Archive for the ‘December 11’ Category

Devotion for the Third Sunday of Advent, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  St. John the Baptist

Image in the Public Domain

Judgment and Mercy

DECEMBER 11, 2022

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 35:1-10

Psalm 146

James 5:7-10

Matthew 11:2-11

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Almighty God, you once called John the Baptist

to give witness to the coming of your Son and to prepare his way. 

Grant us, your people, the wisdom to see your purpose today

and the openness to hear your will,

that we may witness to Christ’s coming and so prepare his way;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 13

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Almighty God, through John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ,

you once proclaimed salvation;

now grant that we may know this salvation and serve you

in holiness and righteousness all the days of our lives;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 13

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If I seem like a proverbial broken record, I am.  I am like a proverbial broken record because the Bible is one on many points.  In this case, the point is the balance of divine judgment and mercy.  Divine judgment on the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in Isaiah 34 balances divine mercy (via a second exodus) in Isaiah 35.  Divine mercy on the faithful balances divine judgment on princes in Psalm 146.  Jesus is simultaneously the judge and the advocate in James 5:7-10.  Despite divine faithfulness to the pious, some (such as St. John the Baptist, in Matthew 11) suffer and die for their piety.  Then God judges the oppressors.

The twin stereotypes of the Hebrew Bible being about judgment and the New Testament being about grace are false.  Judgment and mercy balance each other in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.

The inclusion of the fate of St. John the Baptist in Advent reminds us that he was the forerunner of Christ in more than one way.  About two weeks before December 25, one may prefer not to read or hear such a sad story.  Yet we all need to recall that Christmas commemorates the incarnation of Jesus, who suffered, died, then rose.  Advent and Christmas are bittersweet.  This is why Johann Sebastian Bach incorporated the Passion Chorale into his Christmas Oratorio.  This is why one can sing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” to the same tune (EASTER HYMN).

God is active in the world.  So are evil and misguided forces, unfortunately.  Evil, in the Biblical sense, rejects dependence on God.  Evil says:

If God exists, God does not care.  Everyone is on his or her own in this world.  The ends justify the means.

Evil is amoral.  The misguided may be immoral, at best.  The results of amorality and immorality may frequently be identical.  Yet God remains constant.

That God is constant may constitute good news or bad news, depending on one’s position.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 7, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANÇOIS FÉNELON, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CAMBRAI

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALDRIC OF LE MANS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF LE MANS

THE FEAST OF JEAN KENYON MACKENZIE, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY IN WEST AFRICA

THE FEAST OF LANZA DEL VASTO, FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE ARK

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUCIAN OF ANTIOCH, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 312

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JONES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND MUSICIAN

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the Third Sunday of Advent, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:   Scenic View of Desert in Spring

Image in the Public Domain

Building Up the Common Good, Part II

DECEMBER 11, 2022

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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 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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Isaiah 35:1-10

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

James 5:7-10

Matthew 1:1-17

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In Isaiah 34 we read of God turning the territory of the enemies of Judah into a desert.  In Chapter 35, however, we read of God transforming a desert–making waters burst forth in it–so that exiles from Judah may return to their ancestral homeland in a second Exodus on a highway God has put in place for them.  Judgment for some is an occasion of mercy for others.  The restoration prayed for in Psalm 80 becomes a reality.

Building up the common good was a theme in the readings for the Second Sunday of Advent.  That theme, consistent with the lesson from James 5, has never ceased to be germane.  When has habitual grumbling built up the common good or been even selfishly beneficial?  It certainly did not improve the lot of those God had liberated from Egypt.  The admonition to avoid grumbling has never meant not to pursue justice–not to oppose repressive regimes and exploitative systems.  Certainly opposing such evils has always fallen under the heading of building up the common good.

I do find one aspect of James 5:7-11 puzzling, however.  That text mentions the endurance of Job, a figure who complained bitterly at great length, and justifiably so.  Juxtaposing an admonition against grumbling with a reference to Job’s endurance seems as odd as referring to the alleged patience of the very impatient Job.

The genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:1-17 is theological, not literal.  The recurrence of 14, the numerical value of the Hebrew letters forming David’s name, is a clue to the theological agenda.  The family tree, with surprisingly few named women in it (We know that women were involved in all that begetting.), includes monarchs, Gentiles, and three women with questionable sexual reputations.  That is quite a pedigree!  That genealogy also makes the point that Jesus was human.  This might seem like an obvious point, but one would do well to consider the other alleged sons of deities who supposedly atoned for human sins in competing religions with followers in that part of the world at that time.  We know that not one of these figures, such as Mithras, ever existed.  The physicality of Jesus of Nazareth, proving that he was no figment of imaginations, is a great truth.

We also know that the Roman Empire remained firmly in power long after the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.  The promised reign of God on Earth persists as a hope reserved for the future.  In the meantime, we retain the mandate to work for the common good.  God will save the world, but we can–and must–leave it better than we found it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FANNIE LOU HAMER, PROPHET OF FREEDOM

THE FEAST OF ALFRED LISTER PEACE, ORGANIST IN ENGLAND AND SCOTLAND

THE FEAST OF HARRIET KING OSGOOD MUNGER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF NEHEMIAH GOREH, INDIAN ANGLICAN PRIEST AND THEOLOGIAN

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/03/14/building-up-the-common-good-part-ii/

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Devotion for the Third Sunday of Advent (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:  Belshazzar’s Feast, by John Martin

Image in the Public Domain

Waiting for Divine Deliverance

DECEMBER 11, 2022

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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 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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Daniel 5:1-7, 17, 25-28

Psalm 62:1-2

Revelation 15:2-4

Matthew 24:15-22

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For God alone my soul in silence waits;

from him comes my salvation.

He alone is my rock and my salvation,

my stronghold, so that I shall not be greatly shaken.

–Psalm 62:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The readings for this Sunday contain grim material.  Indeed, the theme of judgment is strong, but so is the theme of divine deliverance after waiting for it.

Two main thoughts come to mind:

  1. Deliverance for the oppressed is frequently condemnation for the oppressors.  In a real sense, both the oppressors and the those they oppress are both oppressed populations, for whatever we do to others, we do to ourselves.  If we seek to benefit ourselves at the expense of others, we harm ourselves.  If we seek the common good, be work for the best interests of others as well as ourselves.  Furthermore, when we insist on oppressing others, we set ourselves up to be on the bad side of God when the deity initiates deliverance.
  2. Waiting for God can prove to be quite difficult.  I do not pretend to have mastered this discipline.  The reality that God’s schedule is not ours does frustrate us often, does it not?  The fault is with mere mortals, not God.

Waiting for divine deliverance can be frustrating.  May that deliverance, when it comes, be good news, not a catastrophe.  Whether one will welcome it or find it catastrophic is up to one, is it not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 29, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS BOSA OF YORK, JOHN OF BEVERLEY, WILFRID THE YOUNGER, AND ACCA OF HEXHAM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF SAINT CATHERINE OF SIENA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF TIMOTHY REES, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LLANDAFF

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/04/29/waiting-for-divine-deliverance/

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Devotion for the Third Sunday of Advent (Year D)   1 comment

Candle

Above:  A Candle

Image in the Public Domain

The Universality of God

DECEMBER 11, 2022

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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 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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Joshua 23:1-16

Psalm 81:(1) 2-9 (10-16) or Psalm 95

Luke 3:23-38 or Matthew 1:1-17

Hebrews 4:1-11 (12-16)

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In distress you called, and I rescued you;

I answered you in the secret place of thunder;

I tested you at the waters of Meribah.

–Psalm 81:7, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Do not harden your hears, as at Meribah,

as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,

when your ancestors tested me,

and put me to the proof though they had seen my work.

–Psalm 95:8-9, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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The Deuteronomistic account of the farewell speech of Joshua son of Nun contains reminders to be faithful to God and not to emulate the pagan neighboring ethnic groups.  One may assume safely that at least part of the text is a subsequent invention meant to teach then-contemporary Jews to obey the Law of Moses, unlike many of their ancestors, including many who lived and died after the time of Joshua.  The theme of fidelity to God recurs in Hebrews 4, which reminds us that God sees everything we do.

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid:  Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and magnify your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–The Collect for Purity, in The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 355

The two options for Gospel readings are mutually inconsistent genealogies of Jesus.  Matthew 1, following Jewish practice, divides the past into periods of 14–in this case, 14 generations–14 being the numerical value of “David” in Hebrew.  This version of the family tree begins with Abraham and ends with Jesus, thereby setting his story in the context of God’s acts in history and culminating with the Incarnation.  This genealogy lists only four women, two of whom were foreigners and three of whom were the subjects of gossip regarding their sex lives.  These facts establish an inclusive tone in the text.

The genealogy in Luke 3 starts with Jesus and works backward to the mythical Adam.  The fact that the family tree according to the Gospel of Luke goes back past Abraham (the limits of Judaism, which are porous in the genealogy in Matthew 1) makes the Lukan version more inclusive than its counterpart in Matthew.  Jesus has kinship with all people–Jews and Gentiles–it teaches.  That is consistent with the fact that the initial audience for the Gospel of Luke was Gentile.

The universality of God is a recurring theme in the Bible.  The light of God is for all people, although many will reject it at any given time.  The neglect that light is a grave error, one which carries with it many negative consequences, both temporal and otherwise.  To write off people and populations is another error.  Salvation is of the Jews.  From them the light of Christ shines upon we Gentiles.  Thanks be to God!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 21, 2016 COMMON ERA

PROPER 16:  THE FOURTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF JOHN ATHELSTAN LAURIE RILEY, ANGLICAN ECUMENIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/08/21/the-universality-of-god-2/

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Devotion for Saturday Before the Third Sunday of Advent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Naming of John the Baptist

Above:  The Naming of John the Baptist

Image in the Public Domain

An Advent Invitation

DECEMBER 11, 2021

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The Collect:

Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God,

and open our ears to the preaching of John, that

rejoicing in your salvation, we may bring forth the fruits of repentance;

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 9:8-15

Isaiah 12:2-6

Luke 1:57-66

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In that day, you shall say:

“I give thanks to You, O LORD!

Although You were wroth with me,

Your wrath has turned back and You comfort me,

Behold the God who gives me triumph!

I am confident, unafraid;

For Yah the LORD is my strength and might,

And He has been my deliverance.”

Joyfully shall you draw water

From the fountains of triumph,

And you shall say on that day:

“Praise the LORD, proclaim His name.

Make His deeds known among the peoples;

Declare that His name is exalted.

Hymn the LORD,

For He has done gloriously;

Let this be made known

In all the world!

Oh, shout for joy,

You who dwell in Zion!

For great is your midst

Is the Holy One of Israel.”

–Isaiah 12:1-6, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Now the texts really sound like Advent!  Exile will occur, but it will also end.  Afterward divine generosity will be a wonder to behold.  And, in the New Testament, some people wonder what the newborn St. John the Baptist will become.  The elements of the drama of Advent are coming together.

Exile is an important aspect of the story of Jews living under Roman occupation in their homeland.  The Roman Republic, which allied itself with the Hasmoneans in 1 Maccabees 8, became an occupying force in time.  Then it turned into the Roman Empire.  Jews living in their homeland were in exile in a way.  One way of coping with that reality was hoping for a Messiah who would end the Roman occupation and restore national greatness.  It was a common (yet not universal) expectation, one which Jesus defied.

St. John the Baptist founded a religious movement to which Jesus might have belonged for a time.   (New Testament scholars have been debating that question for a long time.  They will probably continue to do so for a while longer.)  If Jesus did belong to John’s movement initially, that fact might shed important light on the baptism of our Lord and Savior.  (Why did a sinless man undergo baptism, which St. John the Baptist administered for the repentance of sins?)  Either way, our Lord and Savior’s cousin was his forerunner in more than one way, including execution.

I invite you, O reader, to embrace Advent as a time of prayerful preparation for Christmas–all twelve days day of it–if you have not done so already.  Read the pericopes and connect the proverbial dots.  Become one with the texts and discover where that reality leads you spiritually.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 13, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH PAYSON PRENTISS, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/08/13/an-advent-invitation/

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Advent and Christmas Message   1 comment

advent-and-christmas-message

Above:  The Beginning of the Draft of This Post

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And Mary said,

My soul magnifies the Lord,

and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior….

–Luke 1:46-47, The New Revised Standard Version:  Catholic Edition (1993)

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One of the great virtues of High Churchmanship is having a well-developed sense of sacred time.  So, for example, the church calendars, with their cycles, tell us of salvation history.  We focus on one part of the narrative at a time.  Much of Protestantism, formed in rebellion against Medieval Roman Catholic excesses and errors, has thrown the proverbial baby out with the equally proverbial bath water, rejecting or minimizing improperly the sacred power of rituals and holy days.

Consider, O reader, the case of Christmas–not in the present tense, but through the late 1800s.  Puritans outlawed the celebration of Christmas when they governed England in the 1650s.  Their jure divino theology told them that since there was no biblical sanction for keeping Christmas, they ought not to do it–nor should anyone else.  On the other hand, the jure divino theology of other Calvinists allowed for keeping Christmas.  Jure divino was–and is–a matter of interpretation.  Lutherans, Anglicans, and Moravians kept Christmas.  Many Methodists on the U.S. frontier tried yet found that drunken revelry disrupted services.  Despite this Methodist pro-Christmas opinion, many members of the Free Methodist denomination persisted in anti-Christmas sentiment.  The holiday was too Roman Catholic, they said and existed without

the authority of God’s word.

Thus, as the December 19, 1888 issue of Free Methodist concluded,

We attach no holy significance to the day.

–Quoted in Leigh Eric Schmidt, Consumer Rites:  The Buying and Selling of American Holidays (Princeton, NJ:  Princeton University Press, 1995), page 180.  (The previous quote also comes from that magazine, quoted in the same book.)

Many Baptists also rejected the religious celebration of Christmas.  An 1875 issue of Baptist Teacher, a publication for Sunday School educators, contained the following editorial:

We believe in Christmas–not as a holy day but as a holiday and so we join with our juveniles with utmost heartiness of festal celebration….Stripped as it ought to be, of all pretensions of religious sanctity and simply regarded as a social and domestic institution–an occasion of housewarming, and heart-warming and innocent festivity–we welcome its coming with a hearty “All Hail.”

–Quoted in Schmidt, Consumer Rites, pages 179 and 180

Presbyterians, with their Puritan heritage, resisted celebrating Christmas for a long time.  In fact, some very strict Presbyterians still refuse to keep Christmas, citing their interpretation of jure divino theology.  (I have found some of their writings online.)  That attitude was more commonplace in the 1800s.  The Presbyterian Church in the United States, the old Southern Presbyterian Church, passed the following resolution at its 1899 General Assembly:

There is no warrant for the observance of Christmas and Easter as holy days, but rather contrary (see Galatians iv.9-11; Colossians ii.16-21), and such observance is contrary to the principles of the Reformed faith, conducive to will-worship, and not in harmony with the simplicity of the gospel in Jesus Christ.

–Page 430 of the Journal of the General Assembly, 1899  (I copied the text of the resolution verbatim from an original copy of the Journal.)

I agree with Leigh Eric Schmidt:

It is not hard to see in this radical Protestant perspective a religious source for the very secularization of the holiday  that would eventually be so widely decried.  With the often jostling secularism of the Christmas bazaar, Protestant rigorists simply got what they had long wished for–Christmas as one more market day, a profane time or work and trade.

Consumer Rites, page 180

I affirm the power of rituals and church calendars.  And I have no fear of keeping a Roman Catholic holy day and season.  Thus I keep Advent (December 1-24) and Christmas (December 25-January 5).  I hold off on wishing people

Merry Christmas

often until close to Christmas Eve, for I value the time of preparation.  And I have no hostility or mere opposition to wishing anyone

Happy Holidays,

due to the concentrated holiday season in December.  This is about succinctness and respect in my mind; I am not a culture warrior.

Yet I cannot help but notice with dismay the increasingly early start of the end-of-year shopping season.  More retailers will open earlier on Thanksgiving Day this year.  Many stores display Christmas decorations before Halloween.  These are examples of worshiping at the high altar of the Almighty Dollar.

I refuse to participate in this.  In fact, I have completed my Christmas shopping–such as it was–mostly at thrift stores.  One problem with materialism is that it ignores a basic fact:  If I acquire an item, I must put it somewhere.  But what if I enjoy open space?

I encourage a different approach to the end of the year:  drop out quietly (or never opt in) and keep nearly four weeks of Advent and all twelve days of Christmas.  I invite you, O reader, to observe these holy seasons and to discover riches and treasures better than anything on sale on Black Friday.

Pax vobiscum!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 25, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SQUANTO, COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEING

THE FEAST OF JAMES OTIS SARGENT HUNTINGTON, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE HOLY CROSS

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https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/nineteenth-century-evangelical-support-for-a-secular-christmas/

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Adapted from this post:

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/11/25/advent-and-christmas-message/

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Christmas Thoughts   1 comment

st-teresas-december-23-2011

Above:  Live Nativity Scene, St. Teresa’s Episcopal Church, Acworth, Georgia, December 23, 2011

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

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Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask Thee to stay

Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.

Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care,

And fit us for heaven to live with Thee there.

–Martin Luther; translated by William James Kirkpatrick

Yesterday I sang in my parish choir’s performance of the Christmas portion of Handel’s Messiah.  We dropped “His yoke is easy and his burden is light,” culminating instead in the Hallelujah Chorus.  The concert was glorious and spiritually edifying for many people.

There are still a few days of Advent left.  So I encourage you, O reader, to observe them.  Then, beginning sometime during the second half of December 24, begin to say

Merry Christmas!

and continue that practice through January 5, the twelfth and last day of Christmas.  And I encourage you to remember that our Lord and Savior was born into a violent world, one in which men–some mentally disturbed, others just mean, and still others both mean and mentally disturbed–threatened and took the lives of innocents.  Names, circumstances, empires, nation-states, and technology have changed, but the essential reality has remained constant, unfortunately.

The Hallelujah Chorus, quoting the Apocalypse of John, includes these words:

The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.

That is not true yet, obviously.  But that fact does not relieve any of us of our responsibilities to respect the Image of God in others and to treat them accordingly.  We must not try to evade the duty to be the face and appendages of Christ to those to whom God sends us and those whom God sends to us.  We cannot save the world, but we can improve it.  May we do so for the glory of God and the benefit of others.

May the peace of Christ, born as a vulnerable baby and executed as a criminal by a brutal imperial government, be with you now and always.  In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.  Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARIA STEWART, EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB, FOUNDER OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT OLYMPIAS, ORTHODOX DEACONESS

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Adapted from this post:

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/christmas-thoughts/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Third Sunday of Advent, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Rising Star Delenn

Above:  Ambassador Delenn, from Rising Star, a 1997 Episode of Babylon 5 (1994-1998)

A screen capture I took via PowerDVD and a legal DVD

Faith Manages

DECEMBER 10, 11, and 12, 2020

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The Collect:

Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God,

and open our ears to the words of your prophets,

that, anointed by your Spirit, we may testify to your light;

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 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Habakkuk 2:1-5 (Thursday)

Habakkuk 3:2-6 (Friday)

Habakkuk 3:13-19 (Saturday)

Psalm 126 (All Days)

Philippians 3:7-11 (Thursday)

Philippians 3:12-16 (Friday)

Mathew 21:28-32 (Saturday)

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Restore our fortunes, O LORD,

like the watercourses of the Negev.

Those who sowed with tears

will reap with songs of joy.

Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed,

will come in again with joy, shouldering their shears.

–Psalm 126:5-7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The readings for these three days combine to constitute a tapestry of hope, faith, violence, and judgment.

The lessons from Habakkuk complain to God about persistent injustice and report a divine reply that (A) God will settle scores one day, and (B) the righteous must remain faithful during trying times.  Some of the material is disturbing:

You tread the earth in rage,

You trample nations in fury.

You have come forth to deliver Your people,

To deliver Your anointed.

You will smash the roof of the villain’s house,

Raze it from foundation to top.

You will crack [his] skull with Your bludgeon;

Blown away will be his warriors,

Whose delight is to crush me suddenly,

To devour a poor man in an ambush.

–Habakkuk 3:12-14, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Happier is the end of the book:

Though the fig tree does not bud

And no yield is on the vine,

Though the olive crop has failed

And the fields produce no grain,

Though sheep have vanished from the fold

And no cattle are n the pen,

Yet will I rejoice in the LORD,

Exult in the God who delivers me.

My Lord GOD is my strength:

He makes my feet like the deer’s

And lets me stride upon the heights.

–Habakkuk 3:17-19, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

As I have written many times, I understand the reality that some oppressors will not cease oppressing until someone forces them to do so.  Thus a rescue mission becomes necessary.  This is good news for the oppressed and a catastrophe for the oppressors.  Yet the imagery of God cracking open skulls bothers me.

The note of judgment continues in Matthew 21:28-32, set in the context of the final days leading up to our Lord and Savior’s crucifixion.

Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.  For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

–Matthew 21:31b-32, New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The bad news for chief priests and elders, beneficiaries of the Temple system, comes amid a series of controversies in the Gospel of Matthew.  The Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Matthew 21:33-45) follows on the heels of those harsh words, for example.

St. Paul the Apostle picks up the theme of remaining faithful during difficult times in Philippians.  His reference to the righteous living by faith echoes a line from Habakkuk–a nice touch, which the lectionary amplifies.  Faith, in the Pauline sense of that word, is inherently active, compelling one to do something.  In contrast, the definition of faith in the Letter of James is intellectual, hence that author’s insistence on pairing works with faith.  So no disagreement between Sts. Paul and James regarding faith and works exists.  Maintaining that active faith under great pressure is both difficult and crucial, as St. Paul knew well.

When times and circumstances challenge our trust in God, may we say with St. Paul:

But even beyond that, I consider everything a loss in comparison to the superior value of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord.   I have lost everything for him, but whatever I have lost I think of as sewer trash, so that I might gain Christ and be found with him.

–Philippians 3:8-9a, Common English Bible (2008)

Faith (in the Pauline sense) functions in the absence of proof for or against a given proposition.  As Ambassador Delenn, a character from Babylon 5 (1994-1998), one of my favorite science fiction series, said,

Faith manages.

(Indeed, that was one of the major themes of the series.)  Faith keeps one on the proper path when, as Habakkuk wrote, the crops have failed and the livestock have vanished.  If we give up, we have decided to act in a way which will create a more negative future.  Yet if we persist, we act based on hope.  Such hope as overcome incredible odds many times, from ancient to contemporary times.  Many people have suffered and died so that members of subsequent generations can lead better lives.

Advent is a season of hope and violence.  Some of the violence is contemporary.  Other violence comes from the texts we read.  For example, St. Mary of Nazareth, the mother of our Lord and Savior, would have died by stoning if not for the graciousness of St. Joseph.  Faith manages during times of doubt, despair, and suspicion.  It persists during protracted periods of whisper campaigns and rumor-mongering, such as Jesus and his mother had to endure.

May we, by grace, have healthy faith from God in God, in whom both judgment and mercy exist.  And may we leave the judgment to God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 26, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 25:  THE TWENTIETH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALFRED THE GREAT, KING OF THE WEST SAXONS

THE FEAST OF SAINT CEDD, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF LONDON

THE FEAST OF DMITRY BORTNIANSKY, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF PHILLIP NICOLAI, JOHANN HEERMANN, AND PAUL GERHARDT, HYMN WRITERS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/10/28/faith-manages/

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Advent Renewal   Leave a comment

Snapshot_20121202

Above:  The Author on December 2, 2012

The cycle turns

from the Season after Pentecost

to Advent again;

Christ is King,

the announcement of the end of the old order

makes room for

the announcement of the new order.

Soon (liturgically),

a child will be born defenseless

into a dangerous world,

and, today,

I recall that perfidy must never

extinguish innocence and love.

The church year begins again

in apprehension and hope

and in the shadow of Calvary and an empty tomb–

again, apprehension and hope.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 3, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARUTHAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MAYPHERKAT AND MISSIONARY TO PERSIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERNARD OF PARMA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN ASIA

THE FEAST OF JOHN OWEN SMITH, UNITED METHODIST BISHOP IN GEORGIA

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An Invitation to Observe a Holy Advent   2 comments

Above:  St. David’s Episcopal Church, Roswell, Georgia, December 18, 2011

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

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Advent receives inadequate attention.  The season is certainly not commercial.  Indeed, Christmas receives much commercial attention even before Halloween, for retailers need the money from Christmas-related sales to sustain stores through other times of the year.  I admit to being of two minds.  On one hand I do my rather limited Christmas shopping at thrift stores, so my deeds reveal my creed.  Yet I know that many jobs depend on Christmas-related sales, so I want retailers to do well at the end of the year.  Nevertheless, I am not very materialistic at heart; the best part of Christmas is intangible.  And nobody needs any more dust catchers.

Observing Advent is a positive way of dropping out of the madness that is pre-December 25 commercialism.  The four Sundays and other days (December 2-24 in 2012) preceding Christmas Day are a time of spiritual preparation, not unlike Lent, which precedes Easter.  Garrison Keillor used the term “Advent Distress Disorder” (ADD) in a monologue last year.  Indeed, finding positive news in the midst of apocalyptic tones of Advent readings can prove difficult.  Yet the good news remains and the light shines brightest in the darkness.

So, O reader, I invite you to observe a holy Advent.  Embrace the confluence of joy and distress, of darkness and light.  And give Advent all the time it warrants through December 24.  Christmas will arrive on schedule and last for twelve days.  But that is another topic….

Pax vobiscum!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 6, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM TEMPLE, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF TE WHITI O RONGOMAI, MAORI PROPHET

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEOPHANE VERNARD, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MISSIONARY, AND MARTYR IN VIETNAM

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