Devotion for the Last Sunday After the Epiphany: The Transfiguration of Our Lord, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Transfiguration of Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

Mystery and Transfiguration

FEBRUARY 19, 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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Exodus 24:12, 15-18

Psalm 2:6-13

2 Peter 1:16-19 (20-21)

Matthew 17:1-9

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Almighty God, on the mountain you showed your glory

in the transfiguration of your Son. 

Give us the vision to see beyond the turmoil of our world

and to behold the king in all his glory;

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

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

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 17

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O God, in the transfiguration of your Son you confirmed

the mysteries of faith by the witness of Moses and Elijah,

and in the voice from the bright cloud

you foreshadowed our adoption as your children. 

Make us with the king heirs of your glory,

and bring us to enjoy its fullness,

through 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), 17

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O God, in the glorious transfiguration of your only-begotten Son

once confirmed the mysteries of the faith

by the testimony of the ancient fathers,

and in the voice that came from the bright cloud

you wondrously foreshadowed our adoption by grace. 

Therefore, mercifully make us coheirs with our King of his glory,

and bring us to the fullness of our inheritance in heaven;

through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with

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

Lutheran Worship (1982), 31

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In the Gospel of Matthew, the account of the Transfiguration of Jesus comes between two predictions of the crucifixion and resurrection.  The plain textual context tells us to interpret the Transfiguration accordingly.  Jesus was on a mission that would cost him dearly yet end in vindication.

The accounts of the Transfiguration also include a nod to the Shekinah (the Divine Presence), from the Hebrew Bible.  This is the cloud that enveloped Moses atop Mount Sinai and filled the First Temple.  This poetic image appeals to me.  The awe and wonder of God remain intact.  God is other yet near and accessible.  The people of God are God’s adopted children (“sons,” literally, in the Greek of Pauline epistles) and heirs.

God, of course, was nearest and most accessible in the Incarnation.  God in the flesh, walking, speaking, and dining with people was remarkably accessible.  Yet the Incarnation defied comprehension.

The Incarnation defies my understanding.  So be it.

Mystery, in antiquity, indicated something one could know only by living into it and by doing.  Mystery, in antiquity, was not a matter of an something unknown one could solve, given reasoning and enough information.  Mystery, in antiquity, was not the same as mystery in an Agatha Christie novel.

Despite this ancient understanding of mystery, I suspect that St. Mary of Nazareth never understood her eldest son as well as God understood her.

Understanding is not always necessary.  We mere mortals can, objectively, explain and understand much.  I affirm history and science, which rely on evidence.  I detest anti-intellectual and anti-scientific attitudes.  (I am a left-of-center Episcopalian.)  Yet, regarding God–Jesus, in particular–evidence can take us only so far.  After the Incarnation (which I do not attempt to explain), evidence takes me to the foot of the cross of Jesus.  Then the understanding that comes from faith takes over.  I understand partially.  Understanding is not necessary in certain situations.  Yet trusting in God is always essential.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 28, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBERT THE GREAT AND HIS PUPIL, SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS; ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIANS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREI RUBLEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ICON WRITER

THE FEAST OF DANIEL J. SIMUNDSON, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HENRY AUGUSTINE COLLINS, ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BARNBY, ANGLICAN CHURCH MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SOMERSET CORRY LOWRY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the Eighth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Dan Stamp from Israel

Image in the Public Domain

Two Stones in the Pocket

NOT OBSERVED IN 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 49:13-18

Psalm 62

1 Corinthians 4:1-13

Matthew 6:24-34

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Almighty and everlasting God, ruler of heaven and earth: 

Hear our prayer and give us your peace now and forever;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978)

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O Lord, mercifully hear our prayers,

and having set us free from the bonds of our sins,

defend us from all evil;

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), 30

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One thing God has spoken,

only two have I heard:

“Strength belongs to God, 

and to you, O Lord, firmness;

You repay each man for his deeds.”

–Psalm 62:12-13, Mitchell J. Dahood, Psalms II:  51-100 (1968)

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The moral of this is that we should make no hasty or premature judgments.

–1 Corinthians 4:5a, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972)

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These four readings, taken together, present us with a seeming paradox.  Isaiah 49:13-18, in the context of the approaching end of the Babylonian Exile, depicts the Jewish exiles as beloved of God.  They are like children God can never forget.  Psalm 62, in the context of encouraging reliance on God and not on human means, especially corruption, notes the gulf between God and people:

Men of lowly birth are mere vapor,

those of high degree a delusion.

On scale, they are lighter than leaves,

together lighter than vapor.

–Psalm 62:10, Mitchell J. Dahood

People are “lighter than vapor” yet like beloved children to God.  Also, God repays each person for his or her deeds.  What we say and do matters.  Yet we ought not to think too lightly of ourselves and our powers of judgment.  Divine powers of judgment are infinitely greater.

Rabbi Bunam taught:

A man should carry two stones in his pocket.  On one should be inscribed, “I am but dust and ashes.”  On the other, “For my sake was the world created.”  And he should use each stone as he needs it.

Maintaining a balanced self-image relative to God is crucial.  Each person bears the image of God yet is mere dust and vapor.  God commands us to love ourselves then to love others as we love ourselves.  We matter because God says we do.  Or, to use the Southern vernacular,

God didn’t make no junk.

Do you, O reader, think you are junk?  Do you think anyone is garbage?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 27, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JEROME, PAULA OF ROME, EUSTOCHIUM, BLAESILLA, MARCELLA, AND LEA OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANGELA MERICI, FOUNDER OF THE COMPANY OF SAINT URSULA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAROLINA SANTOCANALE, FOUNDER OF THE CAPUCHIN SISTERS OF THE IMMACULATE OF LOURDES

THE FEAST OF CASPAR NEUMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MARY EVELYN “MEV” PULEO, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PHOTOJOURNALIST AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

THE FEAST OF PIERRE BATIFFOL, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, HISTORIAN, AND THEOLOGIAN

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the Seventh Sunday After the Epiphany, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Angry Talk

Image in the Public Domain

Judgment and Mercy

NOT OBSERVED IN 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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Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18

Psalm 103:1-13

1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23

Matthew 5:38-48

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Lord God, we ask you to keep your family, the Church, faithful to you,

that all who lean on the hope of your promises

may gain strength from the power of your love;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 16

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God of compassion, keep before us the love

you have revealed in your Son, who prayed even for his enemies;

in our words and deeds help us to be like him

through whom we pray, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 16

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O Lord, keep your family and Church continually in the true faith

that they who lean on the hope of your heavenly grace

may ever be defended by your mighty power;

through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns

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

Lutheran Worship (1982), 28

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Whenever I hear someone refer to the God of the Hebrew Bible as mainly judgmental and the God of the New Testament as primarily merciful, I wonder how closely that person has read the Old and New Testaments.  Judgment and mercy remain in balance throughout the Old and New Testaments.  Consider the readings from the Old Testament for today, O reader.  Recall, also, that

an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth 

(Exodus 21:24)

curtails violence.  Furthermore, nowhere does the Law of Moses say to hate one’s enemies.

St. Paul the Apostle, writing to the argumentative and self-destructive church in Corinth, told them that they were God’s temple in that city.  That was good news.  A warning preceded it:

God will destroy anyone who defiles his temple, for his temple is holy…..

–1 Corinthians 3:17a, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972)

Agents of destruction frequently come from within, as in the case of the Corinthian church.

I wonder what the world would be like if the socially expected and normative behavior was to love people, or at least to be civil toward them.  I wonder what the world would be like if this extended to everyone.  I do not live in that world, of course.  I live in the world in which social media are mostly agents and conduits of anger, misinformation, half-baked conspiracy theories, and damn lies.  I live in the world in which sound advice includes not to read the comments section of a webpage.

Divine judgment and mercy exist in a balance.  I do not pretend to understand what that balance is.  I do not know where judgment gives way to mercy, and mercy to judgment.  I do trust that God gets the balance right.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 26, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS TIMOTHY, TITUS, AND SILAS, C0-WORKERS OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the Sixth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Moses

Image in the Public Domain

Mutuality in God

FEBRUARY 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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Deuteronomy 30:15-20

Psalm 119:1-16

1 Corinthians 2:6-13

Matthew 5:20-37

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Lord God, mercifully receive the prayers of your people. 

Help us to see and understand the things we ought to do,

and give us grace and power to do them;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 16

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O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers

of your people who call upon you,

and grant that they may understand the things they ought to do

and also may have grace and strength to accomplish them;

through Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 27

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Culturally-specific examples make timeless principles applicable, in context.  Outside of that context, the culturally-specific examples may seem confusing and may not apply.  Yet the timeless principles remain.  When reading any Biblical text, the question of context(s) is always relevant.  Knowing the difference between a timeless principle and a culturally-specific example thereof is essential.

Consider the reading from Matthew 5, for example, O reader.

  1. “Raca,” or “fool,” was an extremely strong insult.  We have counterparts in our contemporary cultures; these counterparts are unsuitable for quoting in a family-friendly weblog. How we think and speak of others matters.
  2. Divorce and remarriage, in well-to-do families, consolidated landholding, thereby taking advantage of deeply indebted families.  Such practices endangered societal and familial cohesion.  Some divorces are necessary, especially in cases of domestic violence and emotional abuse.  The innocent parties deserve happiness afterward, do they not?  I support them receiving that happiness.  Yet modern practices that endanger societal and familial cohesion exist.

The Gospel of Matthew makes clear that Jesus affirmed the Law of Moses.  He favored Torah piety.  Jesus also opposed those who taught the Torah badly.  Deuteronomy 30 and Psalm 119 taught Torah piety, too.  St. Paul the Apostle admitted that the Law of Moses was good.  His objection after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, was that Judaism was not Christianity, not that it was legalistic.  For St. Paul, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus changed everything.

We have now received not the spirit of the world but the Spirit of God himself, so that we can understand something of God’s generosity towards us.

–1 Corinthians 2:12, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972)

In your context, O reader, what does God’s generosity require you to do?  Returning to Matthew 5 (among other Biblical texts), God orders that we–collectively and individually–treat others properly.  How we think of them influences how we behave toward them, inevitably.

May we–you, O reader, and I–as well as our communities, cultures, societies, et cetera–in the words of Deuteronomy 30:19, choose life.  May we choose proper piety.  May we acknowledge and accept our complete dependence on God.  May we practice mutuality.  May we love one another selflessly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 25, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE CONVERSION OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the Fifth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Homeless (1890), by Thomas Kennington

Image in the Public Domain

Mutuality in God

FEBRUARY 5, 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 58:5-9a

Psalm 112 (LBW) or Psalm 119:17-24 (LW)

1 Corinthians 2:1-5

Matthew 5:13-20

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Almighty God, you sent your only Son

as the Word of life for our eyes to see and our ears to listen. 

Help us to believe with joy what the Scriptures proclaim,

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 16

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O God, our loving Father, through the grace of your Holy Spirit,

you plant your gifts of your love

into the hearts of your faithful people. 

Grant to your servants soundness of mind and body,

so that they may love you with their whole strength

and with their whole heart do these things

that are pleasing in your sight;

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), 26

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In various contexts, from different times, the Bible proclaims a consistent message:  God cares deeply how people treat each other.  God commands care for the vulnerable and weak.  This message is not merely for individuals.  Rather, it is usually collective.

The context of Isaiah 58:5-9a is instructive.  That context was Jerusalem, circa 538 B.C.E.  The first wave of Jewish exiles had returned to their ancestral homeland and found it a troubled, drought-ridden place, not the verdant utopia some prophets had promised.  Second Isaiah reminded people who were feeling vulnerable to care for those who were more vulnerable.  Second Isaiah reminded people of mutuality and complete dependence on God, principles from the Law of Moses.

Jesus upheld the Law of Moses.  He criticized people who taught it badly and wrongly.

When we–collectively and individually–feel vulnerable and do not acknowledge our complete dependence on God, we may victimize or ignore the more vulnerable and the less fortunate.  When we–collectively and individually–do not feel vulnerable and do not acknowledge our complete dependence on God, we may victimize the more vulnerable and the less fortunate.  Either way, we–collectively and individually–may safeguard “me and mine” and endanger or ignore people God does notice.  There is another way, though.  We–collectively and individually–can notice those God notices.  And we–collectively and individually–can practice mutuality and the recognition of universal human dependence on God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 22, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN JULIAN, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF ALEXANDER MEN, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1990

THE FEAST OF BENJAMIN LAY, AMERICAN QUAKER ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT LADISLAO BATTHÁNY-STRATTMAN, AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PHYSICIAN AND PHILANTHROPIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT VINCENT PALLOTTI, FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY FOR THE CATHOLIC APOSTOLATE, THE UNION OF CATHOLIC APOSTOLATE, AND THE SISTERS OF THE CATHOLIC APOSTOLATE

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Link to the corresponding link at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the Fourth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Beatitudes

Image in the Public Domain

Mutuality in God

JANUARY 29, 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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Micah 6:1-8

Psalm 1

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Matthew 5:1-12

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O God, you know that we cannot withstand

the dangers which surround us. 

Strengthen us in body and spirit so that, with your help,

we may be able to overcome the weakness

that our sin has brought upon us;

through Jesus Christ, your Son our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 16

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Almighty God,

you know that we are set among so many and great dangers

that by reason of the weakness of our fallen nature

we cannot always stand upright;

grant us your strength and protection to support us in all dangers

and carry us through all temptations;

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

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

Lutheran Worship (1982), 25

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Sacred ritual is part of the Law of Moses.  So are moral mandates regarding how people ought to treat each other.  A sacred ritual is not a talisman.  To treat it as such is to make a mockery of it.

“The man” of Psalm 1:1 is a student of the Torah.  He, in the original cultural setting and in the Hebrew text, is a man.  In my cultural setting, that role is no longer gender-specific, for the better.  Certain details change, according to physical and temporal setting.  Others remain constant, though, for better or worse.  For example, “the man” of Psalm 1:1 is stable.  The language of positions in Psalm 1:1 is interesting.  “The man” contrasts with the impious, who are in motion–walking, following, and standing–before finally sitting down in the seat of scoffers.  True stability exists in God alone.

The readings from the New Testament tell us that divine values differ from dominant human values.  Conventional wisdom may get some details right.  After all, a broken clock is right twice a day.  Yet conventional wisdom tends to be foolishness.  The ethics of the Beatitudes, for example, look like folly to “the world.”

Micah 6 contrasts with what God has done with what people have done, collectively.  The Bible frequently concerns itself with collective actions and inactions.  My Western culture, with its individualistic emphasis, does not know how to comprehend collective guilt, sin, and repentance.  Yet the Bible does.  Mutuality, not individualism, is a Biblical virtue.  Remember, O reader, that in three of the four readings for this Sunday, the emphasis is on “we,” not “me.”  Furthermore, “we” and “me” coexist in Psalm 1.

The emphasis on “we” terrifies me.  I may try to follow God daily, to practice the Golden Rule, et cetera.  Yet I also belong to a community, a culture, a society, a nation-state, and a species.  The sins of others may cause me to suffer because of my group memberships–community, culture, society, nation-state, and species.  Recall, O reader, that the population in Micah 6 addressed included pious people.  Remember, O reader, that not all Christians in Corinth were querulous jerks.

Ponder, O reader, how we–the “we” of wherever you live–can improve relative to Micah 6:8.  How can “we” do justice, love goodness, and walk modestly with God?

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MIROCLES OF MILAN AND EPIPHANIUS OF PAVIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ALBAN ROE AND THOMAS REYNOLDS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1642

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN YI YON-ON, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN KOREA, 1867

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the Third Sunday After the Epiphany, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  King Hezekiah of Judah

Image in the Public Domain

Judgment and Mercy

JANUARY 22, 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 9:1b-5 (LBW) or Isaiah 9:1-4 (LW) or Amos 3:1-8 (LBW, LW)

Psalm 27:1-9

1 Corinthians 1:10-17

Matthew 4:12-23

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Almighty God, you sent your Son to proclaim your kingdom

and to teach with authority. 

Anoint us with the power of your Spirit, that we, too,

may bring good news to the afflicted,

bind up the brokenhearted,

and proclaim liberty to the captive;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 15

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O Lord God Almighty, because you have always supplied your servants

with the special gifts which come from your Holy Spirit alone,

leave also us not destitute of your manifold gifts nor of grace

to use them always to your honor and glory and the good of others;

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), 24

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Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance throughout the Old and New Testaments.

Isaiah 9 opens on a note of mercy.  The verb tenses in Hebrew throughout Isaiah 9:1-6 are vague.  My historical methodology makes me biased toward interpreting this text as a reference to King Hezekiah of Judah.  Yet millennia of Christian interpretation bypasses Hezekiah and makes the text about Jesus.  Anyhow, Isaiah 9:1-6 is about the divine deliverance of the Kingdom of Judah from the perils of the Syro-Ephraimite War.

Divine judgment of the (northern) Kingdom of Israel opens Amos 3.  Or divine judgment of the Jewish people (in general) opens Amos 3.  References to Israel in the Book of Amos are vague sometimes.  The status of being God’s chosen people–grace, if ever I heard of it–means that the people (collectively) should have known better than they do or seem to know, we read.  They brought judgment upon themselves.

Psalm 27 is a pious Jew’s expression of confidence in God.  This text fits well with Isaiah 9 and stands as a counterpoint to Amos 3.

The Corinthian Christians should have known better than they did.  That church, still a group of problematic house churches long after the time of St. Paul the Apostle (see 1 Clement, circa 100), compromised its witness by being, among other things, petty and fractious.  They brought judgment upon themselves.

Matthew 4:12-23, quoting Isaiah 9:1-2, tells of Christ’s first cousins, Sts. James and John, sons of Zebedee, leaving the family fishing business and following him, after two other brothers, Sts. Andrew and Simon Peter, had done the same.

God sends nobody to Hell.  God seeks everyone to follow Him.  All those in Hell sent themselves.  C. S. Lewis wrote that the doors to Hell are locked from the inside.

Judgment need not necessarily lead to damnation, though.  It may function instead as a catalyst for repentance.  Some of the Hebrew prophetic books, with their layers of authorship over generations, contradict themselves regarding the time for repentance has passed.  That time seems to have passed, according to an earlier stratum.  Yet according to a subsequent layer, there is still time to repent.

Anyway, while the time to repent remains, may we–collectively and individually–do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 20, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FABIAN, BISHOP OF ROME, AND MARTYR, 250

THE FEAST OF SANTS EUTHYMIUS THE GREAT AND THEOCTISTUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF GREVILLE PHILLIMORE, ENGLISH PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF HAROLD A. BOSLEY, UNITED METHODIST MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HARRIET AUBER, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF RICHARD ROLLE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC SPIRITUAL WRITER

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the Second Sunday After the Epiphany, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Sts. Simon Peter and Michael the Archangel

Image in the Public Domain

Trust in God

JANUARY 15, 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 49:1-6

Psalm 40:1-12 (LBW) or Psalm 92:1-5 (LW)

1 Corinthians 1:1-9

John 1:29-41

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Lord God, you showed your glory and

led many to faith by the works of your Son. 

As he brought gladness and healing to his people,

grant us these same gifts and lead us also to perfect faith in him,

Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 15

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Almighty and eternal God,

Governor of all things in heaven and on earth,

mercifully hear the prayers of your people,

and grant us your peace in our days;

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 22

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We can trust God because of what God has done.  In Hebrew theology, God is like what God has done.  Consider many texts of the Hebrew Bible, O reader; they recount what God has done then they encourage people to trust God.

What has God done in these readings?

  1. God has arranged for the Babylonian Exile to end.
  2. God has protected the people of Israel during that exile.
  3. God has made the people of Israel a light to the nations.
  4. God has healed the author of Psalm 40 from a serious illness.
  5. God has made the author of Psalm 92 happy with His work.
  6. God has enriched the lives of the Corinthian Christians whom St. Paul the Apostle began to criticize in 1 Corinthians 1:10.
  7. God has sent the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth.

What items will you, O reader, add to the list of what God has done?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 19, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SARGENT SHRIVER AND HIS WIFE, EUNICE KENNEDY SHRIVER, HUMANITARIANS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALESSANDRO VALIGNANO, ITALIAN JESUIT MISSIONARY PRIEST IN THE FAR EAST

THE FEAST OF CHARLES WINFRED DOUGLAS, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, LITURGIST, MUSICOLOGIST, LINGUIST, POET, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND ARRANGER

THE FEAST OF HENRY TWELLS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the First Sunday After the Epiphany: The Baptism of Our Lord, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Baptism of Christ

Image in the Public Domain

A Covenant People

JANUARY 8, 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 42:1-7

Psalm 45:7-9

Acts 10:34-38

Matthew 3:13-17

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Father in heaven, at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan

you proclaimed him your beloved Son

and anointed him with the Holy Spirit. 

Make all who are baptized into Christ

faithful in their calling to be your children

and inheritors with him of everlasting life;

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), 15

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Father in heaven, as at the baptism in the Jordan River

you once proclaimed Jesus your beloved Son

and anointed him with the Holy Spirit,

grant that all who are baptized in his name may

faithfully keep the covenant into which they have been called,

boldly confess their Savior,

and with him be heirs of life eternal;

through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 21

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The people of God–Jews and Gentiles–have a divine mandate to be a light to the nations, for the glory of God and the benefit of the people.  The ethics of the Law of Moses and the teachings of Jesus value and mandate equity and justice, both collectively and individually, as a matter of conduct and policy.

The servant in Isaiah 42:1-7 is the personification of the people of Israel, in the context of the Babylonian Exile.  Yet much of Christian Tradition interprets that servant as Christ.  Read Isaiah 42:6-7, O reader:

I have created you, and appointed you 

A covenant people, a light of nations–

Opening eyes deprived of light,

Rescuing prisoners from confinement,

From the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures 

I have checked this text in five French translations.  “You” is singular in all of them, for it refers to the personified servant.  Yet 43:6b-7a refers to “a covenant people.”

Possible reasons for Jesus, sinless, taking St. John the Baptist’s baptism for repentance for forgiveness of sins have long filled minds and commentaries.  Maybe Jesus was originally a disciple of St. John the Baptist, and authors of the four canonical Gospels attempted to obscure this potentially embarrassing fact.  Perhaps Jesus was identifying with sinful human beings.  (One may legitimately accept more than one rationale.)

Regardless of how one accounts for the baptism of Jesus, the baptized belong to that covenant people described in Isaiah 42:1-7.  To belong to the covenant people is to carry a demanding divine mandate to serve, to live in mutuality, and to keep the Golden Rule.  To belong to the covenant people, as Gentiles, is to carry the divine mandate to love like Jesus, for Christ’s sake and glory.  To belong to the covenant people is to carry a glorious and crucial calling.

Yet a certain bumper sticker rings true too often.  It reads:

JESUS, SAVE ME FROM YOUR FOLLOWERS.

I hear that saying and think:

Yes, I feel like that sometimes.

Perhaps you, O reader, feel like that sometimes, too.  Many of the members of the covenant community have behaved badly and betrayed the mandate in Isaiah 42:6b-7a.  That is sad, as well as counter-productive to the effort to aid people in their walk with God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 18, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE CONFESSION OF SAINT PETER, APOSTLE

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the Epiphany of Our Lord, Years A, B, and C (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Adoration of the Magi Stamp from Latvia, 1992

Image in the Public Domain

Extending the Borders

JANUARY 6, 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 60:1-6

Psalm 72

Ephesians 3:2-12

Matthew 2:1-12

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Lord God, on this day you revealed your Son

to the nations by the leading of a star. 

Lead us now by faith to know your presence in our lives,

and bring us at last to the full vision of your glory,

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), 15

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O God, by the leading of a star you once made known

to all nations your only-begotten Son;

now lead us, who know you by faith,

to know in heaven the fullness of your divine goodness;

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

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

Lutheran Worship (1982), 20

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Third Isaiah, in Isaiah 60, applied motifs of the Davidic Dynasty, not to the Messiah, but to the Israelite nation as a whole.  (The “you” in Isaiah 60:1-6 is plural.)  There is no Messiah in Third Isaiah, which teaches that in the future, God will rule directly on Earth.

Yet we have this assigned reading on the Feast of the Epiphany, about Jesus, the Messiah.

Psalm 72, originally for a coronation, describes the ideal Davidic monarch.  He will govern justly, defend the oppressed, crush the extortioners, and revere God, we read.  His renown spreads far and wide, we read.  These sentences describe few of the Davidic monarchs.  They do not even describe King David.  The Christian tradition of reading Jesus into every nook and cranny of the Hebrew Bible interprets Jesus as the ultimate fulfillment of the text, though.

Call me a heretic if you wish, O reader, but I resist the tendency to read Jesus into every nook and cranny of the Hebrew Bible.  Call me a heretic if you wish; I will accept the label with pride.  I even own a t-shirt that reads:

HERETIC.

Father Raymond E. Brown, whom I admire and some of whose books I own, argued against the historicity of the birth narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  I take this point while disagreeing with another one:  Brown considered the account in the Gospel of Luke closer to reality than the one in the Gospel of Matthew.  I reverse that.  I posit that there may have been a natural phenomenon (poetically, a star) that attracted the attention of some Persian astrologers.  This scenario seems plausible.

I, being a detail-oriented person, as well as a self-identified heretic, also wince at the depictions of the shepherds and the Magi together at Bethlehem.  Even if one mistakes the germane accounts in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke for historical stories, one may notice that up to two years separated the stories.  St. Dionysius Exiguus, for all his piety, counted badly.  Herod the Great died in 4 B.C.E.  If one accepts the Massacre of the (Holy) Innocents as being plausible (as I do), then one may wish to notice that the Roman client king ordered the deaths of boys two years old and younger at Bethlehem.  This story, therefore, places the birth of Jesus circa 6 B.C.E.  Either way, St. Dionysius Exiguus still place the birth of Jesus “Before Christ.”  (This is why I use B.C.E. and C.E.)

Whoever wrote or dictated the Epistle to the Ephesians, I am grateful to St. Paul the Apostle, the great evangelist to the Gentiles.  I, as a Gentile, am happy to be in the club of Christ.  I also acknowledge that I, as a Christian, stand on the shoulders of Judaism, a faith I refuse to malign.

The Epiphany–set on the old Eastern date of Christmas–reminds us that God seeks to attract as many followers as possible.  We Gentiles, grafted onto the tree of faith, need to remember that we are a branch, not the trunk, of that tree.  The limits of divine mercy exist, but I do not know where the borders are.  I assume that Judaism and Christianity are the two true faiths.  Yet I do not presume to know who God’s “secret friends”–secret to me–are.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 17, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY OF EGYPT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND FATHER OF WESTERN MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DEICOLA AND GALL, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS; AND SAINT OTHMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AT SAINT GALLEN

THE FEAST OF JAMES WOODROW, SOUTHERN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, NATURALIST, AND ALLEGED HERETIC

THE FEAST OF SAINT PACHOMIUS THE GREAT, FOUNDER OF CHRISTIAN COMMUNAL MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS A. DOOLEY, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PHYSICIAN AND HUMANITARIAN

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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