Archive for the ‘Sovereignty of God’ Tag

Devotion for Pentecost, Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Pentecost Dove

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Light in the Darkness

JUNE 5, 2022

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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 2:1-21 or Joel 2:21-32 (Protestant and Anglican)/Joel 2:21-3:5 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Roman Catholic)

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

Acts 2:1-11 or Romans 8:22-27

John 15:26-16:15

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The Humes lectionary readings for Pentecost across all four years are mostly the same.  In fact, the readings for Years B and D on this day are identical.  I understand; feasible options are limited.

Anyway, after writing lectionary-based devotions for more than a decade, I fall barely short of dreading composing another devotion for Pentecost.  My perspective is unique; only I know how often I have repeated myself.  I may have something not excessively repetitive to offer in this post.

One of the major themes in the Gospel of John is the conflict between light (good) and darkness (evil).  We read that the Holy Spirit will reveal to the world how wrong it has been about sin, about who was in the right, and about judgment.

Pentecost was nearly 2000 years ago.  The world has persisted in a state of denial and obliviousness.  Human nature has not changed.

Yet may we take courage.  God remains sovereign.  And those who cleave to the light remain in Christ, who is in God.  The light shines on the just and the unjust.  And the darkness has not overcome the light.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 12, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT BISCOP, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT OF WEARMOUTH

THE FEAST OF SAINT AELRED OF HEXHAM, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT OF RIEVAULX

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY PUCCI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY ALFORD, ANGLICAN PRIEST, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, LITERARY TRANSLATOR, HYMN WRITER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND BIBLE TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGUERITE BOURGEOYS, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/12/light-in-the-darkness-part-vi/

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This is post #450 of LENTEN AND EASTER DEVOTIONS.

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Devotion for the Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Christ and the Adulteress, by Rocco Marconi

Image in the Public Domain

In Vain

MAY 29, 2022

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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 19:1-20

Psalm 97

3 John

John 8:1-11

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The name of Jesus has power, but only when people who believe in him use it.  Consider, O reader, the hilarious scene in Acts 19:11-20 and the serious issue (division of a congregation by one man) in the Third Letter of John.  God is the king and the earth should exult, as Psalm 97 reminds us.  However, some people still use religion self-servingly.

John 7:53-8:11 is a floating pericope.  Some ancient copies of the Gospel of Luke place it in different locations.  The final version of the Gospel of Luke lacks it.  And one can jump from John 7:52 to 8:12 without missing a beat.  This floating pericope is a compelling story–originally part of the Gospel of Luke–that has settled down as John 7:53-8:11.

Those who sought to entrap Jesus (yet again) used an adulteress as their pawn.  They seemed unconcerned about the whereabouts of the man with whom she had sinned.  Where was he?  His absence was conspicuous.

These Pharisees had distorted the Law of Moses to attempt to entrap Jesus.  They had focused on the death penalty (Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22) for one sinner and not the other one.  These Pharisees had also ignored the real issue at work in the Law of Moses vis-à-vis adultery:  the protection and stability of a man’s property.  Whatever Jesus wrote, he compelled the accusers to leave.  He reversed the trap.

Then Jesus forgave the woman.

The Law of God is not a blunt weapon to manipulate for one’s purposes.  Neither is the name of Jesus.

This point leads me back to Exodus 20:7:

You shall not misuse the name of Yahweh your God, for Yahweh will not leave unpunished anyone who misuses his name.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Robert D. Miller, II, of The Catholic University of America, offers a germane analysis of this commandment in his Understanding the Old Testament course (2019) for The Great Courses.  He explains:

This is a warning that there is no possibility of involving the name of God without something happening.

–Course Guidebook, 39

That something may involve ricochet.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 12, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT BISCOP, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT OF WEARMOUTH

THE FEAST OF SAINT AELRED OF HEXHAM, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT OF RIEVAULX

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY PUCCI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY ALFORD, ANGLICAN PRIEST, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, LITERARY TRANSLATOR, HYMN WRITER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND BIBLE TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGUERITE BOURGEOYS, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/12/in-vain/

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

Garlic Mustard Plant Invasion

Above:  Garlic Mustard Plant Invasion

Photographer = Steve Hillebrand, United States Fish and Wildlife Service

Image in the Public Domain

The Extravagance of God and the Irrepressible Kingdom of God

MARCH 23, 2022

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The Collect:

Eternal God, your kingdom has broken into our troubled world

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

Help us to hear your word and obey it,

and bring your saving love to fruition in our lives,

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 28

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 13:17-27

Psalm 39

Luke 13:18-21

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Numbers 13:17-27 and Luke 13:18-21 speak of the extravagant generosity of God.

Canaan, the Promised Land, is the bountiful territory overflowing with milk and honey in Numbers 13.  One finds similarly wonderful descriptions of the promise of the Jewish homeland after God has ended the Babylonian Exile later in the Hebrew Scriptures.  Those were dashed hopes, as the narrative of the Old Testament indicates, but the hope for a better future free from deprivation and foreign occupation continues to inspire people living in difficult circumstances.

Unfortunately, the ubiquitous slave mentality and unreasoning fear of the Canaanites led many Israelites to oppose entering Canaan.  Many, according to Numbers 14:3, regretted ever having left Egypt, where they were slaves but at least the leftovers were nice.  God punished the generation which had left Egypt, the Book of Numbers tells us, by granting them their wish not to enter Canaan.  At least God was merciful enough to refrain from striking them dead or sending them back to Egypt.

The generosity–grace–of God–demands a faithful response.  What will we do with grace?  Will we even accept it and its accompanying responsibilities?  Human life is transient, as the author of Psalm 39 understood well, but it does offer many opportunities to function as an agent of God to others.

Cedar of Lebanon

Above:  A Cedar of Lebanon, 1898

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-06183

Luke 13:18-21 provides two brief parables illustrating the irrepressible nature of the Kingdom of God.  In the first parable (verses 18 and 19) the Kingdom of God is like a tiny mustard seed, the small beginning of a large, if not noble, mustard plant–a large shrub, really.  A mustard plant, which can grow to be as large as twelve feet tall, offers shelter to a variety of birds.  Implicit in the Lukan version of the parable is that Gentiles are welcome in the Kingdom of God.  The parable shocks by not invoking the image of a mighty, impressive cedar of Lebanon.  Such imagery would indicate a mature plant.  The imagery of a mustard plant, however, promises continued growth.  The Kingdom of God is present among us, but not fully; there is more to come.

Then again [Jesus] said,

“What can I say the kingdom of God is like?  It is like the yeast which a woman took and covered up in three measures of flour until the whole had risen.”

–Luke 13:20-21, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972)

The second parable is that of yeast which a woman hides in three measures (fifty pounds) of flour.  Most contemporary translations I consulted render a certain Greek word as “mixed,” but the proper meaning is “hid.”  The Revised Standard Version (1946, 1952, and 1971), the Revised Standard Version–Catholic Edition (1965), the Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002), and the New American Standard Bible (1971 and 1995) render that word properly as “hid.”  The 1958 and 1972 editions of The New Testament in Modern English (J. B. Phillips) use “covered up,” which makes the same point.  The woman in the parable seeks to conceal the yeast by hiding it in flour, but the yeast permeates the flour instead.  The parable contains the element of hyperbole, for baking 50 pounds of flour, enough to feed 150 people, at one time, is perhaps improbable.  The hyperbole points to the extravagance of God and the irrepressible nature of the Kingdom of God.

Nobody among mortals can conceal or destroy the Kingdom of God.  That lesson comforts me.  Secularization of society and religious persecution are powerless to conceal or destroy the Kingdom of God, which is like yeast pervading the whole.  The blood of the martyrs waters the church, which has, in certain times and at certain places, gone underground yet remained alive.  The lesson here is about what God does, often despite what certain people do.  God is sovereign.  We can accept or reject that reality, but we can never change it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 19, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN HERMANN SCHEIN, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF F. BLAND TUCKER, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/the-extravagance-of-god-and-the-irrepressible-kingdom-of-god/

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Devotion for the Thirty-Fifth Day of Lent: Monday in Holy Week (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Above:  A Crucifix with Votive Candles

Exodus and Hebrews, Part II:  Judgment, Mercy, and Apostasy

APRIL 11, 2022

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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 9:1-28

Psalm 119:73-80 (Morning)

Psalms 121 and 6 (Evening)

Hebrews 2:1-18

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A Related Post:

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/prayer-for-monday-of-passion-weekholy-week/

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Before I arrive at my main point I choose to indulge myself in raising two points.

ALPHA

All the livestock of the Egyptians died in Exodus 9:6.  That is what the text says.  Where, then, did the Egyptians get the livestock mentioned in 9:19?  My inquiring mind wants to know.  The source of both verses is presumably the Elohist (E), so I cannot explain away this detail by pointing to the editing together of different documents.  And I assume that the Hebrews kept all their livestock, of which we will read later in the Book of Exodus.

I did find one attempt to explain this detail.  The NIV Study Bible (1985), page 98, offers this weak explanation:

That is, all that were left out in the fields.  Protected livestock remained alive (see vv. 19-21).

But that is not what 9:6 says.  It does not say that all the unprotected livestock died.  No, even in the New International Version, it reads:

All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but one one animal belonging to the Israelites died.

The sooner we abandon misconceptions of Scriptural infallibility and inerrancy, the better off we will be.  We ought not to transform texts into allegedly error-free idols.  No, an error crept in somewhere during the transmission of the saga of the plagues.  That is the simplest explanation.

BETA

Hebrews 2:15 is one source for the Conquest Satan theory of the Atonement.  One finds three understandings of the Atonement in the writings of the first five centuries’ worth of the Church Fathers.  The other two are Penal Substitution and the Incarnation itself.

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Now for my main programming….

Exodus 9:20-21, for the first time in that book, makes a distinction between those Egyptians who obeyed God’s instructions and those who did not.  Those who did as Moses said reaped the benefits.  And, in Hebrews 2:1-4, we read a stark warning not to neglect salvation

so that we do not drift away.

–2:1b, The New Jerusalem Bible

Yes, I affirm Single Predestination and its partner, free will, and therefore recognize the possibility of committing apostasy.  I do not advocate apostasy, however.  Free will plays a vital role in gaining and retaining salvation for many people.

The original audience for the Letter to the Hebrews risked suffering for the Gospel.  So here in Chapter 2 we find yet another passage which contradicts the idea that suffering necessarily equals punishment for sin.  In fact, the text tells us, Christ’s suffering “perfected” him, that is, completed the divine plan of salvation.  So Christ, who has suffered, can identify with and help suffering Christians.

This is excellent news.  It should encourage us in our struggles.  But if we drift away, there remains the possibility of returning.  I do not presume to know the extent of divine mercy.  It is vast, however.  But there is also judgment.  All of these matters are for God, not me, to decide and decree.  If we are prodigal sons or daughters, may we return to home and stay there.  And, if we are elder brothers or sisters, may we not resent divine mercy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 30, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EUSEBIUS OF CAESAREA, HISTORIAN AND ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF APOLO KIVEBULAYA, ANGLICAN EVANGELIST

THE FEAST OF JOACHIM NEANDER, GERMAN REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPHINE BUTLER, WORKER AMONG WOMEN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/exodus-and-hebrews-part-ii-judgment-mercy-and-apostasy/

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Devotion for the Thirty-Fourth Day of Lent (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Above:  Women at the Empty Tomb, by Fra Angelico

Exodus and Mark, Part V:  The Power of God

APRIL 9, 2022

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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 7:1-25

Psalm 43 (Morning)

Psalms 31 and 143 (Evening)

Mark 16:1-20

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A Related Post:

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/11/prayer-for-saturday-in-the-fifth-week-of-lent/

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The Book of Exodus is open to God working through nature.  For example, in 14:21,

a strong east wind

(TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures)

parts the waters.  I have seen a documentary which argues that all the plagues, the parting of the waters, and the return thereof were natural consequences of the volcanic eruption which ended the Minoan civilization of Crete.  Even if the hypothesis does not withstand historical scrutiny by meeting the standard of chronological accuracy, I assume that God has long acted through natural means.  Whether this was one of those occasions is another question.

We read of the first plague.  The Nile River made Egypt bloom.  The annual floods left silt deposits, therefore fertile soil.  So the attack on the Nile River was an assault on the basis of royal power because the health of the river was, according to common assumption, the responsibility of the Pharaoh.  The river did not turn into blood, of course; it did turn red, however.  Volcanic ash would have that effect and caused a major environmental problem.  But God had given the monarch an opportunity to free the Hebrews prior to this.  That, at least, is the narrative.

The Roman Empire had executed Jesus.  Those were Roman soldiers at Calvary.  And some religious leaders were complicit in his death.  What, then, were human authority figures able to do to Jesus after his Resurrection?  Nothing!  I imagine at least three gatherings : one of Temple authorities, another of Herodians, and a third of Romans.  In each case I imagine men who had borne some measure of responsibility for the crucifixion of Jesus asking each other,

I saw him die!  Why did I see him in public yesterday?

They were powerless to do anything about it, for they had done their worst already.  And God had acted afterward.

We can either work with or against the will of God at any given time.  Yet we cannot thwart the will of God.  We can redirect it by means of the exercise of our free will, but we cannot thwart it.  May we work with God, not against God.  (Credit:  I am channeling the Reverend Leslie Weatherhead in the last paragraph.)

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-v-the-power-of-god/

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Devotion for the Eighteenth Day of Lent (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Above:  Children with Cats

Image Source = Nancy Collins

Genesis and Mark, Part XVII:  Attitudes, Potential, and the Kingdom of God

MARCH 22, 2022

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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:

Genesis 35:1-29

Psalm 34 (Morning)

Psalms 25 and 91 (Evening)

Mark 9:33-50

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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/

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/03/prayer-for-tuesday-in-the-third-week-of-lent/

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Jacob was a trickster, schemer, manipulator, and a swindler.  Yet God gave him a new name:  Israel, literally

God rules.

Take your pick of origin story for this name, O reader; you have two options–the wrestling match in Genesis 32 and the less dramatic account in 35:10.  (The Sources Hypothesis makes more sense the more I read the Hebrew Scriptures.)

God works through a variety of interesting people.  For a few examples we need not look beyond this day’s readings.  We have Jacob/Israel, of course.  And we have the unnamed non-Apostle from Mark 9:38-40.  After all,

Anyone who is not against us is for us.

–Mark 9:40, The New Jerusalem Bible

If that were not enough, the greatest in the Kingdom of God is the

servant of all.

–Mark 9:35, The New Jerusalem Bible

Among the wonderful themes in the Gospel of Mark is this:  If you think that you are an insider, you almost certainly are mistaken.  Almost everybody except the people closest to Jesus in that text knows who he really is, for example. So the teaching that the Kingdom of God functions differently than society fits well with the rest of Mark.  And it meshes well with the story of Jacob.  How else could a man of such dubious character became an agent of God’s plans?

Character matters, of course; it is a person’s destiny.  But my point is that God can make anyone–regardless of character–an effective agent of divine plans.  Yes, I write of the sovereignty of God.  As for character, the most sterling example of it of which I have knowledge is Jesus of Nazareth, whom the Roman Empire executed as a criminal.  So I place limited confidence in official estimates of a person’s character.  As I recall, our Lord socialized with many disreputable people.  He must have recognized much potential in them.  And God must have recognized much potential in Jacob/Israel.

Do we recognize potential in others and in ourselves?  Do we see each other as God sees us?  And how does the manner in which we regard others and ourselves influence our actions?  How do those actions affect others and shape society?  Think about it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 22, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD BIGGS, ACTOR

THE FEAST OF ROTA WAITOA, ANGLICAN PRIEST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/genesis-and-mark-part-xvii-attitudes-potential-and-the-kingdom-of-god/

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