Archive for the ‘St. Stephen’ Tag

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

Above:  St. Stephen, by Luis de Morales

Image in the Public Domain

Imaginary Righteousness

APRIL 26, 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 7:48-60

Psalm 4

2 Peter 1:13-21

Mark 12:1-12

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Many of those who persecuted St. Paul the Apostle and who were complicit in the executions of Jesus and St. Stephen imagined themselves to be acting out of righteousness.  St. Paul, as Saul of Tarsus, had zealously martyred Christians and been present for the stoning of St. Stephen.

To read the assigned lessons and imagine that they have nothing to do with us, who have not martyred or persecuted anyone, would be convenient, would it not?  Yet we are guilty of, at a minimum, of consenting to the inhumane treatment of others–perhaps prisoners, immigrants, employees in deathtrap factories, et cetera.  We think we own the planet, but we are merely tenants.  Many of those who peacefully oppose injustice risk martyrdom or incarceration.

The minimal extent to which we are complicit is the degree to which we are invested in socio-economic-political structures that rely on and perpetuate violence and exploitation.  Yet we imagine ourselves to be righteous.

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/imaginary-righteousness/

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Devotion for Easter Sunday Evening (Year D)   1 comment

icon-of-the-resurrection

Above:  Icon of the Resurrection

Image in the Public Domain

Christ, Violence, and Love

APRIL 17, 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:

Exodus 34:27-28 (29-35) or Deuteronomy 9:8-21

Psalms 71:15-24 or Psalm 75 or Psalm 76

John 21:20-25 or Luke 24:36-49 or John 20:19-31

2 Corinthians 3:7-11 (4:16-5:1) 5:2-5 (6-10) or Revelation 1:1-3 (4-8) 9-20

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Once again we read of the coexistence of divine judgment and mercy.  This time the emphasis is on mercy, given the context of the assigned lessons.  The bleakest reading comes from Genesis 34, where we learn of two brothers committing violence (including honor killings) in reaction to either the rape of their sister (Dinah) by a foreign man or to her consensual non-marital sexual relations with a foreigner.  This story contrasts with the crucifixion of Jesus, in which those complicit in that act of violence unambiguously targeted an innocent man.

We who call ourselves Christians have a responsibility to follow Jesus–Christ crucified, as St. Paul the Apostle wrote.  St. Paul, as Saul of Tarsus, had approved of the execution of at least one Christian, St. Stephen (Acts 7:54-8:1a).  Saul of Tarsus had also dragged other Christians to prison (Acts 8:1b-3).

We who call ourselves Christians also have a responsibility to follow Jesus, the resurrected one.  May we die to our sins.  May we die to our desires to commit or condone violence against those we find inconvenient and/or who threaten our psychological safety zones.  May we die to the desire to repay evil for evil.  May we die to the thirst for revenge.  And may God raise us to new life in the image of Christ.  May we seek to glorify God alone and succeed in that purpose, by grace.

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/christ-violence-and-love/

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Devotion for the Twenty-Sixth, Twenty-Seventh, and Twenty-Eighth Days of Easter, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Paolo_Uccello_-_Stoning_of_St_Stephen_-_WGA23196

Above:  Stoning of Saint Stephen, by Paolo Uccello

Image in the Public Domain

Allegedly Righteous Violence

THURSDAY-SATURDAY, MAY 7-9, 2020

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The Collect:

Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.

Give us grace to love one another,

to follow in the way of his commandments,

and to share his risen life with all the world,

for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 34

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 12:1-3 (26th Day)

Exodus 3:1-12 (27th Day)

Jeremiah 26:20-24 (28th Day)

Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 (All Days)

Acts 6:8-15 (26th Day)

Acts 7:1-16 (27th Day)

John 8:48-59 (28th Day)

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Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe,

for you are my crag and my stronghold;

for the sake of your name, lead me and guide me.

Take me out the net that they have secretly set for me,

for you are my tower of strength.

Into your hands I commend my spirit,

for you have redeemed me,

O LORD, O God of truth.

–Psalm 31:3-5, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Blasphemy is a capital crime in the Law of Moses, which frowns upon perjury.  In fact, the penalty for perjury is whatever fate the falsely accused suffered or would have suffered.  So, according to the Law of Moses, the authorities stoned the wrong man in Acts 7.

The stoning of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, is just one of several accounts of violence, attempted and otherwise, of which we read in these lections.  That kind of violence–done in the name of God by heirs of Abraham (physically or spiritually or both), members of a nation God has freed more than once–is always unbecoming.  To disagree with a person is one thing, but to seek to kill him or her because of that difference is quite another.  It constitutes an attempt to prove one’s righteousness by sinful means.  Thus such an act defines as a lie that which the perpetrator seeks to affirm.

I, as a Christian, follow one who died for several reasons, among them the motivation I just mentioned.  Thus I am especially aware of the perfidy of such violence, which, unfortunately, continues.  Christians in certain Islamic countries are subject to charges of blasphemy then to execution.  Honor killings continue to occur around the world.  They seem to attract the most attention in the Western press when immigrants commit them in Western countries, but they happen daily, often without the press noticing them.  I am also aware of the long, shameful history of “Christian” violence against Jews.  Ritual washing of hands, for example, contributed to greater cleanliness among European Jews relative to other populations on the continent and therefore helped to reduce their vulnerability to the Black Death in the 1300s.  Many fearful, Anti-Semitic Gentiles blamed Jews for the plague and attacked them.  God, please save us from your alleged followers!

May mutual love and respect prevail.  And, when we disagree with someone whose presence threatens our notions of our own righteousness, may we refrain from violence.  Even if the other person is wrong, partially or entirely, that does not justify killing or attempting to kill an innocent person.

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/allegedly-righteous-violence/

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Devotion for the Thirty-Third Day of Easter (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   7 comments

Above:  St. Stephen’s Gate, Jerusalem, Ottoman Empire, 1900-1920

Image Source = Library of Congress

Leviticus and Luke, Part VII:  Blasphemy and Repentance

MAY 19, 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:

Leviticus 24:1-23

Psalm 47 (Morning)

Psalms 68 and 113 (Evening)

Luke 12:54-13:17

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A Related Post:

Feast of Shabbaz Bhatti and Other Christian Martyrs of the Islamic World (March 2):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/feast-of-shabbaz-bhatti-and-other-christian-martyrs-of-the-islamic-world-march-2/

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Slightly edited versions of definitions from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition (1996) follow.  For full entries, consult the dictionary.

blaspheme.  1.  To speak of (God or a sacred entity) in an irreverent, impious manner.  2.  To revile; execrate.

blasphemous.  Impiously irreverent.

blasphemy.  1.a.  A contemptuous or profane act, utterance, or writing concerning God or a sacred entity.  b.  The act of claiming for oneself the attributes and rights of God.  2.  An irreverent or impious act, attitude, or utterance in regard to something considered inviolable or sacrosanct.

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Today, when one one from my perspective (the Western world, complete with secular government, not theocracy) hears or reads about someone (often a Christian in mainly Islamic parts of the world) being sentenced to death and/or imprisonment for committing blasphemy, the response is negative.  It should be.  Blasphemy, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder; one person’s pious opinion is another’s blasphemy too much of the time.  I am glad that I live in the United States, not Pakistan or a similar nation, for much of what I say and write from my Christian perspective would trigger a blasphemy charge in Pakistan or a similar place.

The blasphemer in Leviticus 24 had cursed God.  His offense was not to have pronounced the divine name; no, it was to have reviled God.  The blasphemer’s penalty according the narrative was one which God had commanded:  death by stoning.

Such rampant violence in the Torah and elsewhere in the Hebrew Scriptures disturbs me.  I know; my proverbial tapes are running.  People tried to stone Jesus on the charge of blasphemy in the Gospel of John.  St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, died by stoning per the charge of blasphemy.  As I wrote, blasphemy is in the eye of the beholder.

The blasphemer in Leviticus 24 had a bad attitude toward God.  Our Lord’s critics in Luke 13:10-17 had a bad attitude toward him.  He had just committed a good deed, and people criticized him for doing it on the Sabbath.  (There is no wrong day to commit a good deed.) They needed to change their minds.  I wonder what would have happened if the blasphemer in Leviticus 24 had changed his mind.

As for punishments for blasphemy, real or imagined, may we leave that matter to God alone to enforce.  It would be wrong to commit murder.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 16, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RUFUS JONES, QUAKER THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN FRANCIS REGIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BUTLER, ANGLICAN BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/leviticus-and-luke-part-vii-blasphemy-and-repentance/

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