Archive for the ‘Matthew 5’ Tag

Devotion for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Lost Piece of Silver,by John Everett Millais

Image in the Public Domain

Jesus and the Lost

MAY 2, 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:

Acts 12:1-19

Psalm 148

1 Thessalonians 3:1-4:2

Luke 15:1-10

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The Gospel of Luke establishes the context for the Parables of the Lost Sheep/Good Shepherd and the Lost Coin:

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear [Jesus]. And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

–Luke 15:1-2, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

Do you, O reader, identify with the Pharisees and scribes or with the tax collectors and sinners in that passage?  Should not anyone be glad that Jesus was spending time in the company of those who knew they needed him?  The best translation of the first beatitude (Matthew 5:3) is not,

Blessed are the poor in spirit…,

but

Blessed are those who know their need for God….

God desires us, fortunately for us.

Psalm 148 invites all of creation to praise God.  The text never qualifies that principle or says, “unless….”  Indeed, times of affliction (as in the readings from Acts and 1 Thessalonians) are times to praise God.

If that principle confused you, O reader, I understand your confusion.  Praising God in times of joy and plenty is relatively easy.  Yet difficult times cast the blessings of God in stark contrast to what surrounds them.  Blessings become easier to recognize.  Nevertheless, one is in difficult circumstances.  Anxiety, uncertainty, and grief erect high walls to praising God.  Yet God is with us in our doldrums.  God seeks us, for we are valuable because God says we are.

That is a reason to rejoice and to praise God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

WEDNESDAY IN HOLY WEEK

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 AYRES, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERHOOD OF THE HOLY COMMUNION

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIONYSIUS OF CORINTH, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIE BILLIART, FOUNDRESS 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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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2020/04/08/jesus-and-the-lost/

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Devotion for Palm Sunday (Year D)   1 comment

entry-into-jerusalem-giotto

Above:  Entry Into Jerusalem, by Giotto

Image in the Public Domain

The Sin of Religious Violence

MARCH 28, 2021

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The Collect:

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

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

Psalm 94 or 35

John 8:48-59

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

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Accuse my accuser of Yahweh,

attack my attackers.

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

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

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN NITSCHMANN, SR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; DAVID NITSCHMANN, JR., THE SYNDIC, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, THE MARTYR, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CECIL FRANCES ALEXANDER, POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN LUDWIG BRAU, NORWEGIAN MORAVIAN TEACHER AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD OF LUCCA; AND JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/the-sin-of-religious-violence/

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Devotion for 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 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 Monday and Tuesday After the Third Sunday of Easter, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

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 19 and 20, 2021

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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 First Sunday in Lent, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Calling of St. Matthew Caravaggio

Above:  The Calling of St. Matthew, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

Knowing One’s Need for God

FEBRUARY 20, 2021

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The Collect:

Holy God, heavenly Father, in the waters of the flood you saved the chosen,

and in the wilderness of temptation you protected your Son from sin.

Renew us in the gift of baptism.

May your holy angels be with us,

that the wicked foe may have no power over us,

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:

Psalm 32

Psalm 25:1-10

Matthew 9:2-13

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For your Name’s sake, O LORD,

forgive my sin, for it is great.

–Psalm 25:10, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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How happy are those who know their need for God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

–Jesus in Matthew 5:3, The New Testament in Modern English–Revised Edition (1972), J. B. Phillips

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The emphasis this time, in contrast to the previous post, is the individual.

I lift up my soul….

Forgive my sin….

Then I acknowledged my sin….

“Blessed are the poor in spirit” is one of those well-worn King James phrases which requires explanation.  It refers to those who know their need for God and act accordingly.  Each one of us needs God, of course, but some are oblivious to that fact.  St. Matthew, originally a literal tax thief for the Roman Empire, knew his need for God and acted accordingly.  The paralyzed man with friends carrying him might have known of his need for God; the text says nothing about that point.  His friends, however, were acting based on confidence that Jesus would heal him.  On the other hand, Pharisees who accused our Lord and Savior or committing blasphemy (an offense punishable by death according to the Law of Moses) due to his act of healing and words of forgiveness (more the latter than the former) also criticized him for eating with tax collectors and sinners.  These Pharisees did not realize their need for God.  They would have, in fact, benefited from  open minds and many meals with Jesus.

A few days ago, on the Oconee Campus of the University of North Georgia, I encountered some members of an Evangelical college ministry.  I surmise that they were not from the school, for one young man representing the organization did not know that he was on a campus of a state college.  He asked me to complete a brief questionnaire.  I agreed.  One item entailed me rating my goodness on a scale of one (evil) to ten (perfect).  I guessed five, for I am far from both ends of the spectrum.  He and a comrade suggested that I was perhaps an eight or a nine, but I replied that no, I know myself.  (At least they were nice people.)

I know my need for God and the sacraments.  My record of acting on that knowledge is mixed.  Yet I improve, by grace.

None of us is worthy based on our own merit, but our effort is valuable nonetheless.  That little bit of desire and initiative is something with which God can work.  So may you, O reader, be aware of your need for God and respond favorably to God, regardless of how feeble and inadequate your response might seem.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 6, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETIUS OF TRIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP; AND SAINT AREDIUS OF LIMOGES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABRAHAM OF KRATIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, BISHOP, AND HERMIT

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF MYRA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF PHILIP BERRIGAN, SOCIAL ACTIVIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/11/knowing-ones-need-for-god/

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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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Nineteenth Day of Lent   14 comments

Moses with the Ten Commandments, by Rembrant van Rijn (1659)

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Wednesday, March 10, 2021

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

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Follow the assigned readings with me this Lent….

Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 5-9 (TANAKH: The Holy Scriptures):

[Moses said,]

And now, O Israel, give heed to the laws and rules that I am instructing you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you.  You shall not add anything to what I command you or take anything away from it, but keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I enjoin upon you.

See, I have imparted to you the laws and rules, as the LORD my God has commanded me, for you to abide by in the land that you are about to enter and occupy.  Observe them faithfully, for that will be proof of your wisdom and discernment to other peoples, who on hearing of all these laws will say, ‘Surely that great nation is a wise and discerning people.’  For what great nation is there that has a god so close at hand as is the LORD our God whenever we call upon Him?  Or what great nation has laws and rules as perfect as all this Teaching that I set before you this day?

But take utmost care and watch yourselves scrupulously, so that you do not forget the things that you saw with your own eyes and so that they do not fade from your mind as long as you live.  And make them known to your children and to your children’s children.

Psalm 78:1-8 (TANAKH: The Holy Scriptures):

Give ear, my people, to my teaching,

turn your ear to what I say.

I will expound a theme,

hold forth on the lessons of the past,

things we have heard and known,

that our fathers have hold us.

We will not withhold them from their children,

telling the coming generation

the praises of the LORD and His might,

and the wonders He performed.

He established a decree in Jacob,

ordained a teaching in Israel,

charging our fathers

to make known to their children,

that a future generation might know

–children yet to be born–

and in turn tell their children

that they might put their confidence in God,

and not forget God’s great deeds,

but observe His commandments,

and not be like their fathers,

a wayward and defiant generation,

a generation whose heart was inconstant,

whose spirit was not true to God.

Matthew 5:17-19 (The New Testament in Modern English–Revised Edition):

[Jesus said,]

You must not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to complete them.  Indeed, I assure you that, while Heaven and earth last, the Law will not lose a single dot or comma until its purpose is complete.  This means that whoever now relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men to do the same will himself be called least in the kingdom of Heaven.  But whoever teaches and practises them will be called great in the kingdom of Heaven.

The Collect:

Give ear to our prayers, O Lord, and direct the way of your servants in safety under our protection, that, amid all the changes of our earthly pilgrimage, we may be guarded by your mighty aid; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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The Law of Moses contains many great commandments, such as not committing murder and not coveting.  It also explains procedures to follow when selling one’s daughter into slavery (Exodus 21:7) and tells when stoning people to death is permissible.  And let us not forget Exodus 21:17, which reads, “Whoever curses father or mother shall be put to death.”

So, what are we to make of  the Law of Moses in relation to the example and teachings of Jesus?  I write as a Christian, after all.  Would Jesus tell a parent to sell his or her daughter into slavery?  Whom would Jesus stone?  And how should we interpret Exodus 21:17 in the light of forgiveness?

Jesus stated that the summary of the Law of Moses is to love God completely and one’s neighbor as oneself.  This is the simplest and best answer I can provide.  And don’t stone anyone, sell anyone into slavery, or execute any child who has cursed a parent.  Would you sell yourself into slavery?  Would you volunteer for a stoning?  And would you hand over your child for execution?

KRT

Written on February 28, 2010

Posted October 28, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2021, Episcopal Church Lectionary, March 10

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Tenth Day of Lent   13 comments

Apotheosis of War, by Vasily Vereshchagin (1871)

February 27, 2021

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

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Follow the assigned readings with me this Lent….

Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Deuteronomy 26:16-19 (New Jerusalem Bible):

[Moses said,]

Yahweh your God commands you today to observe these laws and customs; you must keep and observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.

Today you have obtained this declaration from Yahweh: that he will be your god, but only if you follow his ways, keep his statutes, his commandments, his customs, and listen to his voice.  And today Yahweh has obtained this declaration from you: that you will be his own people–as he has said–but only if you keep all his commandments; then for praise and renown and honour, he will raise you higher and every other nation he has made, and you will be a people consecrated to Yahweh, as he has promised.

Psalm 119:1-8 (New Jerusalem Bible):

How blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the Law of Yahweh!

Blessed are those who observe his instructions, who seek him with all their hearts,

and, doing no evil, who walk in his eyes.

You lay down your precepts to be carefully kept.

May my ways be steady in doing your will.

Then I shall not be shamed, if my gaze is fixed on your commandments.

I thank you with a sincere heart for teaching me your upright judgements.

I shall do your will; do not ever abandon me wholly.

Matthew 5:43-48 (New Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus said,]

You have heard how it was said, You will love your neighbour and hate your enemy.  But I say this to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; sot hat you may be children of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on the bad as well as the good, and sends down rain to fall on the upright and the wicked alike.  For if you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Do not even the tax collectors do as much?  And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional?  Do not even the gentiles do as much?  You must therefore be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The Collect:

O God, by your Word you marvelously carry out the work of reconciliation: Grant that in our Lenten fast we may be devoted to you with all our hearts, and united with one another is prayer and holy love; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Who can be perfect before God?  In the sense in which most of us use that word, nobody can.  Therefore the Matthew Gospel must use this word in a different way.  The parallel reading in Luke says “merciful” or “compassionate” (depending on the translation) ,” not “perfect.”  That is attainable by grace.

The New Interpreter’s Bible (Volume VIII) states that Matthew took the word from Deuteronomy 18:13, which reads, “You shall be perfect before the Lord your God.”  The Hebrew word translated “perfect” in this passage indicates wholeness.  Therefore,

To be perfect is to serve God wholeheartedly, to be single-minded in devotion to the one God, just as God is one, the ethical stance appropriate to a monotheistic faith.

This ethical monotheism includes loving oneself and loving others as one loves oneself.  The former must precede the latter.  The Law of Moses constituted a relatively high moral bar in its historical, geographical, and cultural contexts.  And Jesus raised the bar even higher.

This morning, on Speaking of Faith, a public radio program, I heard interviews with Israeli and Palestinian parents who lost children in the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  When these emotionally injured people spoke and listened to each other they understood that they had more in common than not; they shared the same pain.  And they understood their common humanity.

Stereotypes separate us from those we consider irreparably different from ourselves and, unless the scales fall away from our eyes, we will never recognize that our most powerful bond is our shared humanity.  This sentiment is not politically palatable in many settings, but neither is merely decent behavior in general, which is what I write of now.

All of us are children of God.  Some of us know we are children of God; others do not.  Some of us know that every human being is a child of God; others do not.  Yet we all bear the same divine image, and from that reality we derive what is good and noble about our nature.  From that reality we derive our natural rights.  From that reality we derive our equality.  And from that reality proceeds hope for peace, or at least less hostility.

KRT

Written on February 21, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/perfection-before-god/

Ninth Day of Lent   12 comments

Reconciliation Statue at Old Coventry Cathedral, Coventry, England

Image Source = Rebecca Kennison

February 26, 2021

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

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Follow the assigned readings with me this Lent….

Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Ezekiel 18:21-28 (New Jerusalem Bible):

[The world of Yahweh as addressed to me as follows,]

If the wicked, however, renounces all the sins he has committed, respects my laws and is law-abiding and upright, he will most certainly live; he will not die.  None of the crimes he has committed will be remembered against him from then on; he will most certainly live because of his upright actions.  Would I take pleasure in the death of the wicked–declares the Lord Yahweh–and not prefer to see him renounce his wickedness and live?

But if the upright abandons uprightness and does wrong by copying all the loathsome practices of the wicked, is he to live?  All his upright actions will be forgotten from then on; for the infidelity of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, he will most certainly die.

Now, you say, ‘What the Lord does is unjust.’ Now listen, House of Israel: is what I do unjust?  Is it not what you do that is unjust?  When the upright abandons uprightness and does wrong and dies, he dies because of the wrong which he himself has done.  Similarly, when the wicked abandons wickedness to become law-abiding and upright, he saves his own life.  Having chosen to renounce all his previous crimes, he will most certainly live; he will not die.

Psalm 130 (New Jerusalem Bible):

From the depths I cry to you, Yahweh:

Lord, hear my cry.

Listen attentively to the sound of my pleading!

If you kept a record of our sins, Lord, who could stand their ground?

But with you is forgiveness, that you may be revered.

I rely, my whole being relies, Yahweh, on your promise.

My whole being hopes in the Lord, more than watchmen for daybreak;

more than watchmen for daybreak let Israel hope in Yahweh.

For with Yahweh is faithful love, with him generous ransom;

and he will ransom Israel from all its sins.

Matthew 5:20-26 (New Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus said,]

For I tell you, if your uprightness does not surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.

You have heard how it was said to our ancestors, You shall not kill, and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court.  But I say this to you, anyone who is angry with a brother will answer for it before the court; anyone who calls a brother ‘Fool’ will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and anyone who calls him ‘Traitor’ will answer for it in hell fire.  So, then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering.  Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison.  In truth I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

The Collect:

Lord Christ, our eternal Redeemer, grant us such fellowship in your sufferings, that, filled with your Holy Spirit, we may subdue the flesh to the spirit, and the spirit to you, and at the last attain to the glory of your resurrection; who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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How much better would our households, extended families, neighborhoods, communities, towns, cities, counties, nations, and world be if more of us tried more often to treat each other with simple respect?  If we were to refrain from so many insults, much less acts of violence, not only would watching all-day cable news channels and reading comments beneath YouTube videos be more pleasant, but society would be in better shape than it is.

The main idea is that how we think dictates how we act.  I  refer to patterns of thinking, not rare and occasional stray thoughts.  So, with this in mind, consider the following hymn lyrics by John Keble.  They make the point better than I can.

1 New ev’ry morning is the love
our waking and uprising prove;
through sleep and darkness safely brought,
restored to life, and pow’r, and thought.

2 New mercies each returning day
hover around us while we pray;
new perils past, new sins forgiv’n,
new thoughts of God, new hopes of heav’n.

3 If on our daily course our mind
be set to hallow all we find,
new treasures still of countless price
God will provide for sacrifice.

4 The trivial round, the common task
will furnish all we need or ask:
room to deny ourselves, a road
to bring us daily nearer God.

5 Seek we no more; content with these,
let present rapture, comfort, ease
as God shall bid them, come and go–
the secret, this, of rest below.

6 Only, O Lord, in thy dear love
fit us for perfect rest above,
and help us this and every day
to live more nearly as we pray.

KRT

Written on February 21, 2010

Edited on October 27, 2010 and on June 13, 2012

Posted October 27, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2021, Episcopal Church Lectionary, February 26

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