Archive for the ‘Lent’ Tag

Devotion for Good Friday, Years A, B, and C (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Crucifixion

Image in the Public Domain

A Time for Silence

APRIL 7, 2023

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 52:13-53:12 or Hosea 6:1-6

Psalm 22:1-23 (LBW) or Psalm 22:1-24 (LW)

Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9

John 18:1-19:42 or John 19:17-30

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Almighty God, we ask you to look with mercy on your family;

for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed

and to be given over to the hands of sinners

and to suffer death on the cross;

who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, forever and ever.  Amen.

OR

Lord Jesus, you carried our sins in your own body

on the tree so that we might have life. 

May we and all who remember this day find new life

in you now and in the world to come,

where you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 20

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Almighty God, graciously behold this your family,

for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed,

to be given into the hands of sinners,

and to suffer death on the cross;

who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 45

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Words and rituals have power.  (That is a quintessential Lutheran theological statement.)  In my denomination, The Episcopal Church, the liturgy for Good Friday is powerful and solemn.  It concludes with people leaving in silence.

Sometimes one should be silent.  I invite you, O reader, to read the assigned portions of scripture aloud or to listen to them.  Let them sink in.  Let them exercise their power over you.  And digest them in silence.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 15, 2022 COMMON ERA

GOOD FRIDAY

THE FEAST OF SAINT OLGA OF KIEV, REGENT OF KIEVAN RUSSIA; SAINT ADALBERT OF MAGDEBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT ADALBERT OF PRAGUE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR, 997; AND SAINTS BENEDICT AND GAUDENTIUS OF POMERANIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 997

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DAMIEN AND MARIANNE OF MOLOKAI, WORKERS AMONG LEPERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT FLAVIA DOMITILLA, ROMAN CHRISTIAN NOBLEWOMAN; AND SAINTS MARO, EUTYCHES, AND VICTORINUS OF ROME, PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, CIRCA 99

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUNNA OF ALSACE, THE “HOLY WASHERWOMAN”

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for Maundy Thursday, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  The Last Supper, by Leonardo da Vinci

Image in the Public Domain

Loving and Being Humble Like Jesus

APRIL 6, 2023

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Exodus 12:1-14

Psalm 116:10-17

1 Corinthians 11:17-32 or 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

John 13:1-17, 34

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Holy God, source of all love, on the night of his betrayal,

Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment: 

To love one another as he had loved them. 

By your Holy Spirit write this commandment in our hearts;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

OR

Lord God, in a wonderful Sacrament

you have left us a memorial of your suffering and death. 

May this Sacrament of your body and blood so work in us

that the way we live will proclaim the redemption you have brought;

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 20

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O Lord Jesus, since you have left us

a memorial of your Passion in a wonderful sacrament,

grant, we pray,

that we may so use this sacrament of your body and blood

that the fruits of your redeeming work

may continually be manifest in us;

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 44

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In Exodus, the blood of the Passover lambs protected the Hebrew slaves from the sins of Egyptians.  The Gospel of John, mentioning three Passovers during the ministry of Jesus, placed the crucifixion of Jesus on Thursday, not Friday, as in the Synoptic Gospels.  The Fourth Gospel made clear that Christ was the Passover lamb that third Passover of his ministry.  In the Johannine Gospel, Jesus died while sacrificial lambs were dying at the Temple.

We read of the Last Supper in 1 Corinthians 11.  That is good, for John refers to it only in passing.

Jesus modeled humility and self-sacrificial love.

These are timeless principles.  The nature of timeless principles is that how one lives them depends upon circumstances–who, when, and where one is.  Certain commandments in the Bible are culturally-specific examples of keeping timeless principles.  Legalism results from mistaking culturally-specific examples for timeless principles.  Bishop Robert C. Wright, of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, says:

Love like Jesus.

To that I add:

Be humble like Jesus.

Circumstances dictate how living according to these maxims looks where and when you are, O reader.  By grace, may you succeed more often than you fail, for the glory of God and the benefit of your neighbors in God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 14, 2022 COMMON ERA

HOLY/MAUNDY THURSDAY

THE FEAST OF EDWARD THOMAS DEMBY AND HENRY BEARD DELANY, EPISCOPAL SUFFRAGAN BISHOPS FOR COLORED WORK

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANTHONY, JOHN, AND EUSTATHIUS OF VILNIUS, MARTYRS IN LITHUANIA, 1347

THE FEAST OF SAINT WANDREGISILUS OF NORMANDY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT LAMBERT OF LYONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZENAIDA OF TARSUS AND HER SISTER, SAINT PHILONELLA OF TARSUS; AND SAINT HERMIONE OF EPHESUS; UNMERCENARY PHYSICIANS

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for Wednesday in Holy Week, Years A, B, and C (ILCW)   1 comment

Above:  Judas Iscariot, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

Judas Iscariot

APRIL 5, 2023

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 50:4-9a

Psalm 70:1-2 4-6 (LBW) or Psalm 18:21-30 (LW)

Romans 5:6-11

Matthew 26:14-25

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Almighty God, your Son our Savior suffered at the hands of men

and endured the shame of the cross. 

Grant that we may walk in the way of his cross

and find it the way of life and peace;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 20

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Merciful and everlasting God the Father,

who did not spare your only Son

but delivered him up for us all that he might bear our sins on the cross;

grant that our hearts may be so fixed with steadfast faith in our Savior

that we may not fear the power of any adversaries;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 43

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In context, Isaiah 50:4-9a is an odd lection to read on this Sunday.  The speaker–the prophet/servant (Second Isaiah)–is pious yet merely human, therefore, sinful.  He believes that the suffering of the exiles during the Babylonian Exile has been justified.  Yet he also anticipates the divine vindication of that exiled population, for the glory of God.  Applying this reading to sinless Jesus (who suffered an unjust execution as an innocent man) requires astounding theological gymnastics.

Judas Iscariot played an essential role in a divine plan.  The writers of the four canonical Gospels portrayed him negatively, for one major obvious reason.  The Gospel of John added that Judas was an embezzler (John 12:6).  Despite all this, Judas was not outside the mercy of God.  And he had not committed the unpardonable sin–blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:32; Mark 3:28; Luke 12:10).  Judas may have thought that he knew what he was doing, but he did not.  Recall Luke 23:24, O reader:

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

I do not pretend to know the ultimate fate of Judas Iscariot.  I am not God.  I do, however, repeat my position that the only people in Hell are those who have condemned themselves.  God sends nobody to Hell.  Divine mercy and judgment exist in a balance I cannot grasp, for I am not God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 12, 2022 COMMON ERA

HOLY TUESDAY

THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; AND HIS NEPHEW, WILLIAM SLOANE COFFIN, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND SOCIAL ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAVID URIBE-VELASCO, MEXICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1927

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIUS I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZENO OF VERONA, BISHOP

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for Tuesday in Holy Week, Years A, B, and C (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

Following Jesus

APRIL 4, 2023

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 49:1-6

Psalm 71:1-12 (LBW) or Psalm 18:1-7, 17-20 (LW)

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

John 12:20-36

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Lord Jesus, you have called us to follow you. 

Grant that our love may not grow cold in your service,

and that we may not fail or deny you in the hour of trial.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 19

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Almighty and everlasting God,

grant us grace so to pass through this holy time of our Lord’s Passion

that we may receive the pardon of our sins;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 42

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In context, the identity of servant in Isaiah 49:1-6 is vague.  The servant is probably the personification of a faithful subset of the exiled population during the Babylonian Exile.  I do not look for Jesus in the Hebrew Bible as if he is Waldo in a Where’s Waldo? book.  Therefore, I conclude that linking Isaiah 49:1-6 to Jesus so as to identify him as the servant in that text requires extraordinary theological gymnastics.

Salvation is a process, not an event.  To be precise, salvation is a process the Church mediates via the sacraments.  That statement indicates the influence of Roman Catholicism in my theology.  (And I grew up a Methodist!)  Read 1 Corinthians 1:18 again, O reader:

…but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

The divine passive indicates that God is doing the saving.  God is the central actor.  Human selfishness places people in the center of theology.  (Now I sound like Karl Barth.)

As we barrel toward the crucifixion of Jesus, we read John 12:25:

Those who love their life will lose it, and those who hate their live in this world will keep it for eternal life.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Eternal life, in Johannine theology, is know God via Jesus.  Johannine eternal life may begin in this life.

“Hate” is an unfortunate translation choice in John 12:25. The operative Greek word means “love less than.”  Reading John 12:25 in the context of John 12:26, 12:25 should read:

…and those who love their life in this world less than me (Jesus) will keep it for eternal life.

In the four canonical Gospels, we read of Jesus issuing individualized calls to discipleship, depending on circumstances.  Yet the common thread is subordinating everything to Jesus.

Why not?  Jesus gave himself.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 9, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DIETRICH BONHOEFFEFR, GERMAN LUTHERAN MARTYR, 1945

THE FEAST OF JOHANN CRUGER, GERMAN LUTHERAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN SAMUJEL BEWLEY MONSELL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND POET; AND RICHARD MANT, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF DOWN, CONNOR, AND DROMORE

THE FEAST OF LYDIA EMILIE GRUCHY, FIRST FEMALE MINISTER IN THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA

THE FEAST OF MIKAEL AGRICOLA, FINNISH LUTHERAN LITURGIST, BISHOP OF TURKU, AND “FATHER OF FINNISH LITERARY LANGUAGE”

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LAW, ANGLICAN PRIEST, MYSTIC, AND SPIRITUAL WRITER

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for Monday in Holy Week, Years A, B, and C (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  St. Mary of Bethany and Jesus (Nicholas Ge)

Image in the Public Domain

Selfless Love

APRIL 3, 2023

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 42:1-9

Psalm 36:5-10

Hebrews 9:11-15

John 12:1-11

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O God, your Son chose the path which led to pain

before joy and the cross before glory. 

Plant his cross in our hearts,

so that in its power and love we may come at last to joy and glory;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 19

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Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ

chose to suffer pain before going up to joy,

and crucifixion before entering into glory,

mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross,

may find this path to be the way of life and peace;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 41

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In context, the servant in Isaiah 42:1-9 is the Jewish people personified, created and appointed to be a covenant people and a light to the nations.  In context, this group was about to emerge from the Babylonian Exile, which the Deuteronomistic theology of the Bible explained as divine punishment for persistent, collective violation of the moral mandates in the Law of Moses.  To identify this servant with sinless Jesus requires theological gymnastics.

Yet here we are.

Hebrews 9:11-15 presents Jesus as the mediator of a new covenant via his sacrificial death (and his resurrection).  Do not forget the resurrection, O reader.  Without it, we have dead Jesus, who can do nothing to redeem anyone.

But I am getting ahead of the story.

Each of the canonical Gospels contains a version of the story of a woman anointing Jesus.  Scholars tell us that there were two anointings–one of Christ’s head and another one of his feet–and that the Johannine account merges elements of both.  So be it.  In the Gospel of John, the setting was the home of Sts. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany, and St. Mary of Bethany was the anointer.  We read of her, with her hair down (in the style of a harlot, not a respectable woman who could afford expensive nard ointment from India), behaving in an undignified and loving way.  We read that this anointing foreshadowed the anointing of Jesus’s corpse a few days later.

Displays of selfless love may shock one.  Ponder what Jesus did later that week, O reader.  Ponder what St. Mary of Bethany did at the beginning of the week, too.  Consider that these acts were different from each other yet had much in common.  The application of any given timeless principle varies according to who, when, and where one is.

What does the playing out of selfless love entail and look like where and when you are, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 8, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MELCHIOR MUHLENBERG, PATRIARCH OF AMERICAN LUTHERANISM; HIS GREAT-GRANDSON, WILLIAM AUGUSTUS MUHLENBERG, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGICAL PIONEER; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, ANNE AYERS, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERHOOD OF THE HOLY COMMUNION

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIONYSIUS OF CORINTH, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF GODFREY DIEKMANN, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, PRIEST, ECUMENIST, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUGH OF ROUEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, ABBOT, AND MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIE BILLIART, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

THE FEAST OF TIMOTHY LULL, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, THEOLOGIAN, AND ECUMENIST

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Raising of Lazarus

Image in the Public Domain

Metaphorical Resurrections

MARCH 26, 2023

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Ezekiel 37:1-3 (4-10) 11-14

Psalm 116:1-9

Romans 8:11-19

John 11:1-53 or John 11:47-53

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Almighty God, our redeemer, in our weakness we have failed

to be your messengers of forgiveness and hope in the world. 

Renew us by your Holy Spirit, that we may follow your commands

and proclaim your reign of love;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 19

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Almighty and eternal God, because it was your will that your Son

should bear the pains of the cross for us

and thus remove from us the power of the adversary,

help us so to remember and give thanks for our Lord’s Passion

that we may receive remission of our sins

and redemption from everlasting death;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 38

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Life and death are themes in three of the four readings.

  1. We read a portion of Psalm 116, by someone grateful to have recovered from a serious illness.
  2. We read Romans 8:11-19, in which the relationship of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus enables our adoption as “sons” (literally, in verse 14) of God.  (Verses 16 and 17, in the Greek text, do use the neuter “children,” however.)  Through the Son of God, each Christian is a son of God, therefore, an heir.  That metaphor from the Hellenistic culture, in which sons, not daughters, inherited, may require explanation in 2022.
  3. We read a portion of John 11, in restores his beloved friend, St. Lazarus of Bethany, to life.  The Fourth Gospel presents this event as the proverbial last straw that led to the crucifixion of Christ.

Ezekiel 37:1-14 is the odd reading out.  It is about the restoration of Judah, defeated and scattered, after the end of the Babylonian Exile.  Ezekiel 37:1-14 is not about the resurrection of the dead; the language is visionary and poetic.

In a poetic way, however, the four readings fit together well.  Individuals, communities, societies, congregations, institutions, et cetera, need metaphorical resurrection.  They need restoration to a better state in God.  I know this about myself.

The current version of myself is one of many who have existed.  The current version is not as happy and well-adjusted as the one who existed before Bonny, ma chèrie, died violently.  I need a resurrection and a restoration.

Perhaps you, O reader, relate to that analysis.  Maybe you resemble that remark.  Fortunately, hope for all of us exists in God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 28, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES SOLOMON RUSSELL, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, EDUCATOR, AND ADVOCATE FOR RACIAL EQUALITY

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH RUNDLE CHARLES, ANGLICAN WRITER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GUNTRAM OF BURGUNDY, KING

THE FEAST OF KATHARINE LEE BATES, U.S. EDUCATOR, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF RICHARD CHEVNIX TRENCH, ANGLICAN ARCHBISHOP OF DUBLIN

THE FEAST OF SAINT TUTILO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND COMPOSER

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Hosea

Image in the Public Domain

Sincere, Selfless Faith

MARCH 19, 2023

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Hosea 5:15-6:2

Psalm 43 (LBW) or Psalm 138 (LW)

Romans 8:1-10

Matthew 20:17-28

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God of all mercy, by your power to hear and to forgive,

graciously cleanse us from all sin and make us strong;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 18

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Almighty God, our heavenly Father,

your mercies are new every morning,

and though we have in no way deserved your goodness,

you still abundantly provide for all our wants of body and soul. 

Give us, we pray, your Holy Spirit

that we may heartily acknowledge your merciful goodness toward us,

give thanks for all your benefits,

and serve you in willing obedience;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 37

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The selection of verses for the First Reading is odd.  These three verses, out of context, sound pious.  In textual context, however, one reads that the people in Hosea 6:1-2 were insincere, and that God knew it.  One realizes that the people in Hosea 6:1-2 were self-serving.

Sts. James and John, via their mother, St. Mary Salome, a maternal aunt of Jesus, were self-serving, too.  They sought positions of honor, not service and sacrifice.  Jesus modeled the opposite of being self-serving.  St. James and John eventually followed his example, though.

The authors of Psalms 43 and 138 offered honest faith, fortunately.  So did St. Paul the Apostle, who had a better life (by conventional standards) as Saul of Tarsus, persecutor of early Christianity.  As St. Paul, he suffered beatings, incarceration, and finally, martyrdom.

I do not pretend to have a completely selfless faith.  I know I am not a spiritual giant.  Yet I try to grow spiritually in Christ daily.  I aspire to be the best possible version of myself in Christ daily, with mixed results.  The effort is essential; God can work with it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 2, 2022 COMMON ERA

ASH WEDNESDAY

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the Third Sunday in Lent, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Healing of the Man Born Blind, by El Greco

Image in the Public Domain

Spiritual Blindness

MARCH 12, 2023

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 42:14-21

Psalm 142

Ephesians 5:8-14

John 9:1-41 or John 9:13-17, 34-39

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Eternal Lord, your kingdom has broken into our troubled world

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

Help us to hear your Word and obey it,

so that we become instruments of your redeeming love;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 18

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Almighty God, because you know

that we of ourselves have no strength,

keep us both outwardly and inwardly that we may be defended

from all adversities that may happen to the body

and from all evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Lutheran Worship (1982), 36

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Light and darkness function as literal descriptions and as metaphors.  Pseudo-Paul, in Ephesians, reminds us down the corridors of time to live as children of light and to eschew the fruitless works of darkness.  We read Psalm 142, in which the psalmist (not David) suffered from pursuers who committed fruitless works of darkness.  When we turn to Isaiah 42, near the end of the Babylonian Exile, we read that God will vindicate sinful exiles for the sake of divine glory.  The vindication of the Jewish exiles would become an example of God’s loyalty and ability to save, we read.  The darkness is both literal (for the man born blind) and spiritual (for those who rejected him and questioned his parents) in John 9.  Likewise, light is both literal and spiritual for the man.

The canonical Gospels include stories (some of them Synoptic doubles or triples) of Jesus healing blind people.  These accounts frequently double as commentaries on spiritual blindness.  John 9:1-41 does.

The Pharisees of John 9:1-41 sere spiritually blind.  Jesus contradicted their expectations.  He refused to meet their standards.

Criticizing long-dead Pharisees is easy; it is like fishing with dynamite.  However, honestly evaluating oneself spiritually can be challenging and uncomfortable.  Ask yourself, O reader, how often Jesus, in the canonical Gospels, contradicted your expectations and violated your standards.  As yourself how you may have responded or reacted to Jesus, had you been present in certain Biblical scenes.  You may suffer from spiritual blindness Jesus can heal.

According to a story that may be apocryphal, a woman on the lecture circuit of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) spoke in a particular town.  After she had completed her prepared remarks, the speaker asked if anybody in the audience had questions.  One man raised his hand.  The woman called on him.  He asked,

If what you say is true, how do you explain Jesus turning water into wine?

The speaker replied,

I would like him better if he had not done that.

Each of us has some threshold past which one says or thinks,

I would like Jesus better if he had not done or said that.

Be honest about yourself, O reader.  I am honest about myself.  Christ makes all of us uncomfortable sometimes.  That is our problem, not his.  The desire to domesticate Jesus is ancient and misguided.

The description of God in the Hebrew Bible is that of an undomesticated deity–one who is, who refuses all human attempts at control, and sometimes acts on motivations we may not understand.  So be it.

If you, O reader, expect me to offer easy answers to challenging questions, I will disappoint you.  I do not pretend to grasp the nature of God.  I argue with certain Biblical texts.  This is unavoidable when certain Biblical texts contradict other Biblical texts.  And I embrace a fact of spiritual life:  What I do not know outweighs what I do know.  I possess a relatively high comfort level with the unknown.  Yet, on occasion, I still wish that Jesus had not done or said x.  Sometimes I continue to crave false certainty over trust in God.

I know that I have spiritual blind spots.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 8, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPHINE BAKHITA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF CORNELIA HANCOCK, U.S. QUAKER NURSE, EDUCATOR, AND HUMANITARIAN; “FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE OF NORTH AMERICA”

THE FEAST OF SAINT JEROME EMILIANI, FOUNDER OF THE COMPANY OF THE SERVANTS OF THE POOR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN OF MATHA AND FELIX OF VALOIS, FOUNDERS OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPHINA GABRIELA BONINO, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA ESPERANZA DE JESUS, FOUNDER OF THE HANDMAIDS OF MERCIFUL LOVE AND THE SONS OF MERCIFUL LOVE

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the Second Sunday in Lent, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Abraham’s Journey from Ur to Canaan, by József Molnár

Image in the Public Domain

Faith and Works

MARCH 5, 2023

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Genesis 12:1-8

Psalm 105:4-11

Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

John 4:5-26 (27-30, 39-42)

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Heavenly Father, it is your glory always to have mercy. 

Bring back all who have erred and strayed from your ways;

lead them again to embrace in faith

the truth of your Word and hold it fast;

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

or

God our Father, your Son welcomed

an outcast woman because of her faith. 

Give us faith like hers,

that we also may trust only in our Love for us

and may accept one another as we have been accepted by you;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 18

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O God, whose glory 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;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 34

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I grew up with a stereotype of Second Temple Judaism.  I learned that the Judaism of Christ’s time was a legalistic faith with works-based righteousness.  I learned a lie.

As E. P. Sanders thoroughly documented in his seminal work, Paul and Palestinian Judaism (1977), Second Temple Judaism taught Covenantal Nomism.  Salvation came by the grace of being born Jewish.  The maintenance of that salvation was a matter of habitually keeping the moral mandates in the Law of Moses.  The failure to do so resulted in dropping out of the covenant.  St. Paul’s objection to Second Temple Judaism was that it was not Christianity.  For the Apostle, the death and resurrection of Jesus changed everything.

The Law of Moses, which postdated Abraham, defined the lines one should not cross.  “Do this, not that,” was necessary guidance.  The application of timeless principles to culturally-specific circumstances was essential.

It remains so.  Unfortunately, many devout people fall into legalism by failing to recognize the difference between timeless principles and culturally-specific examples.

Faith, for St. Paul the Apostle, was inherently active.  He dictated, in Greek translated into English:

For we consider that a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

–Romans 3:28, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

The author of the Letter of James defined faith differently.  He understood faith as intellectual assent to a proposition.  Therefore, he reminded his audience that faith without works is dead (2:17) then wrote that Abraham’s works justified the patriarch (2:21f):

See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

–James 2:24, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Despite the superficial discrepancy between Romans and James, no disagreement exists.  When people use the same word but define it differently, they may seem to disagree when they agree.

Or justification may not be a factor at all.

Consider a different translation, O reader.  David Bentley Hart, The New Testament:  A Translation (2017) is a literal version that, in the words of its Eastern Orthodox translator, “provokes Protestants.”  Hart renders Romans 3:28 as:

For we reckon a man as vindicated by faithfulness, apart from observances of the Law.

“Justified” becomes “vindicated,” and “works” become “observances.”  Then we turn to James 2:24:

You see that a human being is made righteous by works, and not by faith alone.

“Justified” becomes “made righteous.”

Justification is a legal term.  “Vindicated” and “made righteous” are not.  That is a crucial distinction.  I acknowledge the existence of the matter.  Nevertheless, the point about using the same word and understanding it differently holds in both interpretations.

The reading from John 4 has become the subject of much misinterpretation, too.  For nearly two millennia, a plethora of Christian exegetes have sullied the reputation of the Samaritan woman at the well.  Yet Jesus never judged her.  And his conversation with her was the longest one recorded in the canonical Gospels.

Jesus violated two major social standards in John 4.  He spoke at length with a Samaritan and a woman he had not previously met.  Jesus was not trying to be respectable.  He had faith in the Samaritan woman at the well, who reciprocated.

For reasons I cannot fathom, God seems to have faith in people.  My opinion of human nature is so low as to be subterranean.  Observing the irresponsible behavior of many people (especially government officials who block policies intended to save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic) confirms my low opinion of human nature.  Yet God seems to have faith in people.

May we reciprocate.  And may our deeds and words be holy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 4, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CORNELIUS THE CENTURION

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the First Sunday in Lent, Year A (ILCW Lectionary))   1 comment

Above:  The Garden of Eden, by Thomas Cole

Image in the Public Domain

Misquoting God

FEBRUARY 26, 2023

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Genesis 2:7-9, 15-17; 3:1-7

Psalm 130

Romans 5:12 (13-16) 17-19

Matthew 4:1-11

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O Lord God, you led your ancient people through the wilderness

and brought them to the promised land. 

Guide now the people of your Church, that, following our Savior,

we may walk through the wilderness of this world

toward the glory of the world to come;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

or

Lord God, our strength,

the battle of good and evil rages within and around us,

and our ancient foe tempts us with his deceits and empty promises. 

Keep us steadfast in your Word, and,

when we fall, raise us again and restore us

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 17-18

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O almighty and eternal God, we implore you

to direct, sanctify, and govern our hearts and bodies

in the ways of your laws and the works of your laws

and the works of your commandments

that through your mighty protection, both now and ever,

we may be preserved in body and soul;

through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns

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

Lutheran Worship (1982), 33

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I have been composing lectionary-based devotions for more than a decade.  I have, therefore, covered the temptation of Jesus already.

I make one comment about it, though:  one function of the story is to help Christians know how to resist temptation.

This combination of readings–about temptation, confession of sin, and repentance–works well as a unit.  The First Reading provides my main point:  we must resist the temptation to misquote God, as Eve did in the myth.  Read that text again, O reader, and realize that God did not forbid touching the fruit of the knowledge of good and bad.  Misquoting God gave the mythical snake his opening.

The Talmud teaches:

He who adds [to God’s words] subtracts [from them].

–Quoted in The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014), 15

The words of God are what God has said and says.  Scripture, channeled through human lenses and experiences, provide many of God’s words.  The Reformed tradition within Christianity speaks of God’s second book, nature.  The mystical tradition within Christianity recognizes another method by which God speaks. I report some experiences I cannot explain rationally.  I do know if I I listened to God, a guardian angel, or intuition.  Yet I know that I listened and acted, to my benefit in practical, automotive matters.

I am an intellectual.  I reject the inerrancy and infallibility of scripture, based on having studied the Bible closely and seriously.  And I take the Bible seriously.  I try to understand first what a given text says, in original context.  Then I extrapolate to today.  I try not to misquote or misinterpret any text of scripture.  Neither do I shut down the parts of my mind that respect history and science.  Good theology, good history, and good science are in harmony.  As Galileo Galilei said:

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

O reader, what is God saying to you today?  Do mis misquote it.  No, listen carefully.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 2, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF JESUS IN THE TEMPLE

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Link to the corresponding link at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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