Archive for the ‘December 9’ Category

Devotion for the Second Sunday of Advent, Year A (Humes)   3 comments

Above:   Cedars of Lebanon, 1898

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-11736

Building Up the Common Good, Part I

DECEMBER 9, 2018

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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 11:1-10

Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19

Romans 15:4-13

Matthew 3:1-12

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In TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) the first word of the reading from Isaiah 11 is “but.”  This is an invitation to back up into Isaiah 10, where one reads of God cutting down arrogant Assyrian forces.  The metaphor at the end of Isaiah 10 is cutting down the cedars of Lebanon.  That makes sense if one knows the background of that portion of scripture.

The prophet uses the term Lebanon trees ironically:  Assyrian kings boasted in inscriptions that they cut down these mighty cedars on their heroic journeys to despoil the forests of Lebanon to obtain wood for their building projects in Mesopotamia, but here Assyrians themselves become the ax’s victim.

The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014), 789

Then we arrive at our reading from Isaiah 11.

But a shoot shall grow out of the stump of Jesse,

it begins.  This is a prophecy of a time when an ideal king will rule justly and the society will be peaceable.  This is similar to the high hopes in Psalm 72.  Matthew 3:1-12 evokes this prophecy of Isaiah (in spirit, at least) and has St. John the Baptist apply it to Jesus, whom he baptizes in 3:13-17.

Romans 15:12, which follows a call to think about others first ad to work for the common good, quotes Isaiah 11:10.  The Pauline point is plain:  God seeks for all people to praise, follow, and set their hope on Him.  The family of God is diverse; some branches of it dislike other branches–even consider some of them to be heretical at best.  Some individuals within that family cannot or will not get along with other members thereof.

This has always been true.  Nevertheless, the divine mandate to work for the common good, to put other people before oneself, has never ceased to be relevant.  For nearly two millennia we have had a role model–Jesus, who went so far as to die.

May we love one another as we love ourselves, recognizing that the common good is indeed that to which God calls us in society.  Building ourselves up by exploiting others violates divine commandments and provokes the anger of God, as it should.

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-i/

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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 Saturday Before the Second Sunday of Advent, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Second Temple Model

Above:  A Model of the Second Temple, Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

The Internalized Covenant with God

DECEMBER 9, 2017

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The Collect:

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

By his coming strengthen us to serve you with purified lives;

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:

Ezekiel 36:24-28

Psalm 85:8-13

Mark 11:27-33

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Mercy and truth have met together;

righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

Truth shall spring up from the earth,

and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

The LORD will indeed grant prosperity

and our land will yield its increase.

Righteousness shall go before him,

and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

–Psalm 85:7-13, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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That positive vision is similar to the one in Ezekiel 36:24-28.  The internalized covenant in a renewed and restored Israel is happy news.  Yet one ought not to overlook or minimize Ezekiel 36:32 (New Revised Standard Version):

It is not for your sake that I will act, says the Lord GOD; let that be known to you.  Be ashamed and dismayed for your ways, O house of Israel.

God will act, Ezekiel tells us, on behalf of the holy divine name, which the Hebrews had profaned.

I read Mark 11:27-33 and 12:1-12 then imagine Jesus saying,

Be ashamed and dismayed for your ways, O chief priests, scribes, and elders.

That concept exists in the words of Mark 11:27-12:12.  The Temple system exploited the pious poor economically and collaborated with the Roman occupiers.  It also propagated a form of piety which only those of certain means (a minority of the population) could afford to maintain.  Woe indeed to those who benefited from that system!  Although Jesus refused to answer the trick question in 11:27-33, the Parable of the Wicked Tenants (12:1-12) provided an unambiguous reply just a few days before the death of our Lord and Savior, as the Gospel of Mark tells the narrative.

Lest we of today feel overly comfortable in our denouncement of people dead for thousands of years, we need to look around and ponder our contexts.  Are we complicit in structures which exploit people?  Do we participate in or make excuses for organizations which ignore the principle of the internalized covenant with God and twist religion into an instrument for improper spiritual authority?  If so, we ought to be ashamed and dismayed for our ways.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 25, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HERBERT STANLEY OAKELEY, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ANGELINA AND SARAH GRIMKE, ABOLITIONISTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PROCLUS, ARCHBISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE; AND SAINT RUSTICUS, BISHOP OF NARBONNE

THE FEAST OF VINCENT PRICE, ACTOR

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/10/28/the-internalized-covenant-with-god/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Third Sunday of Advent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   7 comments

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Above:  The River Jordan, Between 1950 and 1977

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-23194

Loyalty and Perseverance

DECEMBER 12-14, 2019

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The Collect:

Stir up the wills of all who look to you, Lord God,

and strengthen then our faith in your coming, that,

transformed by grace, we may walk in your way;

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:

Ruth 1:6-18 (Thursday)

Ruth 4:13-17 (Friday)

1 Samuel 2:1-8 (Saturday)

Psalm 146:5-10 (all days)

2 Peter 3:1-10 (Thursday)

2 Peter 3:11-18 (Friday)

Luke 3:1-18 (Saturday)

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Happy are those who have the God of Jacob for their help,

whose life is in the Lord their God;

Who made the heaven and the earth,

the sea and all that is in them;

who keeps his promise forever;

Who gives justice to those that suffer wrong

and bread to those who hunger.

–Psalm 146:4-6, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The Book of Ruth is a story of loyalty–loyalty to people to each other and to God.  The theme of loyalty occurs again in 2 Samuel, where David praises those who had been loyal King Saul, who had tried to kill him more than once.  But Saul had been the anointed one of God, despite his many faults.  Loyalty to God, according to St. John the Baptist, was something one expressed by, among other things, treating each other honestly and respectfully.  And we read in 2 Peter 3 that God’s sense of time differs from ours, so we ought not to lose heart over this fact.

Another Recurring theme in these readings is the human role in God’s good work.  Jesus became incarnate via St. Mary of Nazareth, who was not the passive figure many have imagined her to be.  St. John the Baptist was far from “respectable.”  And Naomi and Ruth conspired to seduce Boaz.  As the Reverend Jennifer Wright Knust wrote:

To the writer of Ruth, family can consist of an older woman and her beloved, immigrant daughter-in-law, women can raise children on their own, and men can be seduced if it serves the interests of women.

Unprotected Texts:  The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions About Sex and Desire (New York:  HarperOne, 2011, page 33)

The methods of God’s grace can be scandalous and merely unpleasant to certain human sensibilities much of the time.  Will we reject that grace because of its vehicles?  And will we lose heart because God seems to be taking too much time?  Loyalty to God is of great importance, no matter hos shocking or delayed God’s methods might seem to us.

The liturgical observance of Advent acknowledges both scandal and perceived tardiness.  St. Joseph of Nazareth had to spare the life of his betrothed due to the scandal of her pregnancy.  And nearly 2,000 years after the birth of Jesus, where has he been?  But we should not lose heart.  May we not do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 2, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WALTER RAUSCHENBUSCH, WASHINGTON GLADDEN, AND JACOB RIIS, ADVOCATES OF THE SOCIAL GOSPEL

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/loyalty-and-perseverance/

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

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Above:  A California Vineyard

Photographer = Carol M. Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-16546

Community Holiness

DECEMBER 9, 2019

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The Collect:

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

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

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 18

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 24:1-16a

Psalm 21

1 Thessalonians 4:1-12

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Your hand shall mark down all your enemies;

your right hand will find out those who hate you.

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

the Lord will swallow them up in his anger

and the fire will consume them.

Their fruit you will root out of the land

and their seed from among its inhabitants.

Because they intend evil against you

and devise wicked schemes which they cannot perform,

you will put them to flight

when you aim your blow at their faces.

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

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 26, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JEREMIAH, BIBLICAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF ISABEL FLORENCE HAPGOOD, ECUMENIST

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

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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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