Archive for the ‘Racism’ Tag

Devotion for the Second Sunday in Lent (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:  St. Titus

Image in the Public Domain

Difficulty

MARCH 8, 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:

Genesis 9:18-27

Psalm 39:4-8a

Titus 2:1-10

Matthew 12:38-42

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Some of the readings for this Sunday are difficult.  Genesis 9:18-27 gives us the misnamed Curse of Ham (“Cursed be Canaan,” verse 25 says).  This curse follows a euphemistic description of either the castration or the incestuous and homosexual rape of Noah by his son Ham.  As one acquainted with the shameful history of racism, slavery, and institutionalized racial segregation  in the United States knows well, the misuse of this passage to justify these sins is an old story.  I know that story well, due to reading in both primary and secondary sources.  Primary sources include back issues of The Presbyterian Journal (founded as The Southern Presbyterian Journal), a publication by and for ardent defenders of racism and institutionalized racial segregation in the 1940s forward, some of whom went on to found the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), schismatic to the Presbyterian Church in the United States, or, informally, the old Southern Presbyterian Church, in 1973.  (The events of 1942-1972 are not ancient history!)  I have index cards from which I can cite many examples of quoting this and other passages of scripture to criticize efforts to work for the civil rights of African Americans, so nobody should challenge me regarding the facts of this objective matter.

Titus 2:1-10 is likewise troublesome.  Insisting upon submissive wives and slaves is indefensible.  If one thinks that Jesus might return during one’s lifetime, one might not argue for social reform.  God will take care of that, right?  Maybe not!  Besides, do we not still have the moral obligation to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  The epistle dates to the first century C.E.  I am typing this post in  2017, however.  The passage of time has proven the inaccuracy of the expectation that Jesus would return in the first century C.E.

David Ackerman summarizes these two readings as focusing

on ways in which God calls Christians to repent of misusing the Bible to the unjust exclusion and oppression of others.

Beyond the Lectionary (2013), pages 37-38

The lack of faith of certain scribes and Pharisees is evident in Matthew 12, for they request a sign from Jesus.  (Faith requires no signs.)  Our Lord and Savior replies in such a way as to indicate

rejection experienced in death yet God’s victory over it.

The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003), page 1768

The possibility of death is evident in Psalm 39.  A sense of awareness of one’s mortality and vulnerability pervades the text.  The author turns to God for deliverance.

Sometimes deliverance from death does not come.  Yet, in God, there is victory over death.

May, via God, there also be an end to

unjust exclusion and oppression of others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 6, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANKLIN CLARK FRY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA AND THE LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLAUDE OF BESANCON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF HENRY JAMES BUCKOLL, AUTHOR AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM KETHE, PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/06/06/difficulty/

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Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before the Second Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Abraham and Lot Separate

Above:  Abraham and Lot Separate

Image in the Public Domain

Legalism and Fidelity

MARCH 14 and 15, 2019

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The Collect:

God of the covenant, in the mystery of the cross

you promise everlasting life to the world.

Gather all peoples into your arms, and shelter us with your mercy,

that we may rejoice in the life we share in 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 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 13:1-7, 14-18 (Thursday)

Genesis 14:17-24 (Friday)

Psalm 27 (Both Days)

Philippians 3:2-12 (Thursday)

Philippians 3:17-20 (Friday)

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The LORD is my light and my salvation;

whom then shall I fear?

the LORD is the strength of my life;

of whom then shall I be afraid?

–Psalm 27:1, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Sometimes the portrayal of Abram/Abraham in the Bible puzzles me.  In Hebrews 10:8-22 the patriarch is a pillar of fidelity to God.  Yet he hedges his bets and lies in Genesis 12, and the only people who suffer are the Pharaoh of Egypt and members of the royal household.  Abram exiles his firstborn son, Ishmael, in Genesis 21:8-21.  The patriarch intercedes on behalf of strangers in Genesis 19 yet not for his second son, Isaac, three chapters later.  Abram, who is wealthy, refuses even to appear to have enriched himself by means of the King of Sodom in Genesis 14.  In so doing the patriarch, who has just paid a tithe of war booty to Melchizedek, King of Salem (Jerusalem) and priest of El Elyon, a Canaanite sky deity, invokes YHWH, not El Elyon.  I do not know what to make of Abram/Abraham.

Circumcision is a major issue in Philippians 3.  St. Paul the Apostle refers to rival missionaries who favor the circumcision of Gentile male converts to Christianity.  He calls these Judaizers “dogs,” a strong insult many Jews reserved for Gentiles.  One can find the mandate for circumcision of males (including some Gentiles) in Genesis 17:9-14, where it is a sign of the Abrahamic Covenant.  It has been, for Jews, a physical sign of the covenant for millennia.  It has become an emotional issue for people who favor it as a religious obligation and a mark of identity as well as for those who consider it cruel.

In Philippians 3 circumcision is, for St. Paul the Apostle, a physical sign of righteousness based on law, not on active faith in God.  The line between legalism and righteousness can be difficult to locate sometimes.  One should obey certain commandments out of fidelity and love and respect for God.  One loves and honors God, so one keeps the commandments of God.

If you love me you will obey my commands…,

John 14:15 (The Revised English Bible, 1989) quotes Jesus as saying.  But when does keeping commandments turn into a fetish of legalism?  And when does the maintenance of one’s identity transform into exclusion of others?  Where is that metaphorical line many people cross?

One sure way of knowing if one has crossed that line is catching that person obsessing over minute details while overlooking pillars of morality such as compassion.  If one, for example, complains not because Jesus has healed someone but because he has done this on the Sabbath, one is a legalist.  If one becomes uptight about personal peccadilloes yet remains unconcerned about institutionalized injustice (such as that of the sexist, racial, and economic varieties), one is a legalist.  If one’s spiritual identity entails labeling most other people as unclean or damned, one is a legalist.  If one thinks that moral living is merely a matter of following a spiritual checklist, one is a legalist.  If one becomes fixated on culturally specific examples of timeless principles at the expense of those principles, one is a legalist.

May we who claim to follow and love God eschew legalism.  May we also care for our close friends and relatives at least as much as we do suffering strangers for which we harbor concern.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 14, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN AMOS COMENIUS, FATHER OF MODERN EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF THE CONSECRATION OF SAMUEL SEABURY, FIRST EPISCOPAL BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ROMANIS, ANGLICAN BISHOP AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/11/14/legalism-and-fidelity/

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Devotion for the Forty-First and Forty-Second Days of Easter, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Elisha-Eliseus

Above:  Elisha

Image in the Public Domain

The Passed Torch

FRIDAY, MAY 22, 2020, and SATURDAY, MAY 23, 2020

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The Collect:

O God of glory, your Son Jesus Christ suffered for us

and ascended to your right hand.

Unite us with Christ and each other in suffering and joy,

that all the world may be drawn into your bountiful presence,

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 35

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 2:1-12 (41st Day)

2 Kings 2:13-15 (42nd Day)

Psalm 93 (All Days)

Ephesians 2:1-7 (41st Day)

John 8:21-30 (42nd Day)

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Your testimonies are very sure,

and holiness adorns your house, O LORD,

forever and forevermore.

–Psalm 93:5, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The account from 2 Kings 2:1-15 is a story of the passing of the torch from Elijah to Elisha.  The transfer of a double portion of the former’s spirit to the latter, per Deuteronomy 21:17, marked Elisha as having the status of an elder son, therefore Elijah’s legitimate successor.  And, as a careful reader of 2 Kings knows well, stories of Elisha’s mighty deeds abound.  Some of these stories resemble incidents from the Gospels, down to a feeding of a multitude (with little food available) and to restoring dead people to life.

Speaking of Jesus, his Ascension passed the torch to his Apostles, some of whose subsequent stories we read in the Acts of the Apostles.  And each Christian generation has passed the torch to the next one.

The task of serving God in a wide variety of circumstances is a challenge–one which we have grace to help us accomplish.  This grace liberates us from spiritual death and other obstacles to glorifying and enjoying God forever.  By grace we can do more  for God’s glory and the benefit of our fellow human beings than we can imagine.  By grace members of previous generations have challenged (and eventually) ended race-based chattel slavery, for example.  That multi-generational task was daunting, but that adjective describes many worthwhile efforts.  Fortunately, many other tasks from God play out within a shorter timeframe.

What, O reader, is God commanding and empowering you to do?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 19, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE NINETEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF LARS OLSEN SKRESFSRUD, LUTHERAN MISSIONARY

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/26/the-passed-torch/

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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 Eleventh Day of Easter (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

Above:  Fishing on the Sea of Galilee, Circa 1913

Image Source = Library of Congress

Exodus and Luke, Part IV: Grace and Responsibility

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 22, 2020

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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 24:1-18

Psalm 99 (Morning)

Psalms 8 and 118 (Evening)

Luke 5:1-16

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In Exodus 24 the Israelites vowed to obey God’s laws.  We–you, O reader, and I–know what happened next, do we not?  Their actions belied these words–not just at Mount Sinai/Horeb, but afterward.  And this pattern marked the narrative of the Israelite people throughout the Hebrew Scriptures.

It is really our story, is it not?  It is not just my individual story or yours, O reader; it is the human story.  It is the story of societies, cultures, and subcultures.  Even when we try to get it right, we run the risk of getting it wrong.  So we practice or condone a variety of sins, ranging from economic exploitation to racial discrimination to homophobia to xenophobia.  We quote the Bible to justify sexism or race-based chattel slavery or Jim Crow or Apartheid.  We mistreat resident aliens even though, a long time ago, our father was a wandering Aramean, poetically speaking.  We are really messed up.

In Luke 5:1-11 Jesus called Simon Peter (whose mother-in-law he had healed in 4:38-39) and his (our Lord’s) first cousins, James and John, sons of Zebedee.  Simon Peter tried to exclude himself from our Lord’s presence, but Jesus did not permit that.  The recognition of his own sinfulness was honest, but grace refused to let go.  And so he and the cousins followed Jesus.

Grace which refuses to let us go calls us to follow God.  Simon Peter, who often spoke when he should have been silent and even denied Jesus three times, met his fate–crucifixion upside-down.  Centuries before, the prophet Isaiah, aware of his sinfulness, experienced the same grace before volunteering to speak for God.  The prophet knew that his society had gone terribly awry.  And God sent him to confront it.  (Read Isaiah 6.)  What will such grace require of you, O reader?  And what will it require of me?

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/2013/03/01/exodus-and-luke-part-iv-grace-and-responsibility/

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Devotion for the First Day of Easter: Easter Sunday (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   10 comments

Above:  Jim Crow Jubilee, Sheet Music  Cover, Circa 1847

Image Source = Library of Congress

Exodus and Hebrews, Part VIII: Covenants

SUNDAY, APRIL 12, 2020

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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 14:10-31

Psalm 93 (Morning)

Psalms 136 and 117 (Evening)

Hebrews 7:23-8:13

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/prayer-for-easter-sunday/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-easter-sunday/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/prayer-of-dedication-for-easter-sunday/

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I’m just telling you what you already know….You know what’s right; trust yourselves.  Learn to love.  Learn to forgive.

–Jesus at the end of Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter (2001)

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I chose not to resist the desire to quote Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter, that crazy movie, which, by the way, one needs a firm grasp of the Gospels to comprehend fully.  And the quote relates to the readings for this day.

The Exodus from Egypt occurs in Exodus 14:10-31.  And Psalm 136 and Hebrews 8:6-12 refer to the Exodus.  Hebrews, when mentioning the Exodus, quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34, the glue which holds this set of readings together.  God liberated the Israelites from Egypt and established a covenant with them.  But Jeremiah 31:31-34 reminds us, they violated it.  Therefore consequences befell the people.  Yet God will establish a new covenant, one internalized by the people.  This is the covenant, of which Jesus is the mediator, according to Hebrews 8:6-13.

As a  song says,

You have to be taught to hate.

I labor under no delusions that unsocialized infants are pristine creatures then that society corrupts them.  In fact, I suspect that the roots of bullying reside in human nature itself.  Nevertheless, we do learn prejudices from others.  We learn a great deal from others as they socialize us.  Sometimes this is for the worse, as in racism and any other form of group-based hatred and related discrimination.  We are not born hating; no, we learn to do that.

So, if we look within ourselves and post negative socialization, we will find some great virtues, such as altruism.  We will obey the covenant God has placed within us.  We have a living role model, one whom humans killed yet which God raised to life again.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 2, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN OF SWEDEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY, BISHOP, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF LYONS (A.K.A. SAINT BLANDINA AND HER COMPANIONS)

THE FEAST OF REINHOLD NIEBUHR, UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST THEOLOGIAN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/exodus-and-hebrews-part-viii-covenants/

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Devotion for the Fifth Sunday in Lent (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Above:  Christ Episcopal Church, Norcross, Georgia, March 11, 2012

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Exodus and Mark, Part I:  Liberation Via Jesus

SUNDAY, MARCH 29, 2020

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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 1:1-22

Psalm 84 (Morning)

Psalms 42 and 32 (Evening)

Mark 14:12-31

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Some Related Posts:

A Prayer to See Others As God Sees Them:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/19/a-prayer-to-see-others-as-god-sees-them/

A Prayer for Compassion:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/a-prayer-for-compassion/

A Prayer to Embrace Love, Empathy, and Compassion, and to Eschew Hatred, Invective, and Willful Ignorance:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/a-prayer-to-embrace-love-empathy-and-compassion-and-to-eschew-hatred-invective-and-willful-ignorance/

A Prayer of Thanksgiving for the Holy Eucharist:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/31/a-prayer-of-thanksgiving-for-the-holy-eucharist/

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/prayer-for-the-fifth-sunday-in-lent/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-fifth-sunday-in-lent/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/prayer-of-confession-for-the-fifth-sunday-in-lent/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-fifth-sunday-in-lent/

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Sin permeates and corrupts our entire being and burdens us more and more with fear, hostility, guilt, and misery.  Sin operates not only within individuals but also within society as a deceptive and oppressive power, so that even men of good will are unconsciously and unwillingly involved in the sins of society.  Man cannot destroy the tyranny of sin in himself or in his world; his only hope is to be delivered from it by God.

–Total Depravity Paragraph, A Brief Statement of Belief (1962), Presbyterian Church in the United States

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The midwives who spared Hebrew boys were heroines.  Too often readers of Exodus might read past the names of Shiphrah and Puah quickly.  Yet may we pause and repeat these names with much respect.  They put themselves at great risk for strangers.  It was the right thing to do.

Jesus, in the other main reading, was about to put himself at risk.  (Look ahead:  Gethsemane occurs in the next day’s Gospel lection.)  He put himself at risk for those he knew and many more he did not–in his generation and succeeding ones.  First, though, he instituted the Holy Eucharist, a sacrament in which we take him (literally) into our bodies.  If we are what we eat and drink, may the Holy Eucharist make us more like our Lord and Savior.

I have heard and pondered a convincing theological case that the Exodus is the central theme of the Christian Bible.  the miracle of the Exodus, according to the Book of Exodus, is not that the waters parted.  14:21 speaks of

a strong east wind

(TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures),

an attempt at a natural explanation.  (If one accepts nature as an expression of God, divine workings through nature are natural, not supernatural; no they are just a form of natural we might not understand in the way in which we grasp other natural events.)  No, the miracle of the Exodus is that God freed the Hebrews from slavery.

Is not the message of the living Jesus (from the Incarnation to the Resurrection) liberation?  Is it not the message of liberation from societal sin (including economically exploitative and/or religiously-backed systems), not just personal peccadilloes?  As a supporter of civil rights for all people, I know that this conviction has fueled movements to end Jim Crow in the United States and Apartheid in South Africa, to name just two examples.  “Sacrament” derives from the Latin word for or an oath or a solemn obligation.  (Thanks to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language for that information.)  The solemn obligation I make every time I partake of the Holy Eucharist is to follow my Lord, including in social liberation for my fellow human beings.

Recently I spent a rather intense two days working on a local history project for a fellow parishioner.  Athens, Georgia, is the home of the Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery, an abandoned resting place for the remains of African Americans in Clarke County.  I prepared a spreadsheet presenting information (derived from death certificates issued from 1919 to 1927) and available from the State of Georgia online) for 236 people.  How old were they when they died?  Why did they die?  What did they do for a living?  As I worked two-hour shifts I learned a great deal.  And I wondered what their lives were like.  Many were former slaves.  Others had been born after emancipation.  But all who died between 1919 and 1927 lived at the height of Jim Crow in Georgia.  And I know that many self-described God-fearing white Christians defended Jim Crow, as many had done for the same relative to slavery.  Some argued that God had ordained slavery and segregation–or just segregation.  (I have read some of these defenses.  I have note cards full of citations and can point to secondary studies on the subject.)  Those whites, I am convinced, did not love all of their neighbors as they loved themselves, for they would not have subjected themselves to such an oppressive system and second-class citizenship.

I wonder what my racial attitudes would have been had I been born in 1873, not 1973.  It is easy for me to be a racially liberal white person in 2012, but what would I have thought in Georgia in 1912, given the socialization then?  Damning racist forebears is like picking low-hanging fruit, not that there is anything wrong with that.  Yet I need to examine my own attitudes for the higher-hanging fruit.  Everyone needs to examine himself or herself for negative attitudes.  Which neighbors (especially as defined by groups) do we love less than others? And which, if any, do we dismiss, despise, or consider inferior?  Which, if any, do we think unworthy of fewer civil liberties and civil rights?  Do not all of us bear the image of God?  Yet we approve of these sinful hierarchies and place ourselves in privileged positions at the expense of others.

The liberation via Jesus is not just of others from ourselves and of each of us from our personal peccadilloes; it is also liberation from ourselves, our biases, our prejudices, and our blind spots.  It is liberation to love all our neighbors, people who bear the image of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 29, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE FIRST U.S. PRESBYTERIAN BOOK OF CONFESSIONS, 1967

THE FEAST OF JIRI TRANOVSKY, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LUKE KIRBY, THOMAS COTTAM, WILLIAM FILBY, AND LAURENCE RICHARDSON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/exodus-and-mark-part-i-liberation-via-jesus/

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