Archive for the ‘Psalm 23’ Tag

Devotion for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Tribute Money, by Peter Paul Rubens

Image in the Public Domain

God’s Coins

MAY 3, 2020

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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 8:1-2, 9-25

Psalm 23

2 Peter 2:1-11

Mark 12:13-17

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The context for the reading from Mark 12 is Holy Week.  As one reads the chapter, one should notice the tension building up to the crucifixion in Chapter 15.

Jesus had the ability to spring traps on people who tried to ensnare him.  The Roman coin bore the idolatrous image of Emperor Tiberius, allegedly the “Son of God, ” the heir of Augustus, supposedly the “Savior of the World.”  The hypocrisy of Christ’s would-be ensnarers was evident physically by the possession of such a coin.

St. Augustine of Hippo, writing in On the Psalms 58, provided sage advice:

Caesar seeks his image; render it.  God seeks his image; render it.  Do not withhold from Caesar his coin.  Do not keep from God his coin.

In Tractates on John 40, St. Augustine wrote,

We are God’s money.

Empires, kingdoms, and nation-states rise and fall, but God lasts forever.  The latter deserves more love than the former.  Divine love, depending on the translation of Psalm 23, either pursues or accompanies us.  This grace, which is free, imposes demands and obligations on us in public and private morality.  We have an obligation to be God’s coins.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 27, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CORNELIUS HILL, ONEIDA CHIEF AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HUGH THOMSON KERR, SR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITURGIST; AND HIS SON, HUGH THOMSON KERR, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JAMES MOFFATT, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND BIBLE TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE GEORGIAN, ABBOT; AND SAINTS EUTHYMIUS OF ATHOS AND GEORGE OF THE BLACK MOUNTAIN, ABBOTS AND TRANSLATORS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/06/27/gods-coins/

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Devotion for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Sanhedrin

Image in the Public Domain

The Light of Christ, Part III

MAY 12, 2019

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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 4:1-22

Psalm 23

1 Peter 2:11-25

Matthew 13:44-52

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One can find examples of God smiting evildoers in the Bible.  The fate of the evil in Matthew 13 falls into a side category, one in which angels smite evildoers–at the end, on the day of judgment.  Until then, as in Psalm 23, God simply outclasses and overpowers the wicked, who cannot keep up, much of the time.  The wicked cease to pursue the righteous; divine goodness and mercy pursue or accompany the righteous, depending on the translation one considers authoritative.

Although I am reluctant to label members of the Sanhedrin evil, I side with Sts. John and Simon Peter in the confrontation with that council.  I also rejoice that the Sanhedrin, for all its authority, lacked the power to prevent the Apostles from preaching.  I thank God that the Sanhedrin could not keep up with God and part of the public.

May we be on God’s side.  May we heed the advice of 1 Peter 2:12 and behave honorably always, to the glory of God.  Human authority is not always worthy of respect and obedience, and slavery (in all its forms) is always wrong, so I agree with part of the reading from 1 Peter 2, a text some have used to justify chattel slavery and submitting to the Third Reich.  The politics of early, persecuted Christianity aside, sometimes one must oppose human authority in order to live faithfully, in accordance with the divine commandments.  Those figures of authority cannot keep up with God either, and the call to live as one should–to manifest the light of Christ–is timeless.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/05/31/the-light-of-christ-part-v/

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

Moravian Logo

Above:  The Logo of the Moravian Church

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

In Pursuit

MAY 9, 10, and 11, 2019

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The Collect:

O God of peace, you brought again from the dead

our Lord Jesus Christ, the shepherd of the sheep.

By the blood of your eternal covenant, make us complete

in everything good that we may do your will,

and work among us all that is well-pleasing in your sight,

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 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 11:1-25 (Thursday)

Ezekiel 20:39-44 (Friday)

Ezekiel 28:25-26 (Saturday)

Psalm 23 (All Days)

Revelation 5:1-10 (Thursday)

Revelation 6:1-7:4 (Friday)

Luke 12:29-32 (Saturday)

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The LORD is my shepherd;

I lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures;

He leads me to water in places of repose;

He renews my life;

He guides me in right paths

as befits His name.

Though I walk through a valley of deepest darkness,

I fear no harm, for You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff–they comfort me.

You spread a table for me in full view of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;

my drink is abundant.

Only goodness and steadfast love shall pursue me

all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD

for many long years.

–Psalm 23, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Psalm 23 is a familiar passage.  Perhaps familiarity breeds not contempt so much as it encourages turning on the automatic pilot when reading or hearing it.

O yes, I know this passage well,

we who are immersed in scripture might say to ourselves before we stop paying attention.  But how well do we really know the text?

Psalm 23 might have originated during the Babylonian Exile or afterward.  Imagine, O reader, Judean exiles pondering their foreign environs and hoping for a return to their ancestral homeland, of which they have only heard.  Or imagine exiles who have returned coming to terms with the fact that realities of life in that homeland fall short of fond hopes and prophetic promises.

Only goodness and steadfast love shall pursue me

all the days of my life

–Psalm 23:6a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

takes on a certain meaning then.  The enemies do not pursue; not “goodness and steadfast love” do–or will.  That is a timeless hope.

The themes of judgment, mercy, exile, and return run through these days’ readings.  Exile comes, persists for decades, and ends.  Restoration (by God, via human agents thereof) follows.  God expects us to live in ways that glorify Him, but we fall sort of that standard often.  Furthermore, obeying God in this life does not guarantee a peaceful, safe, and prosperous life.  Neither does disobeying God in this life guarantee the opposite result.  Yet there is the question of the afterlife.  Furthermore, for the divine order to come into its own, God must destroy its sinful, human predecessor.

Frequently good news for the oppressed constitutes catastrophic news for their oppressors who, ironically, hurt themselves by engaging in the work of oppression.  Thus oppression creates both victims and oppressors, but only only victims.  We humans are often the victims of our own bad decisions, thus we are frequently simultaneously victims and oppressors.  This need not be the case, for we can, by grace, walk the path of righteousness more often than not.  Enemies might still pursue us, as they did Jesus, but so will divine goodness and steadfast love.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 31, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF JOHN WYCLIFFE, BIBLE TRANSLATOR

NEW YEAR’S EVE

THE FEAST OF PHILIPP HEINRICH MOLTHER, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, BISHOP, COMPOSER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF ROSSITER WORTHINGTON RAYMOND, U.S. NOVELIST, POET, HYMN WRITER, AND MINING ENGINEER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/12/31/in-pursuit/

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

Good Shepherd, Ravenna

Above:  A Good Shepherd Mosaic from Ravenna, Italy

Image in the Public Domain

Shepherds, Part I

APRIL 19, 2018

APRIL 20, 2018

APRIL 21, 2018

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The Collect:

O Lord Christ, good shepherd of the sheep,

you seek the lost and guide us into your fold.

Feed us, and we shall be satisfied;

heal us, and we shall be whole.

Make us one with you, for you live and reign with the Father

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 30:25-43 (Thursday)

Genesis 46:28-47:6 (Friday)

Genesis 48:8-19 (Saturday)

Psalm 23 (All Days)

Acts 3:17-36 (Thursday)

Acts 4:1-4 (Friday)

Mark 6:30-34 (Saturday)

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The LORD is my shepherd;

I lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures;

He leads me to water in places of repose;

He renews my life;

He guides me in right paths

as befits His name.

Though I walk through a valley of deepest darkness,

I fear no harm, for You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff–they comfort me.

You spread a table for me in full view of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;

my drink is abundant.

Only goodness and steadfast love shall pursue me

all the days of my life;

and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for many years.

–Psalm 23, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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The theme for these three days is shepherds.

Shepherds functioned as interesting metaphors.  They were essential to the economy yet were far from respectable and pleasant smelling.  Nevertheless, monarchs were metaphorical shepherds of their kingdoms.  And Jesus, of course, became known as the Good Shepherd.

Jacob/Israel was a shepherd and a trickster.  Laban, his father-in-law, tricked him, so Jacob/Israel returned the favor, won his independence from Laban, and became wealthy.  The patriarch, due to a lie most of his sons told him, mourned one son, Joseph, whom he thought was dead.  Happily, Joseph was alive in Egypt.  Jacob/Israel, reunited with Joseph, blessed his grandchildren via that son, surprising Joseph by announcing that the second grandson’s descendants would be more prominent than those of the first.  The name of Ephraim became synonymous with the Kingdom of Israel (northern), which, like the Kingdom of Judah (southern), had plenty of bad kings.

Many earthly “shepherds,” Biblical prophets proclaimed, fell short of the divinely set standards of proper governance.  A proper “shepherd,” they said, opposed idolatry, economic injustice, and judicial corruption.  He looks after the interests of people who have nobody else to protect them, the prophets said.

A shepherd needs the sheep at least as much as the sheep need him.  What is a shepherd without sheep?  Who is a leader without followers?  What is a creator without a creation?  Such an interpretation troubles some, I know, but I did not create the metaphor.  No, I merely explore its implications faithfully and intellectually honestly.

Jesus, our Good Shepherd, has pity on us, for we are like sheep without a shepherd.  We are inclined to go astray easily, so we need the proper guidance.  May we heed it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY SAYERS, NOVELIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/shepherds-part-i/

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Devotion for the Twenty-First Day of Easter, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

06366v

Above:  Shepherds and Sheep, Between 1898 and 1946

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-06366

Predatory Shepherds

SATURDAY, MAY 2, 2020

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The Collect:

O God our shepherd, you know your sheep by name

and lead us to safety through the valleys of death.

Guide us by your voice, that we may walk in certainty and security

to the joyous feast prepared in your house,

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 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 34:1-16

Psalm 23

Luke 15:1-7

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The LORD is my shepherd;

I shall not be in want.

You make me lie down in green pastures

and lead me beside still waters.

–Psalm 23:1-2, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Psalm 23 and Luke 15:4-7 provide useful contrasts to the predatory “shepherds” of Ezekiel 34:1-16.  Yahweh is the Good Shepherd in Psalm 23.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd in Luke 15.  The latter material is especially familiar to me, for I have researched it recently.  There were teams of shepherds who guarded village flocks, which were assets.  One shepherd sought out a lost sheep while his coworkers guarded the others.

The “shepherds” of Ezekiel 34:1-16 were leaders of the kingdom.  They had become predators, not protectors.  They had scattered the flock and not tended to the needs of the sheep.  These bad “shepherds” had engaged in economic exploitation and official corruption.  And God was about to replace, said Ezekiel, for the benefit of the flock.

Corruption is among the leading causes of poverty, as people who live in developing countries with abundant and coveted natural resources can attest.  The discovery of oil, for example, should improve the standard of living for the masses there, but it usually benefits just a few while the majority persist in poverty because the few hoard the wealth instead of sharing it.  Greed is truly the root of all human evil and a persistent social problem.  May all agents of it either repent and convert (the preferred remedy) or fail in their perfidious plots, by the efforts of moral people who are agents of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ADELAIDE, HOLY ROMAN EMPRESS

THE FEAST OF MARIANNE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/predatory-shepherds/

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Devotion for the Nineteenth and Twentieth Days of Easter, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Finneran Source Card

Above:  A Germane Source Card from My Collection of Research Note Cards

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Liberating Grace

THURSDAY, APRIL 30, 2020, and FRIDAY, MAY 1, 2020

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The Collect:

O God our shepherd, you know your sheep by name

and lead us to safety through the valleys of death.

Guide us by your voice, that we may walk in certainty and security

to the joyous feast prepared in your house,

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 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 2:15b-25 (19th Day)

Exodus 3:16-22; 4:18-20 (20th Day)

Psalm 23 (Both Days)

1 Peter 2:9-12 (19th Day)

1 Peter 2:13-17 (20th Day)

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You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me;

you have anointed my head with oil,

and my cup is running over.

–Psalm 23:5, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Names have power, or so many people believed in the time of Moses.  To know someone’s name was usually to have some power over that person, hence God provides more of a description than a name–and a vague one at that–in response to the query of Moses.  The transliterated Hebrew text reads:

Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh,

which is how TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) renders it.  The germane footnote in the that translation says:

Meaning of Heb. uncertain; variously translated:  “I Am That I Am”; “I Am Who I Am”; “I Will Be What I Will Be”; etc.

The relevant note in The Jewish Study Bible (2004) begins:

God’s proper name, disclosed in the next verse, is YHVH (spelled “yod-heh-vav-heh” in Heb.; in ancient times the “vav” was pronounced “w”).  But here God first tells Moses its meaning:  Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh, probably best translated as “I Will Be What I Will Be,” meaning “My nature will become evident from My actions.”

–page 111

“Ehyeh,” or “I Will Be,” is not a name that says much.  It denies opportunities to attempt to have power over God and preserves mystery while indicating how to learn about God.

Volume I (1994) of The New Interpreter’s Bible informs me that the name YHVH/YHWH derives from the Hebrew verb meaning “to be,” so:

This God is named as the power to create, the one who causes to be.  This God is the one who will be present in faithful ways to make possible what is not otherwise possible.  This God is the very power of newness that will make available new life for Israel outside the deathliness of Egypt.

–page 714

The politics of Exodus 2 and 3 is that of liberation of the oppressed from their oppressors.  God, these texts tell us, will free the Hebrews from the tyranny of the Pharaoh.  Yet I read difficult politics–that of submission to authority, regardless of its moral nature–in 1 Peter 2:13-17.  The next pericope is more chilling, for it tells slaves to obey their masters.  There have been different forms of slavery over the course of time, of course, but I propose that this, for the point I am making today, is a distinction without a difference; no form of human slavery is morally acceptable.  1 Peter comes from a time when many Christians were attempting to prove that they did not constitute a threat to the Roman Empire, which had executed the founder of their religion via crucifixion.  And many Christians thought that Jesus might return soon, so social reform or revolution was not a priority for some.

The relationship of Christians to civil authority has long been a challenging one, especially in Lutheran theology.  And the arch-conservative (racist and reactionary, really) Presbyterian Journal, which helped to give birth to the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) denomination in December 1973, spent much of the 1940s through the 1960s lambasting civil rights efforts and activists and quoting the Bible to justify Jim Crow laws.  (I have examined original copies of the publication and possess the notes to prove the statement I just made.)  The Journal writers, who called Martin Luther King, Jr., a Communist even after he had died, did not approve of his opposition to the Vietnam War either.  They, in fact, criticized in very strong terms even conscientious objectors and all forms of civil disobedience, claiming them to be contrary to Christianity.  The beating of this drum continued into the 1970s.  In the 30 October 1974 issue, on pages 11 and 16, Editor G. Aiken Taylor commended and reprinted words by one Joan B. Finneran, whom he called

an elect lady of Simpsonville, MD.

Finneran wrote that the Bible commands us to obey earthly authority, for God establishes governments.  Therefore:

When a Herod or a Hitler comes into power, we must thereby assume this is the Lord’s plan; He will use even such as these to put His total plan into effect for the good of His people here on earth.

God is in control, Finneran wrote, even if we, in our ignorance, do not understand divine plans.  And we Americans ought to vote carefully and to pray for our elected officials–and obey them, of course.  Finneran’s message, cloaked in details of Reformed theology,was one of submission to authority–even genocidal tyrants.  That fact overrides any technically correct parts of her case in my mind.

I reject Finneran’s message, for, if one cannot disobey the Third Reich righteously, which regime can one oppose properly?  Even the very conservative Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America understood the limits of obedience to human authority well in 1896, when the Synod passed a resolution condemning the Ottoman Empire for its massacres of Armenians and declaring that the Sultan’s regime had lost its moral right to govern.

I must, in all fairness and accuracy, point out that the Presbyterian Church in America has (subsequent to 1974) approved of civil disobedience in some cases and (in 2004) approved a pastoral letter condemning racism.

The Old Testament reveals the character of God mostly by recounting what God has done.  God has, among other things, freed people.  The central theme of the Bible is liberation to follow God.  Our patterns of behavior reveal our character.  Do we even try to follow God?  Do we even attempt to aid those who suffer?  Do we even care about the oppressed?  Good intentions are positive, of course; they are preferable to bad ones.  Yet we need grace to succeed.  That, fortunately, is plentiful from God, who makes life itself and new life free from tyranny possible.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ADELAIDE, HOLY ROMAN EMPRESS

THE FEAST OF MARIANNE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/liberating-grace/

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Devotion for the Twentieth, Twenty-First, and Twenty-Second Days of Lent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Kind_en_Kaars

Above:  Lighting a Votive Candle

Image Source = AutoCCD

The Light Shining in the Darkness

THURSDAY-SATURDAY, MARCH 19-21, 2020

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The Collect:

Bend your ear to our prayers, Lord Christ, and come among us.

By your gracious life and death for us, bring light into the darkness

of our hearts, and anoint us with your Spirit, for you live and reign

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 28

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 15:10-21 (20th Day)

1 Samuel 15:22-31 (21st Day)

1 Samuel 15:32-34 (22nd Day)

Psalm 23 (All Days)

Ephesians 4:25-32 (20th Day)

Ephesians 5:1-9 (21st Day)

John 1:1-9 (22nd Day)

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You revive my spirit:

and guide me in right pathways

for your name’s sake.

–Psalm 23:3, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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1 Samuel 15 confuses me.  The readings from Ephesians tell me to follow Christ as an example, to forgive people, to love them, and to deal generously with them.  But 1 Samuel 15 tells a story in which King Saul falls out of favor with God for not committing enough violence.  In a holy war an army was supposed to destroy and kill completely, but Saul’s forces did not do that.  The concept of God in that chapter is not the one in my head.

No, I follow Jesus, who did not slaughter yet whom Roman imperial forces crucified.  I follow Christ—victim and victor, sacrifice and priest.  I follow Jesus, the light of the world, the light which

shines in the darkness.

Yet

…the darkness has never mastered it.

–John 1:5, The Revised English Bible (1989)

I read the Bible through the lenses of what the late Donald Armentrout called

Gospel glasses.

Thus I acknowledge the superiority of the four canonical gospels to the rest of the canon of Scripture.  And I recognize Jesus of Nazareth as the template to follow.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 26, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN BERCHMANS, ROMAN CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN

THE FEAST OF ISAAC WATTS, HYMN WRITER

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/the-light-shining-in-the-darkness/

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