Archive for November 2014

Devotion for Friday and Saturday Before the First Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Samuel Anoints David

Above:  Samuel Anoints David

Image in the Public Domain

The Call of God, Part II

JANUARY 8 and 9, 2021

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The Collect:

Holy God, creator of light and giver of goodness, your voice moves over the waters.

Immerse us in your grace, and transform us by your Spirit,

that we may follow after 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 22

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 16:1-13 (Friday)

1 Kings 2:1-4, 10-12 (Saturday)

Psalm 29 (Both Days)

1 Timothy 4:11-16 (Friday)

Luke 5:1-11 (Saturday)

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The LORD shall give strength to his people;

the LORD shall give his people the blessing of peace.

–Psalm 29:11, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The LORD shall give his strength and his bless of peace to his people to equip them to do that which he has called them to do.  What people do with that call and that blessing is not always with a faithful response to God, however.  Let us, O reader, consider King David, formerly a shepherd.  The work of a shepherd was crucial, so may nobody dismiss it.  Yet David had a greater destiny, to which God called him via Samuel.  Nevertheless, David had a dark side, which remained evident until his final advice to Solomon.  (The lectionary pericope from 1 Kings 2 omits the verses in which David gives advice to kill people.)  And the reigns of David and Solomon contained abuses of power.  Solomon existence because of an abuse of David’s power, in fact.  If David was truly a man after God’s own heart, I harbor reservations about the proverbial divine heart.

In the New Testament we read of Apostles and St. Timothy.  Sts. James and John (sons of Zebedee and first cousins of Jesus) and St. Simon Peter were fishermen.  That was an honest and necessary profession, but it was not their destiny.  They were, of course, flawed men (as all people have flaws), but they did much via the power of God.  The advice (in the name of St. Paul the Apostle) to St. Timothy not to let anyone dismiss him because of his youth applies to many people today.  God calls the young, the middle-aged, and the elderly.  God commissions and empowers people from a variety of backgrounds.  God is full of surprises.

Sometimes God surprises us in ways we dislike.  I think of a story which, if it is not true, ought to be.  In the late 1800s, in the United States, a lady on the lecture circuit of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) spoke in a certain town.  She completed her speech about how God wants people to avoid alcohol at all times.  Then entered the Q & A part of her presentation.  One man asked,

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

The speaker replied,

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

Sometimes the call of God in our lives is to deal properly with ways in which God makes us uncomfortable.  (This presupposes the ability to discern from the reality of God and our inaccurate perceptions thereof, of course.)  If Jesus seems to agree with us all of the time, we are relating not to the real Jesus but to an imagined Christ we constructed for our convenience.  The genuine article is a challenging figure who should make us uncomfortable.  And we should seize the opportunity to grow spiritually regardless of any factor, such as age, experience, inexperience, or background.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 15, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBERT THE GREAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF REGENSBURG

THE FEAST OF JOHANN GOTTLOBB KLEMM, INSTRUMENT MAKER; DAVID TANNENBERG, SR., GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN ORGAN BUILDER; JOHANN PHILIP BACHMANN, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN INSTRUMENT BUILDER; JOSEPH FERDINAND BULITSCHEK, BOHEMIAN-AMERICAN ORGAN BUILDER; AND TOBIAS FRIEDRICH, GERMAN MORAVINA COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF MARGARET MEAD, ANTHROPOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF PHILIP WILLIAM OTTERBEIN, COFOUNDER OF THE CHURCH OF THE UNITED BRETHREN IN CHRIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/11/21/the-call-of-god-part-ii/

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Devotion for Thursday Before the First Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Eli and Samuel

Above:  Eli and Samuel, by John Singleton Copley

Image in the Public Domain

The Call of God, Part I

JANUARY 7, 2021

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The Collect:

Holy God, creator of light and giver of goodness, your voice moves over the waters.

Immerse us in your grace, and transform us by your Spirit,

that we may follow after 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 22

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 3:1-21

Psalm 29

Acts 9:10-19a

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Pay tribute to Yahweh, you sons of God,

tribute to Yahweh of glory and power,

tribute to Yahweh of the glory of his name,

worship Yahweh in his sacred court.

–Psalm 29:1-3, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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The readings for today tell stories of God calling people to pursue a faithful and risky path.  This command to embark upon a new course was for the benefit of others and the glory of God.  If any of the three people on whom these lessons focus had refused to obey and not recanted, God could have found someone else willing to obey, but he who would have refused in such a counterfactual situation would have been worse off spiritually.

We begin in 1 Samuel 3, the account of God’s call to the young Samuel.  The boy was living at Shiloh, with the priest Eli as his guardian.  Paula J. Bowes, author of the Collegeville Bible Commentary volume (1985) on the books of Samuel, noticed the literal and metaphorical levels of meaning in the text:

The picture of Eli as asleep and practically blind describes Israel’s state in relation to the Lord.  The lamp of God, that is, God’s word, is almost extinguished through the unworthiness of the officiating priests.  The Lord ignores Eli and calls directly to the boy Samuel to receive this divine word….Samuel is the faithful, chosen priest who will soon replace the unfaithful and rejected house of Eli.

–Page 15

Eli had the spiritual maturity to accept the verdict of God.  Repeating that judgment was obviously uncomfortable for the boy, who might have been uncertain of how the priest would take the news.

Acts 9 contains an account of the transformation of Saul of Tarsus into St. Paul the Apostle.  Saul, unlike young Samuel, understood immediately who was speaking to him.  Ananias of Damascus also heard from God and, after a brief protest, obeyed.  Thus Ananias abetted the spiritual transformation of Saul into one of the most influential men in Christian history.  The summons to do so met with reasonable fear, however, for Saul had been a notorious persecutor of earliest Christianity.  How was Ananias supposed to know beforehand that Saul had changed?  Ananias had to trust God.  And St. Paul suffered greatly for his obedience to God; he became a martyr after a series of imprisonments, beatings, and even a shipwreck.

Gerhard Krodel, author of the Proclamation Commentaries volume (1981) on the Acts of the Apostles, wrote that Chapter 8 ends with an account of the breaking down of a barrier and that Chapter 9 opens with another such story.  Acts 8 closes with the story of St. Philip the Deacon (not the Apostle) converting the Ethiopian eunuch, a Gentile.  St. Paul had to deal with understandable suspicion of his bona fides after his conversion in Acts 9.  Later in the book he inaugurated his mission to the Gentiles–the breaking down of another barrier.

I have never heard the voice of God.  On occasion I have noticed a thought I have determined to be of outside origin, however.  Usually these messages have been practical, not theological.  For example, about fourteen years ago, I knew in an instant that I should put down the mundane task I was completing and move my car.  I had parked it under a tree, as I had on many previous days, but something was different that day.  So I moved my car to a spot where only open sky covered it.  Slightly later that day I looked at the spot where my car had been and noticed a large tree limb on the ground.  Last year I knew that I should drive the route from Americus, Georgia, back to Athens, Georgia, without stopping.  So I did.  I parked the car at my front door and proceeded to unload the vehicle.  When I went outside to move the car to the back parking lot, the vehicle would not start, for my ignition switch needed work.  But I was home, safe.  Yes, God has spoken to me, but not audibly and not to tell me to become a great priest or evangelist.

My experience of God has been subtle most of the time.  At some time during my childhood God entered my life.  This happened quietly, without any dramatic event or “born again” experience.  God has been present, shaping me over time.  At traumatic times I have felt grace more strongly than the rest of the time, but light is more noticeable amid darkness than other light.  Grace has been present during the good times also.  Not everybody who follows God will have a dramatic experience of the divine.  So be it.  May nobody who has had a dramatic experience of the divine insist that others must have one too.

Yet God does call all the faithful to leave behind much that is comfortable and safe.  Breaking down human-created barriers to God is certain to make one unpopular and others uncomfortable, is it not?  It contradicts “received wisdom” as well as psychological and theological categories.  Anger and fear are predictable reactions which often lead to violence and other unfortunate actions.  Frequently people commit these sins in the name of God.

The call of God is to take risks, break down artificial barriers, and trust God for the glory of God and the benefit of others.  Along the way one will reap spiritual benefits, of course.  Wherever God leads you, O reader, to proceed, may you go there.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 15, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBERT THE GREAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF REGENSBURG

THE FEAST OF JOHANN GOTTLOBB KLEMM, INSTRUMENT MAKER; DAVID TANNENBERG, SR., GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN ORGAN BUILDER; JOHANN PHILIP BACHMANN, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN INSTRUMENT BUILDER; JOSEPH FERDINAND BULITSCHEK, BOHEMIAN-AMERICAN ORGAN BUILDER; AND TOBIAS FRIEDRICH, GERMAN MORAVINA COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF MARGARET MEAD, ANTHROPOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF PHILIP WILLIAM OTTERBEIN, COFOUNDER OF THE CHURCH OF THE UNITED BRETHREN IN CHRIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/11/21/the-call-of-god-part-i/

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Devotion for January 7, 8, and 9, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

GFS_8086

Above:  Good Friday Pilgrimage for Immigrants, Atlanta, Georgia, April 18, 2014

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Living Faithfully

JANUARY 7-9, 2021

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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

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 1:22-2:10 (January 7)

Exodus 2:11-25 (January 8)

Exodus 3:7-15 (January 9)

Psalm 110 (All Days)

Hebrews 11:23-26 (January 7)

Hebrews 11:27-28 (January 8)

John 8:39-59 (January 9)

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The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand,

until I make your enemies your footstool.”

The LORD will send the scepter of your power out of Zion,

saying, “Rule over your enemies round about you.

Princely state has been yours from the day of your birth;

in the beauty of holiness have I begotten you,

like dew from the womb of the morning.”

The LORD has sworn and he will not recant:

“You are a priest for ever in the order of Melchizedek,”

The Lord who is at your right hand

will smite kings in the day of his wrath;

he will rule over nations.

He will heap high the corpses;

he will smash heads over the wide earth.

He will drink from the brook beside the road;

therefore he will lift high his head.

–Psalm 110, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Tradition attributes authorship of Psalm 110 to David.  One cannot be certain of the veracity of that claim, given the tendency of many people from Biblical times to attribute authorship to the famous dead regardless of who actually wrote a given text.  That issue is a minor point, however.  A Hebrew monarch has won a military victory, hence the content and tone of the text.  One can read the poem and identify passages germane to both Moses and Jesus, as well as those irrelevant to each person.  We read of Moses smiting in Exodus, for example.  And Jesus, like the king in the Psalm, sits enthroned at the right hand of Yahweh.

One might also compare Moses and Jesus, as the author of the Gospel of Matthew did frequently.  Both men were, for example, far more than they appeared to be; they were deliverers and princes, although not of the same variety.  No, Jesus was (and remains) far greater than Moses, for our Lord and Savior’s “I am” (John 9:58) carries the same meaning as “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14).  Jesus was the human incarnation of the deity who spoke to Moses.

Both men had to decide between a faithful life and a safer, more comfortable one.  They chose well, to the benefit of many people.  You and I, O reader, will probably not receive the mandate to liberate a large population.  We will certainly not have the vocation to redeem the world.  Yet we do have to decide between following God and doing otherwise.  The faithful path can be a dangerous and frequently uncomfortable one, but it is the superior way.  God calls us to act for the benefit of others, even when many of them reject God and us by extension.  But, as Charles William Everest (1814-1877) wrote in 1833:

“Take up thy cross,” the Savior said;

“if thou wouldst my disciple be,

take up thy cross with willing heart

and humbly follow after me.”

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Take up thy cross, let not its weight

fill thy weak spirit with alarm;

his strength shall bear thy spirit up,

and brace thy heart and nerve thine arm.

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Take up thy cross, nor heed the shame,

and let thy foolish pride be still;

the Lord refused not e’en to die

upon a cross, on Calv’ry’s hill.

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Take up thy cross and follow Christ,

nor think till earth to lay it down,

for only they who bear the cross

may hope to wear the glorious crown.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 12, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSAPHAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF POLOTSK, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CHARLES SIMEON, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF RAY PALMER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ARTHUR DUNKERLEY, BRITISH NOVELIST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/11/12/living-faithfully/

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Devotion for January 5, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Salt March 1930

Above:  Mohandas Gandhi Leading the Salt March in India, 1930

Image in the Public Domain

Loving Our Enemies

JANUARY 5, 2021

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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

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 22:1-9

Psalm 110

Luke 6:27-31

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The king at your right hand, O Lord,

shall smite down kings in the day of his wrath.

In all his majesty, he shall judge the nations,

smiting heads over all the wide earth.

–Psalm 110:5-6, Common Worship (2000)

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Luke 6:27-31 uses hyperbole to make crucial ethical points:

  1. God’s love extends to our enemies and oppressors (Psalm 110 not withstanding), and
  2. We ought to have a benevolent attitude toward them.  Whatever we do, it must be in the best interest of our oppressors and enemies.  Since whatever we do to others we do to ourselves, what could be better for oppressors than to cease oppressing?

Gandhian nonviolence serves an excellent example of Luke 6:27-31 in action.  I think especially of those bold African-American men and women who chose not to fight racist violence with their own violence during the Civil Rights Movement.  Their nonviolence denied their attackers any pretense of moral justification and troubled the consciences of many of those who committed violence against them.  Hopefully such nonviolence detracted many from committing more violence.

Proverbs 22:8-9 tells us:

He who sows injustice shall reap misfortune;

His rod of wrath shall fail.

The generous man is blessed,

For he gives of his bread to the poor.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

We reap what we sow.  Our fruits will reveal what kind of tree we are.  May we sow righteousness and compassion.  May we be healthy trees.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 10, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDWIN HATCH, ANGLICAN PRIEST, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEO THE GREAT, BISHOP OF ROME

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/loving-our-enemies/

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Devotion for January 3 and 4, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Tobias Saying Goodbye to His Father

Above:  Tobias Saying Good-Bye to His Father, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Image in the Public Domain

Tobit had suffered for acting faithfully and compassionately.  His son took great risks to help him in the Book of Tobit.

Divine Commandments, the Image of God, and Spiritual Struggles

JANUARY 3 and 4, 2021

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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

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 1:20-33 (January 3)

Proverbs 3:1-12 (January 4)

Psalm 110 (Both Days)

James 4:1-10 (January 3)

James 4:11-17 (January 4)

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The king at your right hand, O Lord,

shall smite down kings in the day of his wrath.

In all his majesty, he shall judge the nations,

smiting heads over all the wide earth.

–Psalm 110:5-6, Common Worship (2000)

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The assigned readings for these two days include generous amounts of divine judgment and mercy.  Obey God’s instructions, they say, and life will be better in the short, medium, and long terms than if one disregards them.  Some of the content in Proverbs leans in the direction of Prosperity Theology, unfortunately.  Nevertheless, as other passages of scripture indicate, those who suffer for the sake of righteousness do so in the company of God.

James 4, along with the rest of that epistle, focuses on human actions and their spiritual importance.  In the Letter of James faith is intellectual, hence the epistle’s theology of justification by works.  This does not contradict the Pauline theology of justification by faith, for faith, in Pauline theology, is inherently active.  These two parts of the New Testament depart from different places and arrive at the same destination.  Recognizing the image of God in others then treating them accordingly is a loving thing to do.  It is a faithful thing to do.  It is also a frequently dangerous thing to do.

This is a devotion for two days leading up to the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6), the commemoration of the Magi, who put their lives on hold for years and took many risks.  The Epiphany is also a feast about the Gospel of Jesus going out to the Gentiles, of which I am one.  Part of the significance of the Feast of the Epiphany in my life is the reality that people (especially those different from me) are more than they appear; they are bearers of the divine image.  As such, they have inherent dignity and potential.  Sometimes I recognize this reality easily in others, but I have a certain difficulty sometimes in recognizing it in those who have wronged me.  That is a spiritual issue which James 4:11-12 tells me to address.  Grace is available for that, fortunately.

Each of us has spiritual failings to address.  May you, O reader, deal with yours successfully, by grace.  May you obey God’s commandments and live compassionately, regardless of the costs.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 9, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 27:  THE TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF MARTIN CHEMNITZ, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF BARTON STONE, COFOUNDER OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH (DISCIPLES OF CHRIST)

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/divine-commandments-the-image-of-god-and-spiritual-struggles/

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Devotion for January 2, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

PAT_2008

Above:  Malachi House, St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, Dunwoody, Georgia, November 19, 2013

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

A Call to Live Compassionately

JANUARY 2, 2021

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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

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 1:1-7

Psalm 148

James 3:13-18

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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, Common Worship (2000)

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The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;

Fools despise wisdom and discipline.

–Proverbs 1:7, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Peace is the seed-bed of righteousness, and the peacemakers will reap its harvest.

–James 3:18, Revised English Bible (1989)

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The main two readings for today summarize nicely material I have been covering during the last few posts in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America daily lectionary for Year B.  Therefore this post seems like an appropriate place to take stock and pull threads together, for the lectionary will look toward the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6) starting with the readings for January 3.  Since December 26 we have covered the following material:

  1. Violent authority figures and suffering innocents,
  2. Peril for young Jesus,
  3. Peril for other faithful people,
  4. The divine commandment to live compassionately,
  5. Mutual responsibility in societies,
  6. The divine commandment to lead disciplined lives, and
  7. Economic exploitation.

To that list James adds putting away jealousy, rivalry, and their evil offspring, some of which the list enumerates.

As I have written many times, fear brings out the worst in people often.  We humans tend to justify violence toward and exploitation of others in the name of taking care of ourselves and those near us and similar to us.  For the same reason we also tend to justify denying others basic civil rights and liberties.  When we do so we hurt ourselves, for we rely on others as much as we bear responsibility for them.  Each of us in our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper.  That which we do others we do to ourselves, but often we do not recognize that reality.

May the new year be a time to focus on compassionate living, which requires one to get outside of oneself and think about the best interests of others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 9, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 27:  THE TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF MARTIN CHEMNITZ, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF BARTON STONE, COFOUNDER OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH (DISCIPLES OF CHRIST)

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/a-call-to-live-compassionately/

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Devotion for December 31, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Child Miners 1912

Above:  Juvenile Coal Miners, United States of America, 1908-1912

Photographer = Lewis Hine

Image in the Public Domain

Exploitation

DECEMBER 31, 2020

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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

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 3:5-14

Psalm 148

John 8:12-19

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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, Common Worship (2000)

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The Old Testament texts are of two minds regarding monarchy, for there are layers of composition in the Hebrew Scriptures.  The prophet Samuel warned people that they did not really want a king, who would raise their taxes, take their daughters, and send their sons to war.  Yet much of the Old Testament tradition has led to faithful people reading of how God chose David the shepherd to become a great, although flawed, monarch.  Much of that good press continued during the reign of King Solomon, who, according to 1 Kings, began his time on the throne with much promise.  Nevertheless, the mixed perspective remained evident, for a post-accession purge preceded the gift of wisdom.  And Solomon used forced labor and other economically exploitative policies, which led to the division of the realm after he died.

The Pharisees of John 8:12-19 also depended on economically exploitative policies for their status and finances.  They also collaborated with the violent Roman Empire, which occupied Judea.  Pharisaic piety depended on wealth, for nobody who was poor and therefore had to work hard for mere survival could satisfy that code.  Thus the words of Jesus made sense:

You do not know me or my Father; if you knew me, you would know my Father too.

–John 8:19, Revised English Bible (1989)

Unfortunately, exploitation seems to be part of human economic and political systems.  Judicial systems favor the wealthy often.  Governments find ways to criminalize poverty and homelessness.  Certain self-identified advocates of capitalism endorse the destructive race toward lower wages, thereby shrinking the middle class and undercutting the economy.  Many employees in developed countries lose their jobs due to globalization and the fact that workers in Third World countries earn less money and often lack even basic protections of their rights, such as to a safe workplace.  Often these Third World workers become disposable employees who place themselves in great peril just to survive.  And why?  The rest of us demand more inexpensive items and corporations desire larger profit margins.

Do we know Jesus and the Father?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 9, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 27:  THE TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF MARTIN CHEMNITZ, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF BARTON STONE, COFOUNDER OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH (DISCIPLES OF CHRIST)

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/exploitation/

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Devotion for December 30, Year B (ELCA Daily Devotion)   1 comment

Charles Finney

Above:  Charles Finney (1792-1866), Who Considered Eating Meat, Drinking Tea, and Reading Secular Novels to Be Self-Indulgent Activities Which No Christian Should Commit

Image in the Public Domain

Two Banquets

DECEMBER 30, 2020

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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

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 9:1-12

Psalm 148

2 Peter 3:8-13

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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, Common Worship (2000)

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As I read the pericope from Proverbs 9 closely, I noticed two issues regarding it:

  1. Verses 7-12 do not flow naturally from verses 1-6, and
  2. Verses 1-6 and 13-18 constitute a contrast.

One should in fact, read verses 1-6 and 13-18 together.  To do so is to read descriptions of two very different banquets.  One is public, but the other is private.  The first leads to spiritual life, but the second leads to spiritual death.

Divine wisdom, which wisdom literature personifies as a woman, prepares and hosts a banquet for the benefit of the simple.  A banquet is a recurring theme throughout the Bible.  Often the feast functions as a metaphor for the eschaton, as in canonical gospels.  I, a serious student of the Bible, recognize eschatological passages as containing both divine judgment and mercy.

Eschatology is in the foreground in 2 Peter 3:8-13.  The author is arguing against scoffers.  Proverbs 9:7 says that he was calling down abuse on himself, but the author of 2 Peter 3:8-13 was encouraging the faithful to lead good, disciplined lives.  God will establish justice, but that constitutes no excuse for us to become discouraged and lapse in our spiritual discipline, he writes.  Yes, we Christians ought to lead disciplined, not self-indulgent, lives, but that mandate is no reason for us to fall into other errors.  I have read of overly strict Christians (often from the nineteenth century) condemning activities such as reading secular novels, eating meat, drinking tea, and playing chess as self-indulgent and therefore sinful.  These critics needed to relax.  There is, fortunately, a sensible middle ground safely distant from both legalism and an “anything goes” attitude.

Each of us should, of course, enjoy many pleasures sensibly, without idolizing any of them.  And all people have responsibilities to God and others.  We humans are responsible to and for each other.  We are responsible for the ways we treat the environment.  God has given us free will with the responsibility to use it wisely.  May we attend the proper banquet.  May we enjoy and glorify God forever.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 8, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN VON STAUPITZ, MARTIN LUTHER’S SPIRITUAL MENTOR

THE FEAST OF JAMES THEODORE HOLLY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF HAITI

THE FEAST OF JOHN MILTON, POET AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/two-banquets/

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Devotion for December 29, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Jesus and His Apostles

Above:  Jesus and His Apostles

Image in the Public Domain

Compassion, the Will of God, and Bad Theodicy

DECEMBER 29, 2020

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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

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 49:5-15

Psalm 148

Matthew 12:46-50

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Let kings and commoners,

princes and rulers over the whole earth,

youths and girls,

old and young together,

let them praise the name of the LORD,

for his name is high above all others,

and his majesty above earth and heaven.

He has exalted his people in the pride of power

and crowned with praise his loyal servants,

Israel, a people close to him.

Praise the LORD.

–Psalm 148:11-14, Revised English Bible (1989)

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Excessive, selfish individualism–that which says, “every man for himself”–violates Biblical ethics.  Our Lord and Savior speaks of spiritual kinship in Matthew 12:40.  And the text of Isaiah 49:1-15 describes a society in which people look out for each other and the chosen of God function as a light to the nations.

I do not pretend to be an expert on the will of God.  Unfortunately, that concept has become fodder for detestable theology, run-of-the-mill bad theology, and merely shallow theology.  I have heard people invoke the will of God to make excuses for the inexcusable and read many other examples of people doing the same.  Slavery has allegedly been consistent with the will of God, as have genocide, epidemics, and wars of conquest.  Many people, out of misguided piety, have committed bad theodicy, describing God as a cosmic thug–a deity I do not seek to worship.

I have detected some consistent threads running through the Bible.  Among these is the idea that God cares about how we treat each other, hence the Golden Rule, the Law of Love, and many other passages.  The Baptismal Covenant in The Book of Common Prayer (1979) challenges the faithful to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being” (page 305).  So, while I recognize and stand in awe of the mystery of the will of God, I state confidently that loving my neighbor as myself is consistent with that will.  Honoring that promise is difficult, but grace is on hand to help us live compassionately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 8, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN VON STAUPITZ, MARTIN LUTHER’S SPIRITUAL MENTOR

THE FEAST OF JAMES THEODORE HOLLY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF HAITI

THE FEAST OF JOHN MILTON, POET AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/compassion-the-will-of-god-and-bad-theodicy/

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Devotion for December 28, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Massacre of the Innocents

Above:  Massacre of the Innocents, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Image in the Public Domain

Grace Amid Grief and Violence

DECEMBER 28, 2020

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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

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 31:15-17

Psalm 148

Matthew 2:13-18

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Let kings and commoners,

princes and rulers over the whole earth,

youths and girls,

old and young together,

let them praise the name of the LORD,

for his name is high above all others,

and his majesty above earth and heaven.

He has exalted his people in the pride of power

and crowned with praise his loyal servants,

Israel, a people close to him.

Praise the LORD.

–Psalm 148:11-14, Revised English Bible (1989)

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Christmas Eve and December 25 are supposed to be joyous occasions, especially liturgically.  Yet, for many people, grief due to the absences of certain family members detracts from the celebration.  Such times ought to become occasions for grace to flow to those who grieve, with mere mortals functioning as agents of God.  We live in the midst of grace, which I liken to a lamp.  We notice its light more at night than we do earlier in the day.  Likewise, grace becomes more noticeable when we perceive the need for it to be greater.

Jeremiah 31 speaks of the return of the exiles from the ten lost tribes of Israel to their homeland, an event which has yet to occur.  Rachel weeps because of their absence, but there is hope, the text says.  The author of the Gospel of Matthew quoted part of that passage and related it to the Massacre of the Innocents.  Herod the Great was a mean and mentally unhinged monarch who derived his power from the Roman Empire.  He authorized violence against members of his own family, so ordering the killing of strangers was consistent with his character.

Some stories of violence follow the great festival of Christmas Eve and Day.  December 26 is the Feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr.  And December 28, of course, is the Feast of the Holy Innocents.  Jesus entered a world in which evil people commit or consent to violence to benefit themselves and many other people stand by and watch it happen.  Human nature has remained constant and the violence has continued.  We humans are creatures of habit.  That fact contributes to the imperative of fostering and pursuing positive habits, those which build up people and contribute to the common good.  This is possible, for God has bestowed ample grace upon us.  What will we do with it?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 8, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN VON STAUPITZ, MARTIN LUTHER’S SPIRITUAL MENTOR

THE FEAST OF JAMES THEODORE HOLLY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF HAITI

THE FEAST OF JOHN MILTON, POET AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/grace-amid-grief-and-violence/

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