Archive for June 2013

Devotion for Wednesday After the Second Sunday of Advent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

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Above:  Trimming Olive Trees in Palestine, Between 1934 and 1939

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-16614

Grace, Free Will, and Fruits

DECEMBER 11, 2019

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son.

By his coming nurture our growth as people of repentance and peace;

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 18

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 15:1-18

Psalm 21

Matthew 12:33-37

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Be exalted, O LORD, in your might;

we will sing and praise your power.

–Psalm 21:14, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Today’s readings are about fruits–descendants (in the case of Abram/Abraham) and deeds and words (in the case of Matthew 12).  Abram/Abraham had free will, as does each of us, O reader.  God is mighty, but we are not cosmic puppets, so we can choose to cooperate with God or to do otherwise.  Our deeds reveal our creeds, for such as we think, we are.  So, if we suffer, may we do so for the sake of righteousness, not sin.

I examine my spiritual history and conclude that my part is mixed.  Sometimes, however, I have thought mistakenly that I was doing that.  And, on other occasions, I have not even tried.  But I have returned to God again and again, trusting in love which covers a multitude of sins and has only one unpardonable sin.  To the best of my knowledge, I have not committed blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, for my conscience seems to have been intact for as long as I remember.  And I can distinguish between good and evil.

We should, of course, know that our families, subcultures, cultures, friends, and societies influence our views of right and wrong.  Sometimes they err.  To some extent each of us is wrong–sinful.  But God knows that about us–that we are but dust.  I think that the mere effort to do the righteous thing pleases God, by grace.  At least I hope so.  But I depend on grace to lead to positive spiritual results for communities, cultures, subcultures, societies, families, individuals, et cetera.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 26, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JEREMIAH, BIBLICAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF ISABEL FLORENCE HAPGOOD, ECUMENIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/grace-free-will-and-fruits/

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Devotion for Tuesday After the Second Sunday of Advent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

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Above:  But with Her Babe Upon Her Knee, by Florence Edith Storer

Published in 1912

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZC4-2669

The Paradoxical Power and Glory of God

DECEMBER 10, 2019

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son.

By his coming nurture our growth as people of repentance and peace;

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 18

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 41:14-20

Psalm 21

Romans 15:14-21

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The readings from Isaiah 41 and Romans 15 remind us of the glory and might of God and of the powerlessness of we mere mortals to work anything more than what Lutheran confessions of faith call “civic righteousness.”  It is laudable that we perform good deeds and refrain from committing bad ones as often as we do, but that fact cannot save us from ourselves, from our sin.

Being sure not to detract from divine glory is a recurring theme in the Bible, especially in the Hebrew Bible.  That explains the Tower of Babel, Gideon’s army, et cetera.  Divine glory seems to shine brightly in both grand gestures and in small, unlikely packages.  Such glory is most concentrated in Jesus of Nazareth, the incarnated form of the Second Person of the Trinity.  Among the meanings of the Incarnation is that one should look for divine glory in many places, some of them unpredictable, even mundane.  The paradox of the Incarnation is multifaceted.  One facet is that God, mighty and powerful, assumed the form of a defenseless infant.

So, as we Western Christians prepare for the liturgical celebration of that birth, may we seek and find the glory of God around us, in places expected and otherwise.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 26, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JEREMIAH, BIBLICAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF ISABEL FLORENCE HAPGOOD, ECUMENIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/the-paradoxical-power-and-glory-of-god/

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Devotion for Monday After the Second Sunday of Advent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

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Above:  A California Vineyard

Photographer = Carol M. Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-16546

Community Holiness

DECEMBER 9, 2019

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son.

By his coming nurture our growth as people of repentance and peace;

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 18

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 24:1-16a

Psalm 21

1 Thessalonians 4:1-12

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Your hand shall mark down all your enemies;

your right hand will find out those who hate you.

You will make them like a fire, even in the time of your wrath;

the Lord will swallow them up in his anger

and the fire will consume them.

Their fruit you will root out of the land

and their seed from among its inhabitants.

Because they intend evil against you

and devise wicked schemes which they cannot perform,

you will put them to flight

when you aim your blow at their faces.

–Psalm 21:8-12, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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As I have written recently, holiness in the Law of Moses was for the community, not isolated individuals.  Indeed, what one person does affects others directly and indirectly?  We social humans live in a web of mutual responsibility.  Any impression to the contrary is mistaken.

Most recent lections in this series have focused on divine mercy following divine judgment.  The reading from Isaiah 24 gives us a dose of judgment explained as what follows long-term, rampant, and communal disregard of the covenant.  Communal life and holiness is also a prominent theme in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12.  Adultery, for example, is not a solitary act.  So it, by definition, affects those involved directly and indirectly, frequently damaging or destroying marriages and breaking up families.  But even what we do in private affects others.  That understanding prevents me from becoming a wholesale Libertarian.

I used to be more individualistic, especially during my adolescence.  But, as I have aged and learned, I have realized that rugged individualism is a great lie.  It is a popular cultural and political force in my nation-state.  But it is still a great lie.  We all depend on God for everything.  And we all depend on each other in matters material and spiritual.  May we, by grace, take good care of each other.  That is our covenant with God.  If we break it often enough, destruction will result.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 26, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JEREMIAH, BIBLICAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF ISABEL FLORENCE HAPGOOD, ECUMENIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/community-holiness/

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Devotion for Saturday Before the Second Sunday of Advent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

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Above:  The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., March 26, 1964

Photographer = Marion S. Trikosko

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsc-01269

True Liberation

DECEMBER 7, 2019

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son.

By his coming nurture our growth as people of repentance and peace;

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 18

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 40:1-11

Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19

John 1:19-28

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Give your king, justice, O God,

and your righteousness to the king’s son;

that he may rule your people righteously and the poor with justice;

that the mountains may bring prosperity to the people,

and the little hills bring righteousness.

He shall defend the needy among the people

and shall rescue the poor and crush the oppressor.

–Psalm 72:1-4, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Triumphal highways were symbols of Chaldean/Babylonian imperial power.  Thus they were, for exiles, symbols of oppression.  But the highway in Isaiah 40:3-5 is one of liberation.  It is the highway of Yahweh.  It is the road exiles will travel to their ancestral homeland.

John 1:23 draws on this imagery in reference to Jesus.  Instead of Chaldeans/Babylonians, with their highways, there are the Romans, with their network of highways.  Although Jews live in their homeland, they are not free.  No, they live under foreign occupation.  Liberation, St. John the Baptist tells people, is nigh.

But it was not a political liberation, as history attests.  No, it was a spiritual liberation.  The Temple system, in cahoots with the Roman Empire, was corrupt.  Purity codes marginalized the vast majority of Palestinian Jews and reassured an elite population of their imagined sanctity.  The destruction of that corrupt Temple system, with its purity codes, accomplished violently by Roman forces in 70 CE, was a crucial event in Jewish and Christian history.  And the Romans were still in power.

Jesus defined discipleship as following him–taking up one’s cross and following him.  The crucifixion and resurrection of Our Lord and Savior placed him beyond any human power.  What more could anyone do to him?  So, as St. Paul the Apostle wrote, if we die with Christ (literally or metaphorically) we will rise with Christ.  In Jesus there is life which no power on the planet can take away from us.  We have new life–eternal life–in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

This is not merely for individuals.  No, it is a collective liberation.  May we refrain from imposing anachronistic worldviews on texts.  Holiness was for the community in the Law of Moses.  Liberation is for the community in Jesus, for what we do affects others.  As Martin Luther King, Jr., reminded us prophetically,

Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.

Likewise, true holiness and liberation are inherently communal.  How can they be otherwise?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 26, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JEREMIAH, BIBLICAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF ISABEL FLORENCE HAPGOOD, ECUMENIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/true-liberation-2/

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Devotion for Friday Before the Second Sunday of Advent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

What God Has Done and Will Do

DECEMBER 6, 2019

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son.

By his coming nurture our growth as people of repentance and peace;

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 18

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 30:19-26

Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19

Acts 13:16-25

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A Related Post:

The Remnant:

http://taylorfamilypoems.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/the-remnant/

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Blessed are you, O Lord our God:

for you alone do marvellous things.

Blessed by your glorious name for ever:

let the whole earth be filled with your glory.  Amen.

–Psalm 72:19-20, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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The Law of Moses contains rituals and commandments.  Many of these laws condemn the exploitation of others.  To exploit someone economically and/or judicially was a form of idolatry.  It still is.

One of the major themes in the Hebrew Bible is that such idolatry led to the destruction of kingdoms, followed by exiles.  Yet mercy upon the remnant follows in judgment in the Hebrew Scriptures.  The human-divine relationship (God acts lovingly-people reject God–God punishes people–God acts mercifully again) is a recurring cycle.

In Advent, of course, we look forward liturgically to a future season of both divine judgment and mercy (judgment on some as mercy on others) and backward liturgically to a time when God broke into history via the Incarnation.  I, having read about what God has done, wonder what God will do next.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 26, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JEREMIAH, BIBLICAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF ISABEL FLORENCE HAPGOOD, ECUMENIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/what-god-has-done-and-will-do/

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Devotion for Thursday Before the Second Sunday of Advent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

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Above:  Design Drawing for Stained-Glass Window with St. Matthias, Between 1950 and 1990

Designed by J. & R. Lamb Studios

Image Source = Library of Congress

Restoration to Wholeness and Its Obligations Upon Us

DECEMBER 5, 2019

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son.

By his coming nurture our growth as people of repentance and peace;

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 18

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 4:2-6

Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19

Acts 1:12-17, 21-26

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Some Related Posts:

The Remnant:

http://taylorfamilypoems.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/the-remnant/

Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle and Martyr (February 24):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/12/feast-of-st-matthias-apostle-and-martyr-february-24/

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May the mountains bring forth peace,

and the little hills righteousness for the people.

–Psalm 72:3, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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Today’s readings come from a place of hope amid difficult times.  The Babylonian Exile had yet to begin when Isaiah foretold the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the restoration of Mount Zion.  And, when the surviving eleven Apostles chose St. Matthias from among the Seventy (or Seventy-Two) to replace Judas Iscariot, they restored the symbolic wholeness–the number twelve.  There had been twelve tribes of Israel, so that number was a powerful symbol.

Restoration to wholeness–even better than before–by God directly or by simply following divine instructions–is a beautiful thing.  This restoration to wholeness can be collective or individual.  It can be purely spiritual and psychological or have an additional physical component beyond brain chemicals and psychosomatic effects.  One of the purposes of our Lord and Savior’s healing miracles was to restore people to society.  These miracles pointed out the brokenness of the society which had rejected and marginalized such people.  Society, of course, is people, not an abstract concept.

O reader, is God seeking to restore you?  And is God calling you to function as an agent of restoration for others (individually) and for a society, family, congregation, et cetera?  And what will restoration require of you?  Most of the Apostles, including St. Matthias, became martyrs.  But first they did great work, did they not?  Its effects are real today.  So what will you, restored, do for the glory of God and the benefit of others?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 25, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST, 1957

THE FEAST OF JAMES WELDON JOHNSON, POET AND NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM OF VERCELLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT; AND SAINT JOHN OF MATERA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/restoration-to-wholeness-and-its-obligations-upon-us/

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Devotion for Wednesday After the First Sunday of Advent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

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Above:  Second Coming Icon

A Fresh Start

DECEMBER 4, 2019

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

By your merciful protection awaken us to the threatening dangers of our sins,

and enlighten our walk in the way of your salvation,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 18

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 54:1-10

Psalm 124

Matthew 24:23-35

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A Related Post:

The Remnant:

http://taylorfamilypoems.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/the-remnant/

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Blessed be the LORD,

who has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.

We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler;

the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

–Psalm 124:6-7, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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This is just like the days of Noah to me:

Just as I swore that the waters of Noah would never again go over the earth,

so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you and will not rebuke you.

For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed,

but my steadfast love will not depart from you,

and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,

says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

–Isaiah 54:9-10, The New Revised Standard Version

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Isaiah 54:1-10 speaks of the return of exiles who have never known their ancestral homeland to that homeland.  God will act, the text says, and all will be better than it has ever been.  Sin might have led to the exile, but the faithful descendants of those sinners will have a fresh start.

A fresh start will follow what God will do, as described in the reading from Matthew 24.  The text does not cover that fresh start, but said fresh start will occur nevertheless.

It is common for lectionaries to assign apocalyptic readings for Advent.  May we who follow these lectionaries grasp the liturgical setting–preparation for the First Coming of Jesus at Christmas.  Therefore some readings about the Second Coming  are appropriate at the end of the calendar year, especially over two thousand years after the First Coming.  And may we remember that a fresh start for humankind followed that event, which we will (if we do it properly) celebrate December 25-January 5 in Western Christianity.  (The Eastern Orthodox have their own calendar.)  May we keep the impending fresh start in mind when we ponder the Second Coming.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 10, 2013 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDERICUS OF PARIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/a-fresh-start/

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