Archive for February 2012

Devotion for December 27 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Above:  A Candle Burning

Image Source = Matthew Bowden

The Light of Salvation

DECEMBER 27, 2021

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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:

Isaiah 51:17-52:12

Psalm 24 (Morning)

Psalms 19 and 121 (Evening)

Matthew 2:1-12

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Some Related Posts:

Light of the World, We Hail Thee:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2012/02/15/light-of-the-world-we-hail-thee/

O Christ, Our Light, Our Radiance True:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/o-christ-our-light-o-radiance-true/

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The author of Isaiah 51:17-23 addresses the Jewish people of Jerusalem during the Persian period.  The lost children, or exiles, will return to their mother.  Such optimism did not reflect the reality of the mothers whose sons Herod the Great ordered killed in Matthew 2:13-18.  But I get ahead of myself.

Exiles from afar return in Isaiah, and we read that the redemption of Judah is assured in Isaiah 52:1-12.  Redemption of far more than Judah in the form of a baby brought Magi to the realm of Herod the Great, a client tyrant of the Roman Empire.  Something about light terrifies the friends and allies of darkness.  They try to kill it.  They kill, but they do not extinguish the light.  Salvation is of the Jews.  I, as a Gentile, know this well.  The light of salvation has attracted the violent attention of many people over time yet never gone out.  This is a great truth; may we embrace and give thanks for it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 16, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT NORBERT OF XANTEN, FOUNDER OF THE PREMONSTRATENSIANS, SAINT HUGH OF FOSSES, SECOND FOUNDER OF THE PREMONSTRATENSIANS, AND SAINT EVERMOD, BISHOP OF RATZEBURG

THE FEAST OF CHARLES TODD QUINTARD, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF TENNESSEE

THE FEAST OF JANANI LUWUM, ANGLICAN ARCHBISHOP OF UGANDA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SILVIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/the-light-of-salvation/

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Devotion for December 26 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   10 comments

Above:  Joseph’s Dream, by Rembrandt van Rijn

The Insults of Men

DECEMBER 26, 2021

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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:

Isaiah 49:22-26; 50:4-51:8, 12-16

Psalm 116 (Morning)

Psalms 119:1-24 and 27 (Evening)

Matthew 1:18-25

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Some Related Posts:

Feast of Saint Joseph of Nazareth (March 19):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/12/feast-of-st-joseph-of-nazareth-march-19-2/

A Prayer for Shalom:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/a-prayer-for-shalom/

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Listen to Me, you who care for the right,

O people who lay My instruction to heart!

Fear not the insults of men,

And do not be dismayed at their jeers;

For the moth shall eat them up like a garment,

The worm shall eat them up like wool.

But My triumph shall endure forever,

My salvation through all ages.

–Isaiah 51:7-8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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 I maintain a holy family shrine in my abode.  This shrine has increased in size lately, mainly due to the addition of objects–bookmarks, Christmas cards, and various three-dimensional images of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, or two or more of them.  Some of these additions are items new to me, but mostly the growth of the shrine has been a matter of rearranging and repurposing items I have had for some time.  One of my favorite images in the shrine is of Joseph and his young son.  Such iconography is less common than images of Mary and Jesus.  I have plenty of the those but only one of Joseph alone with Jesus.

Joseph was in a delicate situation.  Yet he risked shame to spare Mary’s life.  And whispers followed Mary, Joseph, and Jesus for years, as the Gospels reflect.  But Joseph made the correct decision, and the triumph of God has endured to this point in time.

From the time of birth each of us has a set of purposes to complete in this life.  We can summarize them accurately and broadly as glorifying and enjoying God, living compassionately, and leaving our area of the planet better than we found it.  The particulars will vary according to our circumstances, or course.  May we focus on fulfilling our purposes from God and on encouraging each other, in doing the same, not on spreading rumors and questioning each other’s legitimacy.  There are no illegitimate people, whatever we may know or think we know about their parents’ timing.  We all have the same divine Mother and Father, who is God, beyond all human metaphors.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 16, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT NORBERT OF XANTEN, FOUNDER OF THE PREMONSTRATENSIANS, SAINT HUGH OF FOSSES, SECOND FOUNDER OF THE PREMONSTRATENSIANS, AND SAINT EVERMOD, BISHOP OF RATZEBURG

THE FEAST OF CHARLES TODD QUINTARD, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF TENNESSEE

THE FEAST OF JANANI LUWUM, ANGLICAN ARCHBISHOP OF UGANDA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SILVIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/the-insults-of-men/

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Devotion for December 25 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   8 comments

Above:  Adoration of the Shepherds, by James Tissot

Seeming Paradoxes

DECEMBER 25, 2021

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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:

Isaiah 49:1-18

Psalm 2 (Morning)

Psalms 98 and 96 (Evening)

Matthew 1:1-17

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Some Related Posts:

O Blessed Mother:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/o-blessed-mother/

A Christmas Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/a-christmas-prayer/

Blessing of a Nativity Scene:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/blessing-of-a-nativity-scene/

A Christmas Prayer:  God of History:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/a-christmas-prayer-god-of-history/

A Christmas Prayer:  Immanuel:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/a-christmas-prayer-immanuel/

Christmas Blessings:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/christmas-blessings/

A Christmas Prayer of Thanksgiving:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/a-christmas-prayer-of-thanksgiving/

The Hail Mary:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/25/the-hail-mary/

O Little Town of Bethlehem:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/12/09/o-little-town-of-bethlehem/

Joy to the World:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/12/15/joy-to-the-world/

Christmas Prayers of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/12/20/christmas-prayers-of-praise-and-adoration/

Christmas Prayers of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/12/20/christmas-prayers-of-dedication/

A Prayer of Thanksgiving for Christmas:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/12/22/a-prayer-of-thanksgiving-for-christmas/

How Can I Fitly Greet Thee:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/how-can-i-fitly-greet-thee/

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Divine agency binds the Isaiah and Matthew readings.  The Servant Song from Isaiah 49, set prior to the opportunity for exiles of Judah to return to their ancestral homeland, makes clear the theme that God is orchestrating events.  Furthermore, God’s love for Judah exceeds that of a mother for a child (verses 15-16).  We know that some mothers, especially drug-addicted ones, are inattentive sometimes.  So yes, a woman can disown the child of her womb; some have.  But God would not disown disobedient and punished Judah.

As for Matthew, we have a family tree for Jesus.  Most names are male, but notice the four women mentioned.  Rahab was a prostitute, Ruth was a foreigner, Bathsheba was so scandalous that the texts lists her as “Uriah’s wife” and does not use her name, and there were rumors regarding Mary.  There were, of course, unnamed and unmentioned women involved in all this reproduction, but the text points out only four, one of whom was a Gentile and three of which had justly or unjustly checkered sexual reputations.  If I were fabricating a story designed to make Jesus look as good as possible, I would not write the story this way.

The meaning I draw from the Matthew genealogy of Jesus today is that God works through us, regardless of our socially defined categories and stigmas, to work grace in the world.  Grace overpowers scandal, stigma, and scorn.  The “other” we despise might be an instrument of grace.  This is how God, whose love exceeds that of a mother, works among us; the first will be last and the last will be first.  Redemption arrives as a vulnerable baby.

 It is a great mystery; may we embrace it.  Merry Christmas!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BRAY, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ALEXANDER VIETS GRISWOLD, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF MICHAEL PRAETORIUS, COMPOSER

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/08/09/seeming-paradoxes/

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Devotion for December 24 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  A Desert Scene in the U.S. Southwest

Image Source = Western History/Genealogy Department, Denver Public Library

via the Library of Congress

The Church, Dependent Upon God

DECEMBER 24, 2021

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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:

Isaiah 44:21-45:13, 20, 25

Psalm 19 (Morning)

Psalms 132 and 114 (Evening)

Revelation 12:1-17

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The theology of Satan in Revelation differs from that we read in Job, where he works for God and does nothing without divine permission.  But we are not reading Job; we are reading Revelation.  The woman in Revelation 12 is the Church, the baby snatched away to safety is Jesus, and the thwarted dragon is Satan.  The baby might be safe, but the woman still has to face persecution and live in the wilderness for a time–but not forever.  The church will see its vindication.

The exiles of Judah must have felt isolated, as in the wilderness.  Yet, as we have read previously in Isaiah, God was plotting their liberation.  The chosen instrument was none other than Cyrus II, the Zoroastrian King of the Persians and the Medes.

The wilderness makes for a powerful metaphor.  We speak of “wilderness years” of powerful politicians before their height of power and influence.  Isolation in the wilderness (literal or metaphorical) can be difficult, of course.  Yet, as the Desert Fathers and Mothers of Egypt and Palestine learned, there, in the wilderness, they could not evade the fact of their total dependence on God.  The church, likewise, depends completely on God.  It is never far from extinction, yet it persists.  The gates of Hell will not triumph over it, by the grace and power of God.  As we rejoice this Christmas Eve, may we recall whose we are and who will vindicate us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 4, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF FELIX MANZ, FIRST ANABAPTIST MARTYR

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH SETON, FOUNDER OF THE AMERICAN SISTERS OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY OF LANGRES, TERTICUS OF LANGRES, GALLUS OF CLERMONT, GREGORY OF TOURS, AVITUS I OF CLERMONT, MAGNERICUS OF TRIER, AND GAUGERICUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN KONRAD WILHELM LOEHE, LUTHERAN PASTOR

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/08/09/the-church-dependent-upon-god/

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Devotion for December 23 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Above:  A Map of the Roman Empire in 117 C.E.

Nothing is Impossible with God

DECEMBER 23, 2021

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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:

Isaiah 43:25-44:20

Psalm 24 (Morning)

Psalms 25 and 110 (Evening)

Revelation 11:1-19

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Appearances, we read in Isaiah 43:25-44:20 and Revelation 11:1-19, can deceive us.  We might seem to be be hopeless due to our sins and our circumstances, but God will redeem and vindicate us.  Polytheism was the default setting in most ancient Middle and Near Eastern religions, but there has always been just one deity.  And the church might seem to be defeated under the weight of the imperium, but it is not.

Nothing is impossible with God.

Once, at Piedmont College, in Demorest, Georgia, I heard a presentation by a professor visiting from the Twin Cities.  This gentleman specialized in critical thinking.  I recall most of all one statement he made:  Our most basic assumptions are those we do not recognize as being assumptions.  In other words, sometimes (if not much or most of the time) we do not distinguish correctly between the subjective and the objective categories, even though we can do so.  In this context we can overlook easily the workings and even the existence of God, whom our categories and preconceptions cannot contain.

An empire which has stood (mostly officially as a republic) for centuries will cease to exist.  A young, small, and persecuted religion will become the largest belief system on the planet.  An exile will end.  A young woman will give birth to a baby boy, who will grow up and redeem the human race of its sin.  What else will happen?

Nothing is impossible with God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 3, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE TENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF EDWARD CASWALL, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD PERRONET, BRITISH METHODIST PREACHER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GENEVIEVE, PROPHET

THE FEAST OF GLADYS AYLWARD, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY TO CHINA

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/08/09/nothing-is-impossible-with-god-2/

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Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year C   3 comments

Above:  The Visitation and Magnificat

Violence, Grace, and Scandal

DECEMBER 19, 2021

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THE FIRST READING

Micah 5:2-5 (New Revised Standard Version):

But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,

who are one of the little clans of Judah,

from you shall come forth for me

one who is to rule Israel,

whose origin is from of old,

from ancient days.

Therefore he shall give them up until the time

when she who is in labor has brought forth;

then the rest of his kindred shall return

to the people of Israel.

And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the LORD,

in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.

And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth;

and he shall be the one of peace.

THE RESPONSE:  OPTIONS

Canticle 15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

(The Magnificat plus the Trinitarian formula)

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;

for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:

the Almighty has done great things for me,

and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him

in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,

he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,

and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel,

for he has remembered his promise of mercy,

The promise he made to our fathers,

to Abraham and his children for ever.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

as it was in the beginning is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

Psalm 80:1-7 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock;

shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim.

2  In the presence of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh,

stir up your strength and come to help us.

3  Restore us, O God of hosts;

show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

4  O LORD God of hosts,

how long will you be angered

despite the prayers of your people?

5  You have fed them with the bread of tears;

you have given them bowls of tears to drink.

6 You have made us the derision of our neighbors,

and our enemies laugh us to scorn.

7  Restore us, O God of hosts;

show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

THE SECOND READING

Hebrews 10:5-10 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,

but a body have you prepared for me;

in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.

Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,’

as it is written of me in the roll of the book.

When he said above,

You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings

(those are offered according to the law), then he added,

Behold, I have come to do your will.

He abolishes the first in order to establish the second.  And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

THE GOSPEL READING

Luke 1:39-45 (46-55) (Revised English Bible):

Soon afterwards Mary set out and hurried away to a town in the uplands of Judah.  She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth.  And when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby stirred in her womb.  Then Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed in a loud voice,

God’s blessing is on you above all women, and his blessing is on the fruit of your womb.  Who am I, that the mother of my Lord should visit me?  I tell you, when your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby in my womb leapt for joy.  Happy is she who has faith that the Lord’s promise to her would be fulfilled!

And Mary said:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour;

for he has looked with favour on his servant,

lowly as she is.

From this day forward

all generations will count me blessed,

for the Mighty God has done great things for me.

His name is holy,

his mercy sure from generation to generation

toward those who fear him.

He has shown the might of his arm,

he has routed the proud and all their schemes;

he has brought down monarchs and their thrones,

and raised on high the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and sent the rich away empty.

He has come to the help of Israel his servant,

as he promised to our forefathers;

he has not forgotten to show mercy

to Abraham and his children’s children for ever.

Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then returned home.

The Collect:

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Advent Prayers of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/10/advent-prayers-of-dedication/

Advent Prayers of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/10/advent-prayers-of-praise-and-adoration/

The Hail Mary:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/25/the-hail-mary/

An Advent Prayer:  Expectant God:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/an-advent-prayer-expectant-god/

An Advent Prayer:  Divine Light:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/an-advent-prayer-divine-light/

An Advent Prayer:  The Word of God is Near:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/an-advent-prayer-the-word-of-god-is-near/

An Advent Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/an-advent-prayer-of-confession/

Advent Prayers of Thanksgiving:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/advent-prayers-of-thanksgiving/

An Advent Blessing:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/an-advent-blessing/

An Advent Prayer:  Expectant Hearts:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/an-advent-prayer-expectant-hearts/

O Blessed Mother:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/o-blessed-mother/

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The world has long been violent.  Such violence is evident in some of the readings for this Sunday.  Read the rest of Micah 5, which refers to a possible invasion by Assyrian forces.  Enemies laugh the people of God to scorn in Psalm 80.  Hebrews 10 reminds us that the birth of Jesus was an early chapter in a story which went on to include the crucifixion.  And the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, the setting for the glorious Magnificat, occurred in occupied Judea.  The Pax Romana came at a high price for the vanquished and occupied.

Empires rise and fall, but violence persists.  Nations still occupy other peoples, who engage in acts of violent resistance.  And invasions occur from time to time.  Grudges ancient and modern ferment in the minds of many people, whether they are occupied or the occupiers.  Out of mutual fear, hostility, and misunderstanding we humans attack each other and justify injustice.

We have done this to ourselves and each other.  We continue to do so, for we might not know how to act differently.  We need to hear and heed the message of the Magnificat.  The fruit of a scandalous conception brought about an abundance of grace, but that fruit needed good nurturing.  May we, when we have opportunities to do so, nurture the bearers of grace around us.  Scandals are less important (if at all) than are love and compassion.  Who knows how far the impact of our nurturing will reach?  What would Jesus have been without the parenting skills of Mary and Joseph?  If we take our creedal statements regarding our Lord’s full humanity and divinity seriously, we must give Mary and Joseph much credit.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 3, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE TENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF EDWARD CASWALL, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD PERRONET, BRITISH METHODIST PREACHER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GENEVIEVE, PROPHET

THE FEAST OF GLADYS AYLWARD, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY TO CHINA

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/08/09/violence-grace-and-scandal/

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Devotion for December 22 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   10 comments

Above:  Torch Seller

The Church and the Future

DECEMBER 22, 2021

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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:

Isaiah 43:1-24

Psalm 90 (Morning)

Psalms 80 and 72 (Evening)

Revelation 9:13-10:11

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Fear not, for I am with you….

–Isaiah 43:5a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

The text from Revelation, for all its symbolic language, contains a simple message in several parts:

  1. God will destroy the Roman Empire.
  2. Yet many people will persist in their evil after the accomplishment of that fact.
  3. The church will survive its oppressors and thrive.  Love will last longer than evil.

This relates well to Isaiah 43, which picks up where the previous chapter ends.  The exiles are precious to God (verse 4), who will deliver them and destroy the Babylonians/Chaldeans.

The nascent church was small when John of Patmos wrote.  It has grown greatly over the succeeding centuries.  It has survived the first five centuries of its existence and arrived at a broad doctrinal consensus with regard to basic questions.  There is still no unanimity; there has never been such.  And the church is actually more united than appearances might seem; at least we agree on the table of contents of the New Testament, if not the Old Testament.  Furthermore, denominational lines are frequently superficial, so the number of denominations is not the best gauge to use.

These days the church is losing membership overall in Western cultures.  I wonder how much of this shrinkage is superficial, how much of it reflects actual attendance rates.  (Unfortunately, not all of it does.)  The fact that one attends church services regularly for a time and carries an affiliation does not necessarily mean that one is more than superficially Christian.  So, in many cases, dropping out of church is more of a formality than a reversion.  Whatever the details of of church demographics are, the message from Revelation 10:1-11 should comfort us:  There is a future for the church yet.  We Christians of these days stand on the shoulders of those who have preceded us.  Without transforming theologies and traditions into museum pieces, may we honor the past, cling to that which is eternal, and carry the torch into the future.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 3, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE TENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF EDWARD CASWALL, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD PERRONET, BRITISH METHODIST PREACHER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GENEVIEVE, PROPHET

THE FEAST OF GLADYS AYLWARD, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY TO CHINA

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/08/09/the-church-and-the-future/

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Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle and Martyr (December 21)   7 comments

Above:  St. Thomas Episcopal Church, New Windsor, New York

Image Source = Daniel Case

My Favorite Biblical Character

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Habakkuk 2:1-4 (The Jerusalem Bible):

I will stand on my watchtower,

and take up my post on my battlements,

watching to see what he will say to me,

what answer he will make to my complaints.

Then Yahweh answered and said,

Write the vision down,

inscribe it on tablets

to be easily read,

since this vision is for its own time only:

eager for its own fulfillment, it does not deceive;

it comes slowly, wait,

for it will come, without fail.

See how he flags, he whose soul is not at rights,

but the upright man will live by his faithfulness.

Psalm 126 (The Jerusalem Bible):

When Yahweh brought Zion’s captives home,

at first it seemed like a dream;

then our mouths filled with laughter

and our lips with song.

Even the pagan started talking

about the marvels Yahweh had done for us!

What marvels indeed he did for us,

and how over joyed we were!

Yahweh, bring all our captives back again

like torrents in the Negeb!

Those who went sowing in tears

now sing as they reap.

They went away, went away weeping,

carrying the seed;

they come back, come back singing,

carrying their sheaves.

Hebrews 10:35-11:1 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Be as confident now, then, since the reward is so great.  You will need endurance to do God’s will and gain what he has promised.

Only a little while now, a very little while,

and the one that is coming will have come; he will not delay.

The righteous man will live by faith,

but if he draws back, my soul will take no pleasure in him.

You and I are not the sort of people who draw back, and are lost by it; we are the sort who keep faithful until our souls are saved.

Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of the realities that at present remain unseen.

John 20:24-29 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.  When the disciples said,

We have seen the Lord,

he answered,

Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger in the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.

Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and among them.

Peace be with you,

he said.  Then he spoke to Thomas,

Put your finger here; look, here are my hands.  Give me your hand; put it into my side.  Doubt no longer but believe.

Thomas replied,

My Lord and my God!

Jesus said to him:

You believe because you can see me.

Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.

The Collect:

Everliving God, who strengthened your apostle Thomas with firm and certain faith in your Son’s resurrection: Grant us so perfectly and without doubt to believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, that our faith may never be found wanting in your sight; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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My father served as pastor of Cooks Union United Methodist Church, about eight miles outside Colquitt, Georgia, in Miller County, from June 1985 to June 1986.  One Sunday morning during that year, a laywoman whose name I forget delivered a children’s sermon about St. Thomas.  She held a small book about the Apostles.  You, O reader, might have seen this book or even own a copy.  It features color paintings of each of the main Apostles with a brief profile on the facing page.  The book is thin, with a two-tone hard cover.  The church member explained that Thomas had doubted the resurrection of Jesus and that he had later taken the Gospel to India, where he died for the Christian faith.  So, she said, Thomas was not all bad.

But Thomas not all bad, anyway.  The presumption behind her concluding statement was that the Apostle’s doubt constituted a great stain on his character.  This was a great misunderstanding.

Let us back up for a few moments, though.

St. Thomas was a twin, hence the Greek designation Didymus, which means “twin.”  The canonical Gospels contain few details about him, and he did not write the Gnostic, non-canonical Gospel of Thomas.  (I have read the Gospel of Thomas in three translations, and think that its non-canonical status is proper.)  St. Thomas traveled through Persia all the way to India, where he introduced Christianity to the subcontinent by the 50s C.E.  The modern-day Mar Thoma Church is the heir of this efforts.  In India the Apostle met his martyrdom by spearing at Madras; Mylapore is his burial site.  Today one can visit his tomb at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Thomas at Mylapore.

St. Thomas was a healthy skeptic.  The resurrection was hardly a frequent event, so doubting it was natural.  The Apostle was not the only follower of Jesus at the time to harbor doubts.  The canonical Gospels indicate that St. Peter was initially skeptical, too.  Yet I hear about Doubting Thomases, not Doubting Peters.  Anyway, St. Thomas, the healthy skeptic, believed the evidence when he saw it, and dedicated the rest of his life to telling people about Jesus.

I am sufficiently a product of the Enlightenment to accept the premise that doubt is a legitimate path to knowledge.  I ask questions when I harbor doubts, and I seek answers when I ask questions.  Thus I increase the probability of finding answers when I experience and embrace doubt.  Thomas admitted his doubt, received his answer, accepted it, and lived accordingly.

So, let us treat the label “Doubting Thomas” as a great compliment.

Finally, a personal note:  St. Thomas is my favorite Biblical figure.  He was an honest doubter and seeker, a good skeptic.  So am I.  If I were a Biblical character, I would be St. Thomas the Apostle.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 10, 2010

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (U.S.A.), 1983

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA, 1925

THE FEAST OF SAINT EPHREM OF EDESSA, ROMAN CATHOLIC DEACON AND HYMN WRITER

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Published previously at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR:

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/10/feast-of-st-thomas-apostle-and-martyr-december-21/

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Devotion for December 21 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

Above:  Locusts on a Car Wheel, 1930

Image Source = Library of Congress

Vindication by God

DECEMBER 21, 2021

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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:

Isaiah 42:1-25

Psalm 102 (Morning)

Psalms 130 and 16 (Evening)

Revelation 9:1-12

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The LORD desires His [servant’s] vindication,

That he may magnify and glorify [His] Teaching….

–Isaiah 42:21, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Isaiah 42 opens with a familiar Servant Song, a text many Christian interpreters have applied to Jesus.  But read the rest of the chapter.  The servant is the exiled nation of Judah.  It is blind and deaf to God.  It deserves punishment, which it has received.  And God is preparing to vindicate the servant.  This was good news for the exiles yet bad news for the Babylonian leadership.

Empire is of the essence in this day’s readings.  The empire is Babylon in Isaiah 42 and Rome in Revelation 9.  John of Patmos personifies the Roman Empire as a swarm of satanic destructive locusts.  God would vindicate his servants, the sealed ones, according to Revelation 8.  But as for the rest….

The victory will be God’s, not ours.  The vindication will be ours.  May we trust God and leave the battles in divine hands.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 3, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE TENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF EDWARD CASWALL, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD PERRONET, BRITISH METHODIST PREACHER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GENEVIEVE, PROPHET

THE FEAST OF GLADYS AYLWARD, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY TO CHINA

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/08/09/vindication-by-god/

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Devotion for December 20 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  Baal

Idols and Icons

DECEMBER 20, 2021

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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:

Isaiah 40:18-41:10

Psalm 18:1-20 (Morning)

Psalms 126 and 62 (Evening)

Revelation 8:1-13

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Some Related Posts:

A Prayer for Proper Priorities:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/a-prayer-for-proper-priorities/

A Prayer to Relinquish the Illusion of Control:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/a-prayer-to-relinquish-the-illusion-of-control/

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John of Patmos interpreted natural disasters as calls to repentance.  As I tire of writing repeatedly yet think I must do anyway, repentance is changing one’s mind or turning around.  It is active.  Apologizing is part of repentance much of the time, yet let us never mistake it for all of repentance.

Back to my main thread….

John of Patmos interpreted natural disasters as calls to repentance.  As I wrote in the December 18 devotional post in this series, sometimes we interpret disturbing events (natural or otherwise)  correctly; at other times we add two and two, arriving at a sum of five.  But let us remain focused on the main point:   God desires that we repent.  This indicates that God has not given up on us.  Otherwise there would be just destruction.

God’s self-description in Isaiah 40-41 repudiates idols.  An idol is anything which distracts us from God. We all have a collection of them.  We might not call them statues of Baal or another ancient imaginary deity, but we might have an excessive habit of watching television or playing video games.  For many people the Bible itself is an idol because they treat it as one.

An icon, in contrast, is something through which we see (or hear) God. An icon can be religious artwork, a loved one, or the Bible, for example.  The Bible, in fact, is properly an icon.

May we repent of our idolatry and replace our idols with icons.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 2, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE NINTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS (TRANSFERRED)

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/08/09/idols-and-icons/

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