Archive for the ‘Luke 6’ Tag

Devotion for the Feast of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, Years A, B, C, and D (Humes)   2 comments

Above:  Embrace of Elizabeth and the Virgin Mary

Image in the Public Domain

Humility and Arrogance

JUNE 1, 2020

DURING THE SEASON AFTER PENTECOST

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The Collect:

Almighty God, in choosing the virgin Mary to be the mother of your Son,

you made known your gracious regard for the poor and the lowly and the despised.

Grant us grace to receive your Word in humility, and so made one with 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), 33

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 2:1-10

Psalm 113

Romans 12:9-16b

Luke 1:39-57

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Depending on the date of Easter, and therefore of Pentecost, the Feast of the Visitation can fall in either the season of Easter or the Season after Pentecost.

The history of the Feast of the Visitation has been a varied one.  The feast, absent in Eastern Orthodoxy, began in 1263, when St. Bonaventure introduced it to the Order of Friars Minor (the Franciscans), which he led.  Originally the date was July 2, after the octave of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 24).  Pope Urban VI approved the feast in 1389, the Council of Basel authorized it in 1441, propers debuted in the Sarum breviary of 1494, and Pope Pius V added the feast to the general calendar in 1561.  In 1969, during the pontificate of Paul VI, Holy Mother Church moved the Feast of the Visitation to May 31, in lieu of the Feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which Pope Pius XII had instituted in 1954.  The Episcopal Church added the Feast of the Visitation to its calendar in The Book of Common Prayer (1979).  The feast had long been July 2 in The Church of England and much of Lutheranism prior to 1969.  Subsequent liturgical revision led to the transfer of the feast to May 31 in those traditions.

The corresponding Eastern Orthodox feast on July 2 commemorates the placing of the Holy Robe of the Mother of God in the church at Blachernae, a suburb of Constantinople.

The theme of humility is prominent in the assigned readings and in the Lutheran collect I have quoted.  A definition of that word might therefore prove helpful.  The unabridged Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language (1951), a tome, defines humility as

Freedom from pride and arrogance; humbleness of mind; a modest estimate of one’s own worth; also, self-abasement, penitence for sin.

Humility refers to lowliness and, in the Latin root, of being close to the ground.  God raising up the lowly is a Lukan theme, as is God overthrowing the arrogant.  After all, the woes (Luke 6:24-26) follow the Beatitudes (6:20-25), where Jesus says,

Blessed are you who are poor,

not

Blessed are you who are poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3).

The first will be last and the last will be first, after all.

Wherever you are, O reader, you probably live in a society that celebrates the boastful, the arrogant.  The assigned readings for this day contradict that exultation of the proud, however.  They are consistent with the ethic of Jeremiah 9:22-23:

Yahweh says this,

“Let the sage not boast of wisdom,

nor the valiant of valour,

nor the wealthy of riches!

But let anyone who wants to boast, boast of this:

of understanding and knowing me.

For I am Yahweh, who acts with faithful love,

justice, and uprightness on earth;

yes, these are what please me,”

Yahweh declares.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

St. Paul the Apostle channeled that ethic in 1 Corinthians 1:31 and 2 Corinthians 10:17, among other passages.

That which he understood well and internalized, not without some struggle, remains relevant and timeless.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, CHRISTIAN APOLOGIST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA, BIBLE SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL STENNETT, ENGLISH SEVENTH-DAY BAPTIST MINISTER AND HYMN-WRITER; AND JOHN HOWARD, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/06/01/humility-and-arrogance-part-ii/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/12/devotion-for-the-feast-of-the-visitation-of-mary-to-elizabeth-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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Devotion for the Feast of the Ascension (Year D)   1 comment

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Above:  Odd Fellows Widows’ and Orphans’ Home, Corsicana, Texas, 1910

J149681 U.S. Copyright Office

Copyright deposit; Jno. J. Johnson; 1910

Copyright claimant’s address: Ennis, Tex.

Photographer = John J. Johnson

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-133853

The Idol of Public Respectability

MAY 13, 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:

Proverbs 1:1-7

Psalm 119:145-176

Mark 12:35-37 or Luke 20:41-47

1 John 2:3-29

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The term “fear of God” should be “awe of God,” for the latter translation conveys the concept accurately.  Certain distractions can draw our attention away from God and the awe thereof.  Among these are suffering (not necessarily a distraction, per Psalm 119, yet a distraction for many), worldly appetites (also not necessarily distractions inherently, but distractions for many), and false teaching (always a distraction).  The issue is idolatry.  An idol is an object, teaching, philosophy, or practice that draws attention and awe away from God.  Many idols for many people are not idols for many other people.  If someone treats something as an idol, it is an idol for that person.

One can seem to be holy and free of idols yet be disingenuous.  In the parallel readings from mark (extended) and Luke Jesus condemns those who put on airs of righteousness yet crave public respectability and devour the property of widows, in violation of the Law of Moses.  The spiritual successors of the scribes Jesus condemned are numerous, unfortunately.  Some of them even have their own television programs.

Public respectability is not a virtue in the Gospel of Luke:

Alas for you when the world speaks well of you!  This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.

–Luke 6:26, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

That saying’s companion is:

Happy are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name on account of the Son of Man.  Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, then your reward will be great in heaven.  This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.

–Luke 6:23, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

This is a devotion for the Feast of the Ascension.  The selection of these lections seems odd, I admit, but one can make the connection.  After the Ascension Jesus was no longer physically present with his Apostles.  Afterward, however, the Holy Spirit descended upon them and empowered them to do much to spread the word of Jesus and to glorify God.  Of the original Apostles (including St. Matthias, who replaced Judas Iscariot) only two did not die as martyrs.  St. John the Evangelist suffered much for God and died of natural causes.  Those Apostles (minus Judas Iscariot) did not crave and did not receive public respectability.  They did, however, glorify God and change the world for the better.

May we resist the idol of public respectability and, by grace, live so as to glorify God and benefit our fellow human beings.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 12, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN DOBER, MORAVIAN BISHOP AND HYMN WRITER; JOHANN LEONHARD DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; AND ANNA SCHINDLER DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDITH CAVELL, NURSE AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENNETH OF SCOTLAND, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT NECTARIUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, ARCHBISHOP

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/the-idol-of-public-respectability/

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Devotion for Saturday Before the Third Sunday of Easter, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Abraham and the Three Angels--Gustave Dore

Above:  The Prophet Isaiah, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

Hospitality and Grace

MAY 4, 2019

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The Collect:

Eternal and all-merciful God,

with all the angels and all the saints we laud your majesty and might.

By the resurrection of your Son, show yourself to us

and inspire us to follow 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:

Genesis 18:1-8

Psalm 30

Luke 14:12-14

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Genesis 18:1-8 and Luke 14:12-14 offer lessons regarding hospitality and the spirituality thereof.

Hospitality often defined the difference between life and death in Biblical times, as it continues to do.  Extending hospitality was a moral duty, according to Old Testament authors and Jesus.  It was, for them, part of the Law of Love and the web of obligations binding members of society together in mutual responsibility and in interdependence.

In the rural U.S. South in the 1800s it was commonplace for a farmhouse to have a guest room which opened onto the front porch and not into any room.  A traveling stranger might need to spend the night.  That type of accommodation saved the lives of many people.

The two examples of hospitality in the main readings for this day differ from each other.  In Genesis 18 Abraham lavishes hospitality on three men, presumably God and two angels.  We learn that they are present to announce Sarah’s upcoming and most improbable pregnancy.  One might project words from Psalm 30 backward in time and place them into the mouth of Sarah, once she stopped laughing:

You have turned my wailing into dancing;

you have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.

Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing;

O LORD my God, I will give you thanks for ever.

–Verses 12 and 13, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

The reading from Luke 14 is part of a scene.  Jesus is dining at the home of a leader of the Pharisees on the Sabbath.  Our Lord and Savior heals a man with dropsy in verses 1-6.  Already Christ’s host and the other guests are hostile, for they watch him closely.  Dropsy, aside from being a physical condition, functions as a metaphor for greed, for, although the affected man’s body retained too much fluid, he was thirsty for more.  Jesus heals the sick man–on the Sabbath, in the presence of critics, no less, and symbolically criticizes his greedy host and other guests while restoring the man to wholeness.  Then our Lord and Savior notices how the other guests choose the positions of honor in contrast to Proverbs 25:6-7a:

Do not exalt yourselves in the king’s presence;

Do not stand in the place of nobles.

For it is better to be told, “Stop up here,”

Than to be degraded in the presence of the great.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

This is a story from the Gospel of Luke, with a theme of reversal of fortune, so the incident fits the Gospel well.

Jesus sounds much like the subsequent James 2:1-13.  Sit in the lowest place, he advises; do not exalt oneself.

For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted?

–Luke 14:11, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Likewise, Jesus continues, invite and honor the poor, the lame, the blind, and the crippled with table fellowship.  This ethos of the Kingdom of God’s priorities being at odds with those of the dominant perspectives of the world is consistent with the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-11) and the Beatitudes and Woes (Luke 6:20-26).

Give to those who can never repay, Jesus commands us.  And why not?  Has not God given us so much that we can never repay God?  The demand of grace upon us is in this case is to do likewise to others–to do unto others as God has done unto us, to give without expectation of repayment.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN BLEW, ENGLISH PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/12/20/hospitality-and-grace/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Second Sunday of Easter, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Goliath Laughs at David

Above:  Goliath Laughs at David, by Ilya Repin

Image in the Public Domain

Unexpected Agents of Grace

APRIL 25, 2019

APRIL 26, 2019

APRIL 27, 2019

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The Collect:

O God of life, you reach out to us amid our fears

with the wounded hands of your risen Son.

By your Spirit’s breath revive our faith in your mercy,

and strengthen us to be the body 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:

1 Samuel 17:1-23 (Thursday)

1 Samuel 17:19-32 (Friday)

1 Samuel 17:32-51 (Saturday)

Psalm 150 (All Days)

Acts 5:12-16 (Thursday)

Acts 5:17-26 (Friday)

Luke 24:36-40 (Saturday)

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Hallelujah!

Praise God in his holy temple;

praise him in the firmament of his power.

Praise him for his mighty acts;

praise him for his excellent greatness.

Praise him with the blast of the ram’s horn;

praise him with the lyre and harp.

Praise him with timbrel and dance;

praise him with strings and pipe.

Praise him with resounding cymbals;

praise him with loud-clanging cymbals.

Let everything that has breath

praise the LORD.

Hallelujah!

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

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The reasons to praise God are myriad, beyond any human capacity to count.  One of those reasons is that God frequently works via people some of us (at best) consider unlikely agents of grace.

Consider David, O reader.  Yes, I know that 2 Samuel 21:19 has Elhanan, son of Jair from Bethlehem kill Goliath of Gath, and that 1 Chronicles 20:5 has the same Elhanan kill Lahmi, brother Goliath.  If that is not sufficiently confusing, David plays the lyre for King Saul in 1 Samuel 16 yet has not gone to work for the monarch yet in chapter 17.  These contradictions result from the combining of differing traditions in the canon of scripture.  Such contradictions are commonplace in the Old Testament, starting in the early chapters of Genesis.  One needs merely to read the texts with great attention to detail to detect them.

I use 1 Samuel 17, in which David, not Elhanan, kills Goliath, for that is the version the framers of the lectionary I am following chose.

In 1 Samuel 17 young David seemed to be the least likely person to rid Israel of the menace Goliath posed.  A crucified troublemaker from the Galilee seemed to be an unlikely candidate for an inspiring and timeless religious figure.  Apostles hiding in fear after the crucifixion of Jesus seemed to be unlikely candidates for leaders in a movement to change the world.  They faced persecution; most of them died as martyrs.  As Jesus said,

Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.  Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

–Luke 6:22-23, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The theme of seemingly unlikely agents of grace occurs in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).  It is easy to overlook the fact that many in the original audience found the idea of a good Samaritan shocking, even beyond improbable.

The real question I address is not the identities of agents of grace but human biases regarding who is more or less likely to be one.  We mere mortals need to learn theological humility, especially regarding how we evaluate each other.  Do we even attempt to look upon each other as God perceives us?

The composite pericope from Acts 5 reminds us that functioning as an agent of grace might lead one to harm.  Sometimes people suffer for the sake of righteousness because the light exposes darkness for what it is.

…the light shines in the darkness,

and the darkness has not overcome it.

–John 1:5, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2010)

Perhaps we do not recognize agents of grace sometimes because we are caught up in the darkness and are oblivious to that fact.  Mustache-twirling villains, commonplace in simplistic morality plays, are rare in real life.  Most “bad guys” imagine themselves to be good, or at least engaged in necessary, if unpleasant work.

Another reason for failing to recognize agents of grace is functional fixedness.  We simply do not expect something, so we do not look for it.  We seek agents of grace as we know them and miss those agents of grace who do not fit our preconceptions.

How might God surprise you, O reader, with unexpected (to you) agents of grace?  And what will that grace cost you?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/12/18/unexpected-agents-of-grace/

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

Christ Before Pilate

Above:  Christ Before Pilate, by Mihaly Munkracsy

Image in the Public Domain

Jesus, Threat

APRIL 6, 2019

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The Collect:

Creator God, you prepare a new way in the wilderness,

and your grace waters our desert.

Open our hearts to be transformed by the new thing you are doing,

that our lives may proclaim the extravagance of your love

given to all through 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 29

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 12:21-27

Psalm 126

John 11:45-47

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When the LORD restored Zion

it was as though we were dreaming.

We could not speak for laughing,

we could only utter cries of joy.

Then the saying arose among the nations,

“The LORD has done something great with these people.”

The LORD has done something great with us;

we were delighted.

–Psalm 126:1-3, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)

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The remembrance of what God has done (as in Psalm 126) and was about to do (as in Exodus 12) was supposed to inspire reverence for God, measurable in various ways, including how people treated others.  The plot to scapegoat Jesus (in John 11) contradicted that ethic.

Celebrating Passover, the annual commemoration of God liberating the Hebrew slaves from Egypt, in occupied Jerusalem was politically sensitive.  Furthermore, the Temple was the seat of collaboration with the Roman occupying forces.  Jesus was a threat to the Temple authorities and, by extension, to their Roman overlords and partners.  When he entered the city at the beginning of that fateful week leading up to his crucifixion, Jesus arrived in the manner of a triumphant king en route to peace talks after a battle.  Our Lord and Savior, the Gospel of John makes clear, rejected offers to seek to expel the Romans, but many people, including Pontius Pilate, thought that Jesus might lead an insurrection.  Even after Pilate realized that Jesus was not a political rebel, he understood our Lord and Savior to be a threat nevertheless.  Jesus was a threat, but not in the way Pilate thought.

Jesus was a threat to a form of piety which privileged wealth and depended on a certain amount of it in a society which consisted primarily of illiterate peasants.  Jesus was a threat to religious legalism.  Jesus was a threat to religious practices which draped economic injustice in the cloak of piety.

Man Nobody Knows

Above:  The Table of Contents from The Man Nobody Knows:  A Discovery of the Real Jesus (1925), by Bruce Barton

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Jesus remains a threat to such practices in our time.  We cannot kill him again.  Besides, he did not remain dead for long the last time.  We are capable, however, of attempting to domesticate Jesus.  People left, right, and center have been engaged in this practice for a very long time.  One might, for example, ignore the Beatitudes and Woes from Luke 6:17-26, downplay or ignore his apocalyptic teachings, or portray him as always nice and smiling.  The genuine article, however, was–and remains–a threat to a variety of misconceptions about Jesus.  I like to think that, even if I had not grown up in the Christian faith, I would have become a Christian because of the portrayal of Jesus in the four canonical Gospels.

The remembrance of what God has done and some awareness of what God is doing compel me to have reverence for God.  Among the examples to which I point is Jesus.  His life invites me to examine my life.  Much of what he reveals to me makes me uncomfortable, but identifying a problem is the first step in correcting them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS COTTERILL, ENGLISH PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CALABRIA, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE POOR SERVANTS AND THE POOR WOMEN SERVANTS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH MOHR, AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/12/04/jesus-threat/

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

Watchtower in Vineyard

Above:  A Watchtower in a Vineyard, 1898

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-06021

Of Grapes and Fruit

MARCH 23, 2019

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The Collect:

Eternal God, your kingdom has broken into our troubled world

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

Help us to hear your word and obey it,

and bring your saving love to fruition in our lives,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 28

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 5:1-7

Psalm 63:1-8

Luke 6:43-45

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

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

as in a dry and weary land where there is not water.

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

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That is what a good grape from Isaiah 5:1-7 and a good fruit from Luke 6:43-45 would say.  Unfortunately, the grapes are wild and the fruits are bad in those readings.

The excellent translation of Isaiah 5:7 from TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985), attempting to bring the effect of the Hebrew wordplay into English, rings inside my head:

For the vineyard of the LORD of Hosts

Is the House of Israel,

And the seedlings He lovingly tended

Are the men of Judah.

And He hoped for justice,

But beheld, injustice;

For equity,

But behold, iniquity!

Social justice in the context of community, with responsibility of people to and for each other, and with all people accountable to God, is an essential part of the Law of Moses.  I wonder, in fact, why I did not learn this growing up in the church–in a series of parsonages, actually.  I had to learn this truth from a book after joining a Historical Jesus reading group in Athens, Georgia.  In fact, much of my adult spiritual pilgrimage has consisted of abandoning what I learned as a child, for most of it was either wrong or woefully incomplete.

God commands us to live in love, to love each other as we love ourselves.  Love of this variety leaves no room for any form of prejudice or animosity, or for any other obstacle to practicing the Golden Rule.  This is a lesson I understand more intellectually than viscerally, but I continue to struggle with it.  This is progress, at least, in my effort to cooperate with God to be a good grape and a good fruit.

May you, O reader, strive to be a good grape and a good fruit also.  May you succeed, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 19, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN HERMANN SCHEIN, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF F. BLAND TUCKER, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/of-grapes-and-fruit/

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

Fruit of the Christ Passion Icon

Above:  Fruit of the Christ Passion, an Icon

Image in the Public Domain

Upside-Down

MARCH 9, 2019

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The Collect:

O Lord God, you led your people through the wilderness and brought them to the promised land.

Guide us now, so that, following your Son, we may walk safely through the wilderness of this world

toward the life you alone can give, 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:

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16

John 12:27-36

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Psalm 91 reads in part:

Because you have made the Lord your refuge

and the Most High your stronghold,

There shall no evil happen to you,

neither shall any plague come near your tent.

–Verses 9 and 10, Common Worship (2000)

That stands in stark contrast to Jesus’s experience in John 12:27-36, for his time to die was near.  His exaltation was a form of execution the Roman authorities intended to be humiliating.

Often reality contradicts expectations.  Following God faithfully does not necessarily lead to peace and prosperity.  God can transform shame into glory, pain into a means of salvation, death into life, and defeat into victory.  The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-11 and Luke 6:20-23) and Woes (Luke 6:24-26) contradict conventional wisdom.  God steadfastly refuses to fit into our figurative boxes.

One might find that reality maddening or liberating.  The reality of Hod frees us (if we permit it to do so) from illusions and folly dressed up as wisdom.  So yes, the crucifixion proved inadequate to keep Jesus dead.  And the recurring theme of the reversal of fortunes in the Gospel of Luke has challenged readers of that text for nearly 2000 years.  I refuse to avoid discomfort with those passages by distorting their plain meanings.  The Kingdom of God seems upside-down relative to the dominant human order, but the latter is actually upside-down.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 10, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDWIN HATCH, ANGLICAN PRIEST, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEO THE GREAT, BISHOP OF ROME

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/11/10/upside-down/

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Devotion for the Forty-Ninth Day of Easter, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Moses with the Tablets of the Law, Rembrandt van Rijn

Above:  Moses With the Tablets of the Law, by Rembrandt Van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Wrestling With Biblical Texts

SATURDAY, MAY 30, 2020

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The Collect:

O God, on this day you open the hearts of your faithful people

by sending us your Holy Spirit.

Direct us by the light of that Spirit,

that we may have a right judgment in all things

and rejoice at all times in your peace,

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 36

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 20:1-21

Psalm 33:12-22

Matthew 5:1-12

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Shall we unpack the Ten Commandments, at least a little?

  1. Many more commandments follow immediately, starting in Exodus 20.
  2. Many of the Ten Commandments are self-explanatory, so not committing adultery against a neighbor are straight-forward, for example.
  3. Swearing falsely by the name of God refers to insincere oaths and to attempts to control God, not to certain curse words and related expressions.
  4. On the troubling side, the text classes wives with property and livestock (20:14) and allows for slavery (20:10).
  5. The commandment to have no other gods might deny the existence of other deities or mean simply not to worship them while acknowledging their existence.  Hebrew Bible scholars debate that point.  Yet I know that many Hebrews during Biblical times not only acknowledged the existence of other deities but worshiped some of them.
  6. Sometimes displaying the Ten Commandments constitutes idolatry, which intention defines.

Exodus 20:5-6 requires some explanation.  Does God really punish descendants for someone’s sins?  Or is this a description of behaviors repeated across generations?  The ultimate context in which to consider any passage of Scripture is the entire canon thereof.  Thus I point out that a note on page 149 of The Jewish Study Bible (2004) lists Deuteronomy 24:6; Jeremiah 31:29-30; and Ezekiel 18:1-20 as passages which state that God punishes a person for his or her sins alone.  This nuance helps to fill out the picture.  Sometimes Biblical authors wrote of effects as if they were divine purposes, even when they were not.  Human understandings have changed, even if God has not.

If we read Exodus 20:5-6 as descriptive and interpret it within the context of the previously listed passages from Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, a certain understanding takes shape.  One’s good and bad behaviors might echo for three or four or more generations.  I can, for example, identify positive and negative legacies from two of my paternal great-grandfathers which have affected me.  I, being aware of my responsibility for my own actions, have endeavored to keep the good and to break with the bad.  God know how successful that has proven so far.

The Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes are about, among other things, how faithful people of God ought to live with God and in community.  Depending on one’s community, living with God properly might contradict the former and lead to persecutions–even death.  The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12 and Luke 6:20-23) say that God’s order is not the dominant human one in which a person lives.  The Beatitudes are counter-cultural.  And Luke 6:24-26 (the Woes) goes beyond anything Matthew 5:3-12 indicates.  If one really reads them, one should recognize that the Beatitudes and Woes remain political hot potatoes.

One part of the honest–not autopilot–interaction with the Bible I like is that we must wrestle with texts and reconsider aspects of our opinions, culture, politics, and economics–even ones which we like and which benefit us.  This is healthy to do.  We will do it if we take the Bible seriously and seek to cut through confirmation bias and defense mechanisms.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/26/wrestling-with-biblical-texts/

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Devotion for the Thirty-Fourth and Thirty-Fifth Days of Easter (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   11 comments

Above:  Jesus Carrying the Cross, by El Greco

Leviticus and Luke, Part VIII:  Sin and Suffering

MAY 7 and 8, 2021

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 26:1-20 (34th Day of Easter)

Leviticus 26:21-33, 39-44 (35th Day of Easter)

Psalm 96 (Morning–34th Day of Easter)

Psalm 92 (Morning–35th Day of Easter)

Psalms 50 and 138 (Evening–34th Day of Easter)

Psalms 23 and 114 (Evening–35th Day of Easter)

Luke 13:18-35 (34th Day of Easter)

Luke 14:1-24 (35th Day of Easter)

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The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod lectionary of 2006 (from the Lutheran Service Book) skipped over Leviticus 25, which includes the year of the Jubilee.  People should have observed it more often than they did.  If one had lost an inheritance of land, he was supposed to get it back.  Slaves were to become free people.  the land was supposed to lie fallow, for its benefit and that of the people.  The underlying principle was that everything belonged to God.

The theology of sin and suffering in Leviticus 26 is overly simplistic.  Sin leads to suffering; righteousness leads to blessings.  The Book of Job argues against this theology as a universal rule.  And Jesus, in Luke 13 and 14, was en route to Jerusalem to die–not for his own sins (as he had none) but for and because of the sins of others.  Herod Antipas (Luke 13:31-33) wanted Jesus dead.  His father, Herod the Great, had also wanted Jesus dead.  Seeking the death of another is certainly sinful.

Blessed are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of Man.  Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, look!–your reward will be great in heaven.  This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.

–Luke 6:22-23, The New Jerusalem Bible

Not all will go well for us when we walk with God.  Yet it is good to walk with God, regardless of the price one must pay.  What can one offer in exchange for one’s soul?

I close with words by William Alexander Percy (1885-1942):

The peace of God,

it is no peace,

but strife closed in the sod.

Yet let us pray for just one thing–

the marvelous peace of God.

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 16, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RUFUS JONES, QUAKER THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN FRANCIS REGIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BUTLER, ANGLICAN BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/leviticus-and-luke-part-viii-sin-and-suffering/

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Devotion for the Fifteenth Day of Easter: Third Sunday of Easter (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Above:  The Golden Calf, by James Tissot

Exodus and Luke, Part VII: Discipleship, Jesus, and the Mean God of Exodus 32

APRIL 18, 2021

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 32:15-35

Psalm 93 (Morning)

Psalms 136 and 117 (Evening)

Luke 6:39-49

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-third-sunday-of-easter/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-third-sunday-of-easter/

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Why do you call me, “Lord, Lord” and not do what I say?

–Luke 6:46, The New Jerusalem Bible

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Psalm 136 is a litany of thanksgiving to God.  The refrain is

his love endures forever.

(Revised English Bible)

Yet I do not see divine love in Exodus 32:15-35.  Do a massacre and a plague constitute love?  Earlier in the chapter Moses had talked God out of retribution, but his attempt at the end of the chapter failed.

I think that the account in Exodus 32:15-35 assumes that, since God is in control of nature, God must have sent the plague.  And, given the bloody nature of certain Bible stories, especially massacres of those of have committed idolatry (as in the case of Elijah and the priests of Baal), I imagine some ancients not batting an eyelash.  Idolatry was on par with murder and cursing or insulting one’s parents as capital offenses in the culture of the Israelites at the time of Moses.  I am  glad that I did not live then; parents selling children into slavery, people executing others for reasons that, in civilized cultures today, do not warrant judicial intervention–it is all too much for my liberal, post-Enlightenment tastes.

Yet I understand the unifying theme which runs between the main readings:  A disciple of God is one who follows God.  Rank hypocrisy offends, does it not?  Those three thousand or so people whom the Levites killed had sworn to keep the new covenant, the one Moses annulled when he broke the stone tablets.  Then, oddly by Western individualistic standards, God punished the faithful people with a plague.  Was the collective responsible?  So, even if I strive to live faithfully in a sinful society, am I still responsible for societal sins?  So, how faithful am I?  And, if I am very faithful, what is the point if God is going to punish me for the sins of others anyway?

I am reading a text written from one set of assumptions in a mindset foreign to it.  So certain aspects of the narrative “will not compute.”  As for faithfulness, I can only do my best to follow God via Jesus then trust Jesus, who is more merciful than God seems to be at the end of Exodus 32.  Comedian Lewis Black has said in a routine that maybe having a child calmed God down between the Old and the New Testaments.  It is a good joke, one which points to an evolution in God concepts in the Bible.  It is also true that, if one accepts the terms of the joke, one commits at least one heresy.  But, to borrow the language, I seek mercy through that child.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 8, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLARA LUGER, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF ROLAND ALLEN, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/exodus-and-luke-part-vii-discipleship-jesus-and-the-mean-god-of-exodus-32/

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