace, seek to identify all hatred one has and to renounce it–give it up, stop feeding it.  If all of it will not depart immediately, at least the process has begun.  In such a case, one should trust God to deal with that which is too great a matter for one.

May more people renounce hatred and its vile fruits then glorify God together.

Let everything that has breath

praise the Lord.

Hallelujah!

–Psalm 150:6, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY SAYERS, NOVELIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/renouncing-hatred/

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Devotion for Saturday Before the Third Sunday of Easter, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Life of Brian 01

Above:  Palestinian Jewish Zealots in Life of Brian (1979)

A Screen Capture I Took via PowerDVD

Empires and the Kingdom of God

APRIL 14, 2018

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The Collect:

Holy and righteous God, you are the author of life,

and you adopt us to be your children.

Fill us with your words of life,

that we may live as witnesses of the resurrection 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 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Acts 3:1-10

Psalm 4

Luke 22:24-30

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Know that the LORD does wonders for the faithful;

when I call upon the LORD, he will hear me.

–Psalm 4:3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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One of the greatest scenes in cinema comes from Life of Brian (1979).  Jewish rebels have gathered to ask one vital question:

What have the Romans ever done for us?

Some of the rebels name benefits of Roman rule, prompting Reg, the leader, to say:

All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?

Imperialism brings many benefits to the conquered and the occupied, but it does so at a high cost to those populations.  The operative question, then, is:

What does Roman occupation cost us?

If the accurate answer is freedom, the cost is too high.  If exploitation and tyranny are the costs for tangible benefits, one is correct to recognize which side gains more from the arrangement.

One purpose of the Kingdom of God in the Bible is to criticize earthly kingdoms and empires built on violence and exploitation.  The critique works well, especially with regard to the various Egyptian Empires, the Kingdom of Israel (united), the Kingdom of Israel (northern), the Kingdom of Judah (southern), the Assyrian Empire, the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, the Seleucid Empire, and the Roman Empire.  In the Kingdom of God the greatest person is the servant of all, not the one who rules, oppresses, and exploits.  Those who help people who can never repay them are especially great in the Kingdom of God.

I prefer the Kingdom of God, which, according to my understanding, has become partially realized, with the promise of complete realization in the future.  Until then we who follow God can participate in the Kingdom of God as we have it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY SAYERS, NOVELIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/empires-and-the-kingdom-of-god/

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