Archive for the ‘Episcopal Church Lectionary’ Category

Fourth Day of Christmas: Feast of the Holy Innocents (December 28)   2 comments

Above:  Massacre of the Innocents, by Pieter Brueghel the Younger

Image in the Public Domain

The Unfortunate Cheapness of Human Life

DECEMBER 28, 2019

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Christmas is supposed to be a happy season, right?  Yet darkness exists within it.  Consider, O reader, the sequence of three great feasts:  St. Stephen (December 26), St. John the Evangelist (December 27), and the Holy Innocents (December 28).

The kingdom of the Earth has yet to become the Kingdom of God in its fullness.  Thus we read of exiles in Jeremiah 31.  Then we read the plausible story of the Holy Innocents in Matthew 2.  Herod the Great, we know from both Biblical and extra-Biblical sources, was a disturbed and violent man who had members of his family killed.  One need not stretch credibility to imagine him ordering the murder of strangers, even young children.  Reading the story from Matthew 2 then turning to Psalm 124 creates a sense of jarring irony; one is correct to wonder why God did not spare the Holy Innocents also.

On another note, the account of the Holy Innocents provides evidence for the Magi arriving when Jesus was about two years old.  According to the Western calendar, as it has come down to us, Herod the Great died in 4 B.C.E., placing the birth of Jesus circa 6 B.C.E.  I prefer to use the term “Before the Common Era” for the simple reason that speaking and writing of the birth of Jesus as having occurred “Before Christ”–six years, perhaps–strikes me as being ridiculous.

Back to our main point, while admitting the existence of morally ambiguous and difficult scenarios with only bad choices, and in which doing our best cannot help but lead to unfortunate results….

Human life is frequently cheap.  From abortions to wars, from gangland violence to accidental shootings and crimes of passion, from genocidal governments to merely misguided policies, human life is frequently cheap.  The innocent and the vulnerable suffer.  People who are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time suffer.  May God have mercy on us all, for each of us is partially responsible, for merely being part of the social, economic, and political systems that facilitate such suffering.

The kingdom of the Earth has yet to become the Kingdom of God in its fullness.  Only God can make that happen.  We mere mortals can and must, however, leave the world better than we found it.  We can and must do this, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

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We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod.

Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims;

and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and

establish your rule of justice, love, and peace;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 31:15-17

Psalm 124

Revelation 21:1-7

Matthew 2:13-18

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 143

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https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/feast-of-the-holy-innocents-december-28/

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/the-unfortunate-cheapness-of-human-life/

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Third Day of Christmas: Feast of St. John the Evangelist, Apostle (December 27)   5 comments

Above:  Saint John the Evangelist in Meditation, by Simone Cantarini

Image in the Public Domain

The Beloved Apostle

DECEMBER 27, 2019

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The assigned readings, taken together, speak of the fidelity of God and the imperative of human fidelity to God, whose face Moses did not get to see.  Yet this deity is the same one who became incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth (however those Trinitarian dynamics actually worked; I have learned to avoid trying to explain the Holy Trinity, for attempting to make sense of the Trinity leads to a host of heresies.)

St. John was a brother of St. James (one of the two St. Jameses among the Apostles) and a first cousin of Jesus; Zebedee was the father of Sts. James and John, as well as an uncle (by marriage) of Jesus.  Our Lord and Savior called his first cousins Boanerges, usually translated

sons of thunder.

A now-deceased seminary professor I heard speak decades ago said, however, that the word actually meant

hell raisers.

Jesus and St. John were apparently emotionally close, not that St. John always understood his cousin.  After the resurrection and ascension of Jesus St. John helped to spread the nascent Gospel, a mission that filled the rest of his long life, which ended in exile.  Of the twelve Apostles Jesus called, St. John was, excluding Judas Iscariot, the only one not to die as a martyr.

According to tradition St. John wrote the Gospel of John, the three letters of John, and Revelation, a book with no “s” at the end of its title.  Certainly he did not write all of the above, although how much he wrote has long been a matter of scholarly debate.

Nevertheless, the life of St. John the Evangelist is a good one to consider.  If an overly ambitious hell raiser can learn the value of serving God endure suffering for the sake of righteousness, and survive opportunities for martyrdom only to die in exile, each of us can, by grace, take up his or her cross and follow Jesus, wherever he leads.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

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Shed upon your Church, O Lord, the brightness of your light, that we,

being illumined by the teaching of your apostle and evangelist John,

may so walk in the light of your truth, that at length we may attain to the fullness of eternal life;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Exodus 33:18-23

Psalm 92 or 92:1-4, 11-14

1 John 1:1-9

John 21:19b-24

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 141

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https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/feast-of-st-john-the-evangelist-apostle-december-27/

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/the-beloved-apostle/

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Second Day of Christmas: Feast of St. Stephen, Deacon and Martyr (December 26)   5 comments

Above:  St. Stephen, by Luis de Morales

Image in the Public Domain

The First Christian Martyr

DECEMBER 26, 2019

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The readings for the Feast of St. Stephen remind us of the grim reality that suffering for the sake of righteousness is frequently a risk.  We read of one of the many difficulties of the faithful prophet Jeremiah, a man who spoke truth to power when that power was dependent upon hostile foreigners.  The historical record tells us that the Pharaoh of Egypt chose both the King of Judah and his regnal name, Jehoiakim.  Matthew 23, set in the Passion Narrative, reminds us of some of the prophets and teachers, whom God had sent and authorities at Jerusalem had martyred.  Contrary to the wishes of the author of Psalm 31, God does not always deliver the faithful from enemy hands.

St. Stephen, one of the original seven deacons, was probably a Hellenized Jew.  As a deacon, his job in the Church was, in the words of Acts 6:2,

to wait on tables.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The deacons were to provide social services while the Apostles preached and taught.  St. Stephen also debated and preached, however.  His speech to the Sanhedrin (Acts 7:1-53) led to his execution (without a trial) by stoning.  St. Stephen, like Jesus before him, prayed for God to forgive his executioners (Acts 7:60), who, in their minds, were correct to execute him for blasphemy, a capital offense in the Law of Moses.  Saul of Tarsus, the future St. Paul the Apostle, was prominent in the killing of St. Stephen.  The Apostle recalled the death of St. Stephen and his role in it in Acts 22:20.

Religion, by itself, is generally morally neutral; one can be a moral atheist just as easily as one can be a moral or immoral adherent.  Good religion and bad religion certainly exist.  The test, in moral terms, yet not theological ones, is what kind of adherents they create and nurture.  Regardless of the name of a religion or the content of its tenets, does the reality of living it make one a loving, merciful human being or a judgmental person who might be quick to execute dissenters or consent to that?  This question is always a relevant one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

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We give you thanks, O Lord of glory, for the example of the first martyr Stephen,

who looked up to heaven and prayed for his persecutors to your Son Jesus Christ,

who stands at your right hand; where he lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Jeremiah 26:1-9, 12-15

Psalm 31 or 31:1-15

Acts 6:8-7:2a; 51c-60

Matthew 23:34-39

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 139

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https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/feast-of-st-stephen-deacon-and-martyr-december-26/

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/the-first-christian-martyr/

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Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle and Martyr (December 21)   7 comments

Above:  St. Thomas Episcopal Church, New Windsor, New York

Image Source = Daniel Case

My Favorite Biblical Character

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Habakkuk 2:1-4 (The Jerusalem Bible):

I will stand on my watchtower,

and take up my post on my battlements,

watching to see what he will say to me,

what answer he will make to my complaints.

Then Yahweh answered and said,

Write the vision down,

inscribe it on tablets

to be easily read,

since this vision is for its own time only:

eager for its own fulfillment, it does not deceive;

it comes slowly, wait,

for it will come, without fail.

See how he flags, he whose soul is not at rights,

but the upright man will live by his faithfulness.

Psalm 126 (The Jerusalem Bible):

When Yahweh brought Zion’s captives home,

at first it seemed like a dream;

then our mouths filled with laughter

and our lips with song.

Even the pagan started talking

about the marvels Yahweh had done for us!

What marvels indeed he did for us,

and how over joyed we were!

Yahweh, bring all our captives back again

like torrents in the Negeb!

Those who went sowing in tears

now sing as they reap.

They went away, went away weeping,

carrying the seed;

they come back, come back singing,

carrying their sheaves.

Hebrews 10:35-11:1 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Be as confident now, then, since the reward is so great.  You will need endurance to do God’s will and gain what he has promised.

Only a little while now, a very little while,

and the one that is coming will have come; he will not delay.

The righteous man will live by faith,

but if he draws back, my soul will take no pleasure in him.

You and I are not the sort of people who draw back, and are lost by it; we are the sort who keep faithful until our souls are saved.

Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of the realities that at present remain unseen.

John 20:24-29 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.  When the disciples said,

We have seen the Lord,

he answered,

Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger in the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.

Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and among them.

Peace be with you,

he said.  Then he spoke to Thomas,

Put your finger here; look, here are my hands.  Give me your hand; put it into my side.  Doubt no longer but believe.

Thomas replied,

My Lord and my God!

Jesus said to him:

You believe because you can see me.

Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.

The Collect:

Everliving God, who strengthened your apostle Thomas with firm and certain faith in your Son’s resurrection: Grant us so perfectly and without doubt to believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, that our faith may never be found wanting in your sight; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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My father served as pastor of Cooks Union United Methodist Church, about eight miles outside Colquitt, Georgia, in Miller County, from June 1985 to June 1986.  One Sunday morning during that year, a laywoman whose name I forget delivered a children’s sermon about St. Thomas.  She held a small book about the Apostles.  You, O reader, might have seen this book or even own a copy.  It features color paintings of each of the main Apostles with a brief profile on the facing page.  The book is thin, with a two-tone hard cover.  The church member explained that Thomas had doubted the resurrection of Jesus and that he had later taken the Gospel to India, where he died for the Christian faith.  So, she said, Thomas was not all bad.

But Thomas not all bad, anyway.  The presumption behind her concluding statement was that the Apostle’s doubt constituted a great stain on his character.  This was a great misunderstanding.

Let us back up for a few moments, though.

St. Thomas was a twin, hence the Greek designation Didymus, which means “twin.”  The canonical Gospels contain few details about him, and he did not write the Gnostic, non-canonical Gospel of Thomas.  (I have read the Gospel of Thomas in three translations, and think that its non-canonical status is proper.)  St. Thomas traveled through Persia all the way to India, where he introduced Christianity to the subcontinent by the 50s C.E.  The modern-day Mar Thoma Church is the heir of this efforts.  In India the Apostle met his martyrdom by spearing at Madras; Mylapore is his burial site.  Today one can visit his tomb at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Thomas at Mylapore.

St. Thomas was a healthy skeptic.  The resurrection was hardly a frequent event, so doubting it was natural.  The Apostle was not the only follower of Jesus at the time to harbor doubts.  The canonical Gospels indicate that St. Peter was initially skeptical, too.  Yet I hear about Doubting Thomases, not Doubting Peters.  Anyway, St. Thomas, the healthy skeptic, believed the evidence when he saw it, and dedicated the rest of his life to telling people about Jesus.

I am sufficiently a product of the Enlightenment to accept the premise that doubt is a legitimate path to knowledge.  I ask questions when I harbor doubts, and I seek answers when I ask questions.  Thus I increase the probability of finding answers when I experience and embrace doubt.  Thomas admitted his doubt, received his answer, accepted it, and lived accordingly.

So, let us treat the label “Doubting Thomas” as a great compliment.

Finally, a personal note:  St. Thomas is my favorite Biblical figure.  He was an honest doubter and seeker, a good skeptic.  So am I.  If I were a Biblical character, I would be St. Thomas the Apostle.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 10, 2010

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (U.S.A.), 1983

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA, 1925

THE FEAST OF SAINT EPHREM OF EDESSA, ROMAN CATHOLIC DEACON AND HYMN WRITER

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Published previously at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR:

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/10/feast-of-st-thomas-apostle-and-martyr-december-21/

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Seventh Day of Epiphany   10 comments

Above:  Titian’s Painting of John the Baptist

Jesus Must Grow Greater; I Must Grow Less.

JANUARY 12, 2020

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1 John 5:13-20 (New Jerusalem Bible):

I have written this to you

who believe in the name of the Son of God

so that you may know that you have eternal life.

Our fearlessness towards him consists in this,

that if we ask anything in accordance with his will

he hears us.

And if we know that he listens to whatever we ask him,

we know that we already possess whatever we have asked of him.

If anyone sees his brother commit a sin

that is not a deadly sin,

has only to pray, and God will give life to this brother

–provided that it is not a deadly sin.

There is a sin that leads to death

and I am not sat saying that you must pray about that.

Every kind of wickedness is sin,

but not all sin leads to death.

We are well aware that no one who is a child of God sins,

because he who was born from God protects him,

and the Evil One has no hold over him.

We are well aware that we are from God,

and the whole world is in the power of the Evil One.

We are well aware also that the Son of God has come,

and has given us understanding

so that we may know the One who is true.

We are in the One who is true

as we are in his Son, Jesus Christ.

He is the true God

and this is eternal life.

Children, be on your guard against false gods.

Psalm 149 (New Jerusalem Bible):

Sing a new song to Yahweh:

his praise in the assembly of the faithful!

Israel shall rejoice in its Maker,

the children of Zion delight in their king;

they shall dance in praise of his name,

play to him on tambourines and harp!

For Yahweh loves his people,

he will crown the humble with salvation.

The faithful exult in glory,

shout for joy as they worship him,

praising God to the heights with their voices,

a two-edged sword in their hands,

to wreak vengeance on the nations,

punishment on the peoples,

to load their kings with chains

and their nobles with iron fetters,

to execute on the the judgment passed–

to the honour of all his faithful.

John 3:22-36 (New Jerusalem Bible):

After this, Jesus went with his disciples into the Judaean countryside and stayed with them there and baptized.  John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, where there was plenty of water, and people were going there and were being baptized.  For John had not yet been put in prison.

Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew about purification, so they went to John and said,

Rabbi, the man who was with you on the far side of the Jordan, the man to whom he bore witness, is baptizing now, and everyone is going to him.

John replied:

No one can have anything

except what is given him from heaven.

You yourselves can bear me out.  I said, ‘I am not the Christ; I am the one who has been sent to go in front of him.’

It is the bridegroom who has the bride;

and yet the bridegroom’s friend

who stands there and listens to him,

is filled with joy at the bridegroom’s voice.

This is the joy I feel, and it is complete.

He must grow greater,

I must grow less.

He who comes from above

is above all others;

he who is of the earth

is earthly himself and speaks in an earthly way.

He who comes from heaven

bears witness to the things he has seen and heard,

but his testimony is not accepted by anybody;

though anyone does not accept his testimony

is attesting that God is true,

since he whom God has sent

speaks God’s own words,

for God gives him the Spirit without reserve.

The Father loves the Son

and has entrusted everything to his hands.

Anyone who believes in the Son has eternal life,

but anyone who refuses to believe in the Son will never see life:

God’s retribution hangs over him.

The Collect:

O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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From misplaced priorities (such as inflated egos) flow terrible results.  Most wars have been preventable and unnecessary, flowing from misunderstandings and wounded pride.  These have been, to borrow an explanation of the Falklands Islands War, like two bald men fighting over a comb.  Yet the proverbial bald men in question have done this out of national pride or the ego of the leader.

Often we humans seek poor substitutes for the God-shaped hole in the soul.  Out of this quest flow addictions, dependencies, preventable interpersonal conflicts, violent crimes, property crimes, and other social ills.  It would be better to seek God, assuming the humble attitude of St. John the Baptist, stating and living according the principle that Jesus must be increase but that we must decrease.

KRT

Written on June 9, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/jesus-must-grow-greater-i-must-grow-less/

Sixth Day of Epiphany   17 comments

Above:  The Praying Hands, by Albrecht Durer

The Imperative of Prayer

JANUARY 11, 2020

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1 John 5:5-12 (New Jerusalem Bible):

Who can overcome the world

but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

He it is who came by water and blood,

Jesus Christ,

not with water alone,

but with water and blood,

and it is the Spirit that bears witness,

for the Spirit is Truth.

So there are three witnesses,

the Spirit, water and blood;

and the three of them coincide.

If we accept the testimony of human witnesses,

God’s testimony is greater,

for this is God’s testimony

which he gave about his Son.

Whoever believes in the Son of God

has this testimony within him,

and whoever does not believe

is making God a liar,

because he has not believed

the testimony God has given about his Son.

This is the testimony:

God has given us eternal life,

and this life is in his Son.

Whoever has the Son has life,

and whoever has not the Son of God has not life.

I have written this to you

who believe in the name of the Son of God

so that you may know that you have eternal life.

Psalm 147:12-20 (New Jerusalem Bible):

Praise Yahweh, Jerusalem,

Zion, praise your God.

For he gives strength to the bars of your gates,

he blesses your children within you,

he maintains the peace of your frontiers,

gives you your fill of finest wheat.

He sends his word to the earth,

his command runs quickly,

he spreads the snow like flax,

strews hoarfrost like ashes,

he sends ice-crystals like breadcrumbs,

and who can withstand that cold?

When he sends his word it thaws them,

when he makes his wind blow, the waters are unstopped.

He reveals his word to Jacob,

his statutes and judgments to Israel.

For no other nation has done this,

no other has known his judgments.

Luke 5:12-16 (New Jerusalem Bible):

Now it happened that Jesus was in one of the towns when suddenly a man appeared, covered with a skin-disease.  Seeing Jesus he fell on his face and implored him saying,

Sir, if you are willing you can cleanse me.

He stretched out his hand, and touched him saying

I am willing.  Be cleansed.

At once the skin-disease left him.  He ordered him to tell no one,

But go and show yourself to the priest and make the offering of your cleansing just as Moses prescribed, as evidence to them.

But the news of him kept spreading, and large crowds would gather to hear him and have their illnesses cured, but he would go off to some deserted place and pray.

The Collect:

O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Jesus needed to find solitude and to pray.  If this was a requirement for him, much more do we need to do this, too?

I have lived without cable television voluntarily for years.  This was partially a financial decision:  Why should I pay a bill for a service I barely use and really do not want or need?  Yet it was a spiritual choice, too.  I have chosen to read more books, listen to more Canadian radio online, and play more classical music and jazz.  And I have discs when I want to watch something.  What I watch then is probably better and more interesting than what I could find on cable TV at the time.  And I have thrown myself into blogging, of course.  To think that what I do in private can help others whom I will never meet is gratifying.

Yet I can still distract myself from the imperative of prayer.  I am no spiritual giant.

Prayer can assume many forms, the greatest of which (I am convinced) are non-verbal.  Ultimately prayer is a state of being in which we crave to be conscious of the presence of God and in which the desire for more of this oozes from our pores, so to speak.  Frequently this entails solitude and silence, or at least a suitable environment we create with music.  I have encountered God in silence, classical music, and John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, for example.

We are always in the presence of God.  May we become increasingly conscious of this reality, and recharge our spiritual batteries so that we may serve God better.  In so doing we will realize that we have eternal life–knowing God via Jesus–in the here and now.

KRT

Written on June 9, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/the-imperative-of-prayer/

Posted September 16, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2019-2020, Episcopal Church Lectionary, January 11

Tagged with , , ,

Fifth Day of Epiphany   20 comments

Above:  Colored Waiting Room Sign, Georgia, 1943

Whom Should I Love?  Everybody!

JANUARY 10, 2020

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1 John 4:19-5:4 (New Jerusalem Bible):

Let us love, then,

because he first loved us.

Anyone who says

I love God

and hates his brother,

is a liar,

since no one who fails to love the brother whom he can see

can love God whom he has not seen.

Indeed this is the commandment we have received from him,

that whoever loves God, must also love his brother.

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ

is a child of God,

and whoever loves the father

loves the son.

In this way we know that we love God’s children,

when we love God and keep his commandments.

This is what the love of God is:

keeping his commandments.

Neither are his commandments burdensome,

because every child of God

overcomes the world.

And this is the victory that has overcome the world–

our faith.

Psalm 72:1-2, 14-19 (New Jerusalem Bible):

God, endow the king with your own fair judgment,

the son of the king with your own saving justice,

that he may rule your people with justice,

and your poor with fair judgment.

From oppression and violence he redeems our lives,

their blood is precious in his sight.

(Long may he live; may the gold of Sheba be given him!)

Prayer will be offered for him constantly,

and blessings invoked on him all day.

May wheat abound in the land,

waving on the heights of the hills,

like Lebanon with its fruits and flowers at their best,

like the grasses of the earth.

May his name be blessed for ever,

and endure in the sight of the sun.

In him shall be blessed every race in the world,

and all nations call him blessed.

Blessed be Yahweh, the God of Israel,

who alone works wonders;

blessed for ever his gracious name.

May the whole world be filled with his glory!

Amen! Amen!

Luke 4:14-22 (New Jerusalem Bible):

Jesus, with the power of the Spirit in him, returned to Galilee; and his reputation spread throughout the countryside.  He taught in their synagogues and everyone glorified him.

He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day as he usually did.  He stood up to read, and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.  Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:

The spirit of the Lord is upon me,

for he has anointed me

to bring the good news to the afflicted.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives,

sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free,

to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord.

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down.  And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him.  Then he began to speak to them,

The text is being fulfilled today even while you are listening.

And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips.

The Collect:

O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The reading from 1 John reminds us of a great spiritual truth:  we cannot love God and hate each other.  It is easy to give lip service to this statement, but acting on it can entail controversy and social transformation, which make many people very uncomfortable and sometimes violent.

The excerpt from Luke seems to have a happy ending, but reading for a few more verses reveals that Jesus’ former neighbors turned on him, becoming enraged and hustling him out of Nazareth, intending to throw him off a cliff.  These were people who, very shortly before, had been in synagogue!  This incident reminds me of a true story from a Methodist revival meeting in a Virginia barn in the late 1700s.  Thomas Coke, one of the original bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church (1784-1939; now The United Methodist Church) was preaching.  He turned to the topic of slavery, the abolition of which he supported.  On the spot a woman in the congregation offered to hire someone to murder Coke.  The bishop fled the barn, and the revival ended.  Bishop Coke lived for years, fortunately.

I write this post in June 2010.  One hundred years ago de jure segregation was the law of the land in the United States.  In 1896 the Supreme Court had held in Plessy v. Ferguson that racial segregation was constitutional so long as the separate facilities were equal.  Yet these facilities were not equal.  So the Court reversed itself in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), with Chief Justice Earl Warren (one of my heroes, and my favorite Chief Justice) writing that separate is inherently unequal.  In 2010 it is difficult to find a person in the political mainstream who will question the major civil rights milestones–Supreme Court rulings and acts of Congress–although one can locate a few now and again.  Theoretical arguments about the nature of Federalism might seem respectable and concerned with Constitutional imperatives, but they cannot mask racism, insensitivity to injustice, or the errors of hyper-Libertarianism, which opposes federal actions to correct injustices, such as de jure segregation.

We have received a command to love each other actively.  Thus we need to ask some hard questions and perhaps to jettison some assumptions.  No political -ism is immune from error in matters of loving others, hating others, or loving others insufficiently.  I propose, for example, that this command requires not to think of abortion as a casual matter or to excuse bombing civilian populations during wartime.  (During World War II the Allies bombed cities in Axis nations.)  I own a shirt which asks

Who Would Jesus Bomb?

I know that the first word should be “whom,” but question remains a good one.  Gospel imperatives can be challenging, indeed.

KRT

Written on June 9, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/whom-should-i-love-everybody/