Archive for July 2013

Devotion for the Feast of the Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

18662v

Above:  The Adoration of the Magi, by Giuseppe Niccolo Vicentino

Woodcut Created Between 1540 and 1560

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-18662

God’s Big Circles

JANUARY 6, 2020

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, you revealed the incarnation

of your Son by the brilliant shining of a star.

Shine the light of your justice always in our hearts and over all lands,

and accept our lives as the treasure we offer in your praise and for your service,

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 21

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 60:1-6

Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14

Ephesians 3:1-12

Matthew 2:1-12

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Give your king your justice, O God:

and your righteousness to a king’s son,

that he may judge your people rightly:

and uphold the poor with justice.

Let the mountains bring forth peace for the people:

and the hills prosperity with justice.

May the king defend the cause of the poor among the people:

save the children of the needy and crush the oppressor.

May he live as long as the sun endures:

as long as the moon from age to age.

May he come down like rain upon the grass:

like showers that water the earth.

In his days may righteousness flourish:

And abundance of peace till the moon is no more.

May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles pay tribute:

the kings of of Sheba and Seba bring their gifts.

May all the kings fall prostrate before him:

and all the nations render him service.

He shall deliver the needy when they cry:

and the poor who have no helper.

He shall have pity on the weak and the needy:

and save the lives of the poor.

He shall rescue them from oppression and violence:

and their blood shall be precious in his sight.

–Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Psalm 72 is a coronation prayer.  The king is responsible for assuring the physical safety and well-being of his people.  This mandate includes economic justice and deliverance from violence.  Such an accomplishment will earn the monarch international respect.

But who is the king in each reading?  He is probably Solomon in Psalm 72.  The king delivering the exiles in Isaiah 60 is Yahweh via a human monarch, Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes.  There are two kings in Matthew 2.  One is Herod the Great, a client ruler for the Roman Empire, a violent man, and a mentally unstable person.  The other king is young Jesus, who receives visitors–Persian scholar-astrologers who have put their lives on hold for a long time to undertake the perilous journey.  They do not understand much about the boy, but they know more than others do and act affirmatively toward him.

God’s wisdom, Ephesians 3:10 (The New Jerusalem Bible) tells us, is

many-sided.

That passage, in The Revised English Bible, speaks of

the wisdom of God in its infinite variety.

The New Revised Standard Version mentions

the rich variety

of divine wisdom.  And the Common English Bible speaks of

the many different varieties

of God’s wisdom through the church.  This wisdom God makes known to people via the church.

This many-sided divine wisdom which exists in rich, infinite variety is for all people, although not everyone will embrace it.  And one need not understand completely to receive and accept such wisdom, for nobody can grasp it fully.  There are spiritual mysteries too great for human minds to comprehend ; so be it.  Such mystery comforts me, for it reminds me that there is much in the exclusive purview of God.

And this multi-faceted divine wisdom is for people are are like us and for those who are very different from us.  God loves us all, even when we do not love ourselves, much less each other.  God moves well beyond our comfort zones.  If that bothers us, the fault lies with us, not God.

Each of us carries prejudices, probably learned from friends, relatives, and classmates.  We like to draw a small circle of acceptability, being sure to include ourselves and those like us inside it.  But egocentric “purity” is a huge lie and a spiritual detriment.  God seems to prefer larger circles–even those which include some Zoroastrian Persian astrologers, a heroic Canaanite prostitute, a Moabite woman, and many Samaritans.  How scandalous this is to self-righteous purists!  As St. Simon Peter told the household of St. Cornelius the Centurion in Acts 10:34-35:

I now understand that God has no favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

The New Jerusalem Bible

If you, O reader, arrive in heaven, whom might you be surprised to encounter there?  That question gets to the heart of the meaning of the Feast of the Epiphany.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/gods-big-circles/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Devotion for January 4 and 5, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   7 comments

3a12743r

Above:  William Lloyd Garrison

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-10320

Faith and Grace

JANUARY 4 and 5, 2020

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

O God our redeemer, you created light that we might live,

and you illumine our world with your beloved Son.

By your Spirit comfort us in all darkness, and turn us toward the light of Jesus Christ our Savior,

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 21

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 3:1-5 (January 4)

Joshua 1:1-9 (January 5)

Psalm 72 (both days)

Hebrews 11:23-31 (January 4)

Hebrews 11:32-12:2 (January 5)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Give the king your justice, O God,

and your justice 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)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The assigned readings for these days tell us of Biblical heroes of faith, from Moses to Joshua son of Nun to Rahab the prostitute–quite an assortment!  I perceive no need to repeat their stories today, for the Bible does that better than I can.  And I have other matters on my mind.

If I were to amend the hall of fame of faith in the Letter to the Hebrews, part of my addition would read as follows:

By faith abolitionists challenged racial chattel slavery in the United States.  By faith Harriet Tubman risked life and limb to help her people, who called her “Moses.”  By faith Sojourner Truth spoke out for the rights of women and African Americans alike, as did William Lloyd Garrison.  By faith Frederick Douglass challenged racism and slavery with his words, deeds, and very existence.

By faith members of subsequent generations challenged racial segregation.  These great men and women included A. Philip Randolph, Charles Hamilton Houston, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bayard Rustin, Vernon Johns, and Martin Luther King, Jr.  They challenged the United States to confront its hypocrisy, to live up more closely to its stated ideals, and to guarantee civil rights.  By faith Thurgood Marshall fought the good fight in courts for decades.  By faith brave students, supported by their courageous parents and communities, integrated schools with hostile student bodies and administrators.

By faith Nelson Mandela confronted Apartheid and helped to end it.  By faith he encouraged racial and national reconciliation as a man and as a President.

All of these were courageous men and women, boys and girls.  There is no room here to tell their stories adequately.  And the names of many of them will fade into obscurity with the passage of time.  Some of their names have faded from collective memory already.  But they were  righteous people–giants upon whose shoulders we stand.  They were agents of divine grace, which transformed the world, making it a better place.

May the light of God, incarnate in each of us, shine brightly in the darkness and leave the world–if only one “corner” of it at a time–a better place.  May we cooperate with God, for grace is more about what God does than what we do.  We ought to work with God, of course.  Doing so maximizes the effects of grace.  But grace will win in the end.  That is wonderful news!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 24, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS A KEMPIS, SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN BOSTE, GEORGE SWALLOWELL, AND JOHN INGRAM, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/faith-and-grace/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Devotion for January 2 and 3, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

th

Above:  A Question Mark

Faith, Questions, and Confidence

JANUARY 2 and 3, 2020

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Almighty God, you have filled the earth with the light of your incarnate Word.

By your grace empower us to reflect your light in all that we do,

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 21

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 12:1-7 (January 2)

Genesis 28:10-22 (January 3)

Psalm 72 (both days)

Hebrews 11:1-12 (January 2)

Hebrews 11:13-22 (January 3)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Now faith means that we have full confidence in the things we hope for, it means being certain of things we cannot see.  It was this that that won their reputation for the saints of old.

–Hebrews 11:1-2, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Faith gives substance to our hopes and convinces us of realities we do not see.

It was by faith that the people of old won God’s approval.

–Hebrews 11:1-2, The Revised English Bible

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Faith is the reality of we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see.  The elders in the past were approved because they showed faith.

–Hebrews 11;1-2, Common English Bible

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of realities that are unseen.  It is for their faith that our ancestors are acknowledged.

–Hebrews 11:1-2, The New Jerusalem Bible

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval.

–Hebrews 11:1-2, The New Revised Standard Version–Catholic Edition

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,

who alone does wonderful things.

And blessed by his glorious name for ever.

May all the earth be filled with his gory.

Amen.  Amen.

–Psalm 72:18-19, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Bible is replete with troublesome characters.  Yet, the texts tell us, God worked through many of them.  For example, Abraham and Sarah became the parents of nations in their old age–an inspiring story?  But what about the mistreatment of Hagar and Ishmael?  Furthermore, the story of near-sacrifice of Isaac disturbs me; I will make no excuses for it.  As Elie Wiesel pointed out in a Bible study I saw in the 1990s, the Bible does not record any conversation between father and son after that incident, which must have damaged their relationship in ways which the passage of time did not repair.

As for Jacob, he was a trickster whom others conned.

Yet God worked with and through them, transforming these people for their benefit and that of many others, even to the present day.  That is grace, is it not?

“Faith” has more than one meaning in the Bible.  It is purely intellectual in James and inherently active in Paul, hence the appearance (but no more than that) of a faith-works contradiction between the two.  And, in the Letter to the Hebrews, faith is that which, in the absence of evidence for or against, enables one to continue in justifiable confidence.  If we have empirical evidence one way or the another, we do need faith.  I have heard church members say that they (A) have faith and (B) have evidence for the same proposition.  They misunderstood whereof they spoke.  They sought certainty when they should have desired confidence.

As James D. G. Dunn wrote in a different context (the search for the historical Jesus):

The language of faith uses words like “confidence” rather than “certainty.”  Faith deals in trust, not in mathematical calculations, nor in a “science” which methodically doubts everything which can be doubted….Walking “by faith” is different from walking “by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7).  Faith is commitment, not just conviction.

Faith as trust is never invulnerable to questions.  Rather, faith lives in dialogue with questions.  Faith-without-doubt is a rare commodity, which few (if any) have experienced for any length of time.  On the contrary, doubt is the inoculation which keeps faith strong in the face of unbelief.  Whereas it is the “lust for certainty” which leads to fundamentalism’s absolutising of its own faith claims and dismissal of all others.  In fact, of course, little or nothing in real life is a matter of certainty, including the risks of eating beef, or of crossing a road, or of committing oneself in marriage….

Jesus Remembered (Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003), pages 104-105

I propose that we should never fear to question God faithfully.  Have we understood God correctly?  We can misunderstand, after all.  We have done so often.  And sometimes, as in the case of the Syro-Phoenician woman who encountered Jesus, rebutting a statement is the result which the speaker of the rebutted statement desires.  Sometimes passing the test of faithfulness entails arguing with, not being submissive, to God.  We need not stand in terror of God if we act out of healthy faith, the kind which creates space for many intelligent questions.  And then how will God work through us in the world?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 24, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS A KEMPIS, SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN BOSTE, GEORGE SWALLOWELL, AND JOHN INGRAM, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Devotion for December 31 and January 1, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Our Lord and Savior’s Holy Name

DECEMBER 31, 2019, and JANUARY 1, 2020

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Eternal Father, you gave your incarnate Son the holy name of Jesus to be a sign for our salvation.

Plant in every heart the love of the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ,

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 54

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 3:5-14 (December 31)

Numbers 6:22-27 (January 1)

Psalm 20 (both days)

John 8:12-19 (December 31)

Galatians 4:4-7 or Philippians 2:5-11 (January 1)

Luke 2:15-21 (January 1)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

O Lord our Governor,

how exalted is your Name in all the world!

–Psalm 8:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Yahweh spoke to Moses and said,

“Speak to Aaron and his sons and say:

This is how you must address the Israelites.  You will say:

‘May Yahweh bless you and keep you.

May Yahweh let his face shine on you and be gracious to you.

May Yahweh show you his face and bring you peace.’

This is how you must call down my name on the Israelites, and thus I will bless them.”

–Numbers 6:22-27, The New Jerusalem Bible

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Among the basic claims of Christianity is that, somehow via the Incarnation, there is a form of unity between Yahweh of the Book of Numbers and Jesus, born of a woman.  Related to that claim is another:  In Jesus there is fulfillment of the Law of Moses and salvation from sin, individual and societal.  “Jesus” derives from the Hebrew for

Yahweh is salvation.

The Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus (January 1) is an especially appropriate time to ponder the meaning of that name.  Wrapped up in that name is God, who granted Solomon wisdom.  Wrapped up in that name is Yahweh of Psalm 20, whose defense is superior to that which chariots and horses provide.  Through the bearer of this name we become spiritual children of God.  In the bearer of this name we see the prime example of service.

So it is appropriate that, in the words of Caroline Maria Noel (1817-1877), we say:

At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow,

every tongue confess him King of glory now;

’tis the Father’s pleasure we should call him Lord,

who from the beginning was the mighty Word.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL HANSON COX, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND ABOLITIONIST; AND HIS SON, ARTHUR CLEVELAND COXE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF WESTERN NEW YORK, HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANSEGIUS OF FONTANELLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF ELIZAETH CADY STANTON, AMELIA BLOOMER, SOJOURNER TRUTH, AND HARRIET ROSS TUBMAN, WITNEEES TO CIVIL RIGHTS FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS AND WOMEN

THE FEAST OF SAINTS FLAVIAN II OF ANTIOCH AND ELIAS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCHS

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/our-lord-and-saviors-holy-name/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Devotion for December 29 and 30, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   7 comments

Guido_Reni_-_Massacre_of_the_Innocents

Above:  The Massacre of the Innocents, by Guido Reni

Difficult Questions of Suffering

DECEMBER 29 and 30, 2019

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

O Lord God, you know that we cannot place our trust in our own powers.

As you protected the infant Jesus, so defend us and all the needy from harm and adversity,

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 20

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 31:15-22 (December 29)

Isaiah 26:1-9 (December 30)

Psalm 20 (both days)

Luke 19:41-44 (December 29)

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (December 30)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

From God’s holy place may you receive help;

may God strengthen you out of Zion.

–Psalm 20:2, Book of Common Worship (1993)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

In the Jeremiah reading God comforts the Israelite nation.  They have sinned, yes, and the negative consequences of persistently bad actions will ensue.  But exiles will also return in time.  In the midst of punishment grace speaks.  The beginning of the passage reappears in Matthew 2:18, in the context of Herod the Great’s massacre of the Holy Innocents.  The Collect from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006) reminds us that God spared the life of young Jesus.  Yet others died in his place.

The readings for these two days combine to constitute a certain tension.  God is faithful and will be merciful after either allowing punishment to occur or after meting out punishments.  Yet the latter God does not do happily.  Nevertheless, innocent people suffer because they were at the wrong place at the wrong time.  The readings from December 26 tell us that this does not indicate that God has been negligent in divine duties.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18 joins the chorus of affirming voices:

So we do not lose heart.  Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.  For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

The New Revised Standard Version

Theodicy is a risky endeavor.  God is best qualified to justify self to human questions, of course.  And our ideas (or at least some of them) might prove false.  But, if God is truly the one and only deity–as I affirm–then God is in the dock.  I, as an honest Monotheist, cannot blame one deity for bad events and credit another for negative ones.  But one of my favorite spiritual inheritances from the Jews, my elder siblings in faith, is the right to argue with God faithfully.  I want answers to issues such as the suffering of the innocent.  Until or unless I get them, however, I still have a healthy relationship with God.  And I intend to continue to have one for the rest of my days and afterward.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 19, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT POEMEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINTS JOHN THE DWARF AND ARSENIUS THE GREAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

THE FEAST OF SAINT AMBROSE AUTPERT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN PLESSINGTON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACRINA THE YOUNGER, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/difficult-questions-of-suffering/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Devotion for December 27 and 28, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   8 comments

mother-and-daughter

Above:  Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Lebrun and Her Daughter, by Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Lebrun

God Our Mother

DECEMBER 27 and 28, 2019

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

All-powerful and unseen God, the coming of your light

into our world has brightened weary hearts with peace.

Call us out of darkness, and empower us to proclaim the birth of your Son,

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 20

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 8:22-31 (December 27)

Isaiah 49:13-23 (December 28)

Psalm 148 (both days)

1 John 5:1-12 (December 27)

Matthew 18:1-14 (December 28)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

You have lifted up your people’s head,

with praise from all your servants:

from the people close to your heart.

O praise the Lord.

–Psalm 148:14, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Wisdom, personified as female in Proverbs 8, was with God the Father from the beginning.  Those who heed divine Wisdom are wise, happy, and blessed, the text says in verses 32-36.  That Wisdom, part of the Logos of God, is accessible to all, from the weakest in society to its most privileged members.  Those who love God obey divine commandments, which hang on the hooks of love for God and love for fellow human beings, who bear the Image of God.  This is active love, not just a warm, positive feeling.

The love of God is consistent with both punishment and deliverance.  Deliverance for some entails the punishment of recalcitrant others.  And sometimes we must suffer the consequences of our actions to learn lessons, but the possibility of confession of sin and subsequent repentance remains.  And, when we confess and repent, we will find God our Mother waiting for us:

Can a woman forget her nursing child,

or show no compassion for the child of her womb?

Even these may forget,

yet I will not forget you.

See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hand;

your walls are continually before me.

–Isaiah 49:15-16, The New Revised Standard Version

I recall that, when I lived in Statesboro, Georgia, a popular supply priest who visited Trinity Episcopal Church had a good sense of the maternal love of God.  Father Charles Hoskins, a delightful human being, spoke of mothers who spoke lovingly of their children who had committed horrible deeds.  God, Father Hoskins said, was “worse” than that.  In other words, our worst actions do not deprive us of divine love.  So may we respond lovingly in return.  May we make our divine Mother’s heart glad.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 18, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR PENRHYN STANLEY, ANGLICAN DEAN OF WESTMINSTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF BARTOLOME DE LAS CASAS, WITNESS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/god-our-mother/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Devotion for December 26, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Paolo_Uccello_-_Stoning_of_St_Stephen_-_WGA23196

Above:  The Stoning of Saint Stephen, by Paolo Uccello

Causes and Consequences of Persecution

DECEMBER 26, 2019

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Almighty God, you gave your only Son to take on our human nature

and to illumine the world with your light.

By your grace adopt us as your children and enlighten us with your Spirit,

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Wisdom of Solomon 4:7-15

Psalm 148

Acts 7:59-8:8

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Kings of the earth and all peoples,

princes and all rulers of the world;

Young men and women, old and young together;

let them praise the name of the Lord.

–Psalm 148:11-12, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Why do the righteous experience persecution?  That question gets to the point of human priorities of the negative sort.  Sometimes we humans know that doing x is wrong and do it anyway, so those who point this fact out to us prove terribly inconvenient and annoying.  And, on other occasions, we mistake evil for good, so we think that we are working righteousness when the opposite is true.  Self-delusions and corrupt cultural influences can explain much of that.  And there is the deeper question of violence, especially that committed for allegedly righteous purposes.  The stoning of St. Stephen, whose feast this is, was consistent with the penalty for leading people astray, according to the Law of Moses.  But he was not leading people astray.

The Wisdom of Solomon lection wrestles with the reality of righteous people dying prematurely.  God delivered them from wickedness, the text says.  The fact of such persecution does not mean that God does not watch over the holy ones, it tells us.  In other words, God is still all-powerful and will win in the end.  And, in Acts 7:59-8:8, God worked mightily through the church despite human attempts to disrupt the nascent movement.  God won.

It is difficult to hear that what one has assumed to be true, good, and righteous–from the Temple System to slavery to racial segregation to a host of other offenses–is actually neither.  Such an epiphany, should it dawn upon one, would disorientate one spiritually.  Courageous people correct their courses.  Merely tolerant ones reject the message yet refrain from committing or supporting reprisals against critics.  And small-minded, frightened people resort to violence to confirm their delusional notions of righteousness or approve of such violence on the part of others.

But God will win.  Thanks be to God!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 18, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR PENRHYN STANLEY, ANGLICAN DEAN OF WESTMINSTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF BARTOLOME DE LAS CASAS, WITNESS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/causes-and-consequences-of-persecution/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++