Archive for the ‘WCTU’ Tag

Devotion for the Third Sunday in Lent, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Healing of the Man Born Blind, by El Greco

Image in the Public Domain

Spiritual Blindness

MARCH 12, 2023

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 42:14-21

Psalm 142

Ephesians 5:8-14

John 9:1-41 or John 9:13-17, 34-39

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Eternal Lord, 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,

so that we become instruments of your redeeming love;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 18

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Almighty God, because you know

that we of ourselves have no strength,

keep us both outwardly and inwardly that we may be defended

from all adversities that may happen to the body

and from all evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Lutheran Worship (1982), 36

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Light and darkness function as literal descriptions and as metaphors.  Pseudo-Paul, in Ephesians, reminds us down the corridors of time to live as children of light and to eschew the fruitless works of darkness.  We read Psalm 142, in which the psalmist (not David) suffered from pursuers who committed fruitless works of darkness.  When we turn to Isaiah 42, near the end of the Babylonian Exile, we read that God will vindicate sinful exiles for the sake of divine glory.  The vindication of the Jewish exiles would become an example of God’s loyalty and ability to save, we read.  The darkness is both literal (for the man born blind) and spiritual (for those who rejected him and questioned his parents) in John 9.  Likewise, light is both literal and spiritual for the man.

The canonical Gospels include stories (some of them Synoptic doubles or triples) of Jesus healing blind people.  These accounts frequently double as commentaries on spiritual blindness.  John 9:1-41 does.

The Pharisees of John 9:1-41 sere spiritually blind.  Jesus contradicted their expectations.  He refused to meet their standards.

Criticizing long-dead Pharisees is easy; it is like fishing with dynamite.  However, honestly evaluating oneself spiritually can be challenging and uncomfortable.  Ask yourself, O reader, how often Jesus, in the canonical Gospels, contradicted your expectations and violated your standards.  As yourself how you may have responded or reacted to Jesus, had you been present in certain Biblical scenes.  You may suffer from spiritual blindness Jesus can heal.

According to a story that may be apocryphal, a woman on the lecture circuit of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) spoke in a particular town.  After she had completed her prepared remarks, the speaker asked if anybody in the audience had questions.  One man raised his hand.  The woman called on him.  He asked,

If what you say is true, how do you explain Jesus turning water into wine?

The speaker replied,

I would like him better if he had not done that.

Each of us has some threshold past which one says or thinks,

I would like Jesus better if he had not done or said that.

Be honest about yourself, O reader.  I am honest about myself.  Christ makes all of us uncomfortable sometimes.  That is our problem, not his.  The desire to domesticate Jesus is ancient and misguided.

The description of God in the Hebrew Bible is that of an undomesticated deity–one who is, who refuses all human attempts at control, and sometimes acts on motivations we may not understand.  So be it.

If you, O reader, expect me to offer easy answers to challenging questions, I will disappoint you.  I do not pretend to grasp the nature of God.  I argue with certain Biblical texts.  This is unavoidable when certain Biblical texts contradict other Biblical texts.  And I embrace a fact of spiritual life:  What I do not know outweighs what I do know.  I possess a relatively high comfort level with the unknown.  Yet, on occasion, I still wish that Jesus had not done or said x.  Sometimes I continue to crave false certainty over trust in God.

I know that I have spiritual blind spots.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 8, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPHINE BAKHITA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF CORNELIA HANCOCK, U.S. QUAKER NURSE, EDUCATOR, AND HUMANITARIAN; “FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE OF NORTH AMERICA”

THE FEAST OF SAINT JEROME EMILIANI, FOUNDER OF THE COMPANY OF THE SERVANTS OF THE POOR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN OF MATHA AND FELIX OF VALOIS, FOUNDERS OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPHINA GABRIELA BONINO, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA ESPERANZA DE JESUS, FOUNDER OF THE HANDMAIDS OF MERCIFUL LOVE AND THE SONS OF MERCIFUL LOVE

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the Thirty-First Day of Lent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Zedekiah

Above:  King Zedekiah

Image in the Public Domain

Honest Faith Versus False Certainty

MARCH 29, 2023

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The Collect:

Almighty God, your Son came into the world to free us

from all sin and death.  Breathe upon us the power

of your Spirit, that we may be raised to new life in Christ

and serve you in righteousness all our days,  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:

Jeremiah 32:1-9, 36-41

Psalm 143

Matthew 22:23-33

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Teach me to do what pleases you, for you are my God;

let your kindly spirit lead me on a level path.

–Psalm 143:10, Common Worship (2000)

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The kingdom was doomed.  Jeremiah knew this yet purchased land anyway.  It was a deed of faith in God and of confidence that, someday, exiles would return.  Faith in difficult times is where, as an old saying tells me,

the rubber meets the road.

Alas, the Sadducees’ question in Matthew 22 was insincere.  It was an attempt to entrap Jesus in his words via self-justifying sophistry.  Sadducees did not acknowledge the resurrection of the dead.  That, as a chidren’s song says, is why

they were sad, you see.

Their denial of the doctrine of resurrection of the dead resulted from their limited canon of Scripture—the Torah.  That doctrine, having debuted in the Book of Daniel, was “new-fangled” by Sadducee standards.

Sadducees, usually wealthy landowners, were socially conservative.  Jesus challenged the status quo.  They, denying the resurrection of the dead, emphasized the continuation of the family line.  Jesus focused on other topics.  Their insincere question was an attempt to demonstrate the absurdity of the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead.  Jesus replied that they misunderstood Scripture.  The nature of the next life, our Lord and Savior said, is a matter of the faithfulness of God to divine promises.  Insincere questions citing Levirate Marriage (part of the Law of Moses) miss the point.

Misplaced certainty and the quest for it contradicts trust in divine promises.  The quest for such certainty leads some people to concert their theological opinions into idols and to demonize those who disagree with them.  The search for such certainty leads some people to focus on affirming their thoughts, not seeking the truth from God.  But what if Jesus disagrees with one?

I recall a story, one which might be apocryphal.  Many moons ago, a lady on the lecture circuit for the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) delivered her stump speech in a certain town.  She spoke of how much God wants people to avoid alcohol at all times.  The orator concluded her remarks and asked if anyone had any questions.  A young man raised his hand.  She called on him.  He asked,

If what you say is true, how do you explain Jesus turning water into wine

The lady replied,

I would like him better if he had not done that.

So much for false certainty!  Honest faith—the kind which survives in difficult times—is a virtue, however.  One can trust in the promises of God without fear of contradiction.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 27, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES INTERCISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEOLOGIAN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/honest-faith-versus-false-certainty/

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Twenty-Seventh Day of Lent   15 comments

Jesus:  Alpha and Omega

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Friday, March 24, 2023

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

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Follow the assigned readings with me this Lent….

Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Wisdom 2:1a, 12-24 (New Revised Standard Version):

For they [the ungodly] reasoned unsoundly, saying to themselves,

Let us lie in wait for the righteous man,

because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions;

he reproaches us for sins against the law,

and accuses us of sins against our training.

He professes to have knowledge of God,

and calls himself a child of the Lord.

He became to us a reproof of our thoughts;

the very sight of him is a burden to us,

because his manner of life is unlike that of others,

and his ways are strange.

We are considered by him as something base,

and he avoids our ways as unclean;

he calls the last end of the righteous hapy,

and boasts that God is his father.

Let us see if his words are true,

and let us test what will happen at the end of his life;

for if the righteous man is God’s child, he will help him,

and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries.

Let us test him with insult and torture,

so that we may find out how gentle he is,

and make trial of his forbearance.

Let us condemn him to a shameful death,

for, according to what he says, he will be protected.

Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray,

for their wickedness blinded them,

and they did not know the secret purposes of God,

nor hoped for the wages of holiness,

nor discerned the prize of blameless souls;

for God created us for incorruption,

and made us in the image of his own eternity,

but through the devil’s envy death entered the world,

and those who belong to his company experience it.

Psalm 34:15-22 (New Revised Standard Version):

The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,

and his ears are open to their cry.

The face of LORD is against evildoers,

to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.

When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears,

and rescues them from all their troubles.

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted,

and saves the crushed in spirit.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,

but the LORD rescues them from them all.

He keeps all their bones;

not one of them will be broken.

Evil brings death to the wicked,

and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.

The LORD redeems the life of his servants;

none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

John 7:1-2, 10, 35-30 (New Revised Standard Version):

After this [many disciples abandoning Jesus followed by Jesus predicting his betrayal, in 6:60-71] Jesus went about in Galilee.  He did not wish to go about in Judea because the Jews [not all of them, as I wrote in a previous devotion–KRT] were looking for an opportunity to kill him.  Now the Jewish festival of Booths was near.

But after his brothers had gone to the festival, then he also went, not publicly but as it were in secret.

Now some of the people of Jerusalem were saying,

Is not this the man whom they are trying to kill?  And here he is, speaking openly, but they say nothing to him!  Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Messiah?  Yet we know where this man is from; but when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.”

Then Jesus cried out as he was teaching in the Temple,

You know me, and you know where I am from.  I have not come on my own.  But the one who sent me is true, and you do not know him.  I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.

Then they tried to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come.  Yet many in the crowd believed in him and were saying,

When the Messiah comes, will he do more signs than this man has done?

The Collect:

O God, you have given us the Good News of your abounding love in your Son Jesus Christ:  So fill our hearts with thankfulness that we may rejoice to proclaim the good tidings we have received; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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You might have noticed the increased amount of foreshadowing of Holy Week in this day’s readings relative to previous days’ lections.  I did as I typed them.  Lent has forty days, and the end of that season is near to March 19.  As we near the conclusion of Lent and prepare to enter the Easter season, let us give all the details of the Passion narrative their due.  These are not celebratory, as is Christmas.  Yet they are no less crucial to Christianity.

The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus reflect the abounding love of God for sinful human beings.  May we rejoice to proclaim these good tidings we have received.  But do we recognize the good tidings we have received?  One of the themes of the Gospel of Mark is the Messianic Secret.  The meaning of being the Messiah was not to expel the occupying Roman forces from the Jewish homeland, as many people expected and hoped.  Rather, the Messiah was the Suffering Servant, and this became clear through his death.  Yet let us continue the story in due season, for if we stop at Good Friday we have dead Jesus.

But let us not get ahead of ourselves.

Prior to the failed experiment called Prohibition one of the most prominent Evangelical organizations in the rural United States was the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU).  A story (perhaps apocryphal) about the WCTU follows:  A woman traveling the WCTU lecture circuit spoke in a certain town.  After delivering her stump speech about how God wants all people to abstain from alcohol, she asked if anyone in the audience had any questions.  One young man raised his hand politely, and the lady called on him.  He asked, “If what you say is true, how do you explain Jesus turning water into wine at Cana?”  The woman answered, “I would like him better if he had not done that.”

Does Jesus disappoint us?  If so, this is our problem, not his.  He is the abounding love of God incarnate.  Jesus is exactly who and what he should be.  If he does not live up to our expectations, we need to reexamine our presumptions.

KRT

Written on March 3, 2010