Archive for the ‘February 11-20’ Category

Devotion for the Sixth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year A (Humes)   3 comments

Above:  Icon of Abraham

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Faithful Servants of God, Part VI

FEBRUARY 17, 2019

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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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Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 or Ecclesiastes 6 or Ezekiel 33:1-11

Psalm 7:1, 11-18

Galatians 3:19-29

Matthew 5:21-37

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Words matter, for they have power.  Today we read this in Ecclesiastes 5 and Matthew 5.  We have a moral obligation to refrain from all abusive language (such as Raqa, in the context of the culture of Matthew 5) and evasive language purposefully devoid of meaning (such as clever oaths in Matthew 5).

Actions matter also.  As much as God desires that the wicked repent, we mere mortals ought to seek reconciliation in disputes.  Accomplishing this is not always possible, for reconciliation requires more than one conciliatory party.  In such a case the desire to reconcile is laudable, at least.

The prayer from Psalm 7:9 that the wicked would cease to do harm and the reign of righteousness would begin is a timeless one.  I pray it often, for that would be a welcome change of reality.  Such a radical restructuring of the world requires an act of God, whose law Christ fulfills.

These admonitions can prove difficult to keep in one’s life.  We cannot succeed by our own strength of will.  Yes, our good intentions are laudable; God can work with them.  Yet we require grace to succeed in this noble endeavor.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 21, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH, CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH, AND JOHANN CHRISTIAN BACH, COMPOSERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF FLÜE AND HIS GRANDSON, SAINT CONRAD SCHEUBER, SWISS HERMITS

THE FEAST OF SAINT SERAPION OF THMUIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM EDWARD HICKSON, ENGLISH MUSIC EDUCATOR AND SOCIAL REFORMER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/03/21/faithful-servants-of-god-part-viii/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/12/devotion-for-proper-4-year-a-humes/

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Devotion for the Sixth Sunday After the Epiphany (Ackerman)   3 comments

Above:   Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

Hearing and Listening

FEBRUARY 17, 2019

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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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Ezekiel 2:6-3:4

Psalm 3

Revelation 10:1-11

Matthew 13:10-17

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LORD, how many adversaries I have!

how many there are who rise up against me!

–Psalm 3:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Do not be afraid of their words and do not be dismayed by them, though they are a rebellious breed; but speak My words to them, whether they listen or not, for they are rebellious.

–Ezekiel 2:6b-7, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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The imagery of eating a scroll indicates accepting a prophetic call from God.  Often the vocation of the prophet entails being unpopular, for speaking uncomfortable truths leads to that result.  Also, speaking such truths might place the life and liberty of the prophet at risk.

For some time the passage from Ezekiel has haunted me, so to speak.  The imagery of the bitter scroll tasting as sweet as honey, indicating Ezekiel’s glad acceptance of his commission, has come to mind often.  This imagery, echoed in Revelation 10, has reminded me of the mix of the bitter and sweet lives in while following God.  It has challenged me to accept bitterness as sweetness in the service of God.  I have not lived fully into that challenge yet.

The passage in Luke 13 reminds us of the difference between hearing and listening.  We might hear, but we might not listen.  Listening is much harder work, after all.  And, assuming that we do listen to the prophetic words of God via Ezekiel, Jesus, or anyone else, we might not like them.  How we respond or react to them is spiritually telling.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 3, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIE-LEONIE PARADIS, FOUNDER OF THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WHITING, HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/hearing-and-listening/

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Devotion for the Sixth Sunday After the Epiphany (Year D)   2 comments

the-wrath-of-elihu-william-blake

Above:  The Wrath of Elihu, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

The Oratory and Theology of Elihu, Part IV

FEBRUARY 17, 2019

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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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Job 34:21-37

Psalm 12

Matthew 7:1-12

2 Peter 1:1-15

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God cares for the poor and the oppressed, Elihu, Psalm 12, and Matthew 7 tell us.  Yet how do we explain the divine wager in Job 1 and 2, as well as the suffering of other innocent people?  It is a difficult theological question, one for which I, along with the Book of Job, refuse to offer any easy answers.  I not that, according to God in Job 42:7, Job had, unlike Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, spoken truthfully about God.  I remind you, O reader, that Job had spoken critically of God, who agreed with Job in Chapter 42 yet not in Chapters 38-41.  Such contradictions are par for course in a text with layers of authorship.

Elihu, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar should have followed timeless advice which the author of 2 Peter 1 summarized thusly:

…you should make every effort to add virtue to your faith, knowledge to virtue, self-control to knowledge, fortitude to self-control, piety to fortitude, brotherly affection to piety, and love to brotherly affection.

–1:5b-7, The Revised English Bible (1989)

They would have avoided being not only inhospitable but overreaching in statements in defense of God, as they understood God.  Elihu said:

But this is what all sensible folk will say,

and any wise man among my hearers,

“There is not wisdom in Job’s speech,

his words lack sense.

Put him unsparingly to the proof

since his retorts are the same as those that the wicked make.

For to him he adds rebellion,

calling justice into question in our midst

and heaping abuse on God.”

–Job 34:34-37, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

They would have refrained from heaping abuse on Job and would have been good friends had they acted according to the timeless advice the author of 2 Peter 1:5b-7 understood well.

May we–you, O reader, and I–act according to 2 Peter 1:5b-7 daily, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SALVIUS OF ALBI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF MORDECAI JOHNSON, EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT NEMESIAN OF SIGUM AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS AND MARTYRS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/09/10/the-oratory-and-theology-of-elihu-part-iv/

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Devotion for Wednesday After the Sixth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Flowering Herbs

Above:  Flowering Herbs, 1597

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-71911

A Difficult Commandment

FEBRUARY 20, 2019

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The Collect:

Living God, in Christ you make all things new.

Transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace,

and in the renewal of our lives make known your glory,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 22:11-17

Psalm 120

Luke 11:37-52

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Deliver me, O LORD, from lying lips

and from the deceitful tongue.

What shall be done to you, and what more besides,

O you deceitful tongue!

–Psalm 120:2-3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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A callous heart is at least as bad as a deceitful tongue.

YHWH’s criticism of King Jehoahaz (a.k.a. Shallum) of Judah (reigned 609 B.C.E.) was that he cared about himself, not justice.  King Josiah (reigned 640-609 B.C.E.), of whom biblical authors approved, had died in battle against the forces of Pharoah Neco II of Egypt.  Shallum/Jehoahaz succeeded his esteemed father as King of Judah and reigned for about three months before the Pharaoh deposed him.  Shallum/Jehoahaz died in captivity in Egypt.  For full details, read 2 Kings 23:30-35 and 2 Chronicles 36:1-4, O reader.

More than once in the canonical Gospels Jesus condemns Pharisees for obsessing over minor regulations while neglecting commandments requiring social justice.  There is some repetition from one synoptic Gospel to another due to duplication of material, but the theme repeats inside each of the Gospels.  That theme is as germane today as it was when Jesus walked on the planet.  Keeping certain commandments, although difficult, is easier than obeying others.  The proverbial low-hanging fruit is easy to reach, but keeping other commandments proves to be inconvenient at best and threatening to one’s socio-economic standing at worst.  This is one reason, for example, for many socially conservative Christians having emphasized individual holiness while doing little or nothing to oppose racism, slavery, sexism, child labor, and other social ills in the history of the United States.  Yes, many Christians worked to end these problems, but many others accepted them or even used the Bible to justify them.  Yet, as the Bible testifies again and again, God desires holiness and social justice.

YHWH and Jesus call for proper priorities.  Love your neighbor as you love yourself, they command us.  That is a difficult order.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 14, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN MISSIONARIES

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL ISAAC JOSEPH SCHERESCHEWSKY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF SHANGHAI

THE FEAST OF THOMAS HANSEN KINGO, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND “POET OF EASTERTIDE”

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/a-difficult-commandment/

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Devotion for Tuesday After the Sixth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Cyrus II

Above:  Cyrus II

Image in the Public Domain

Doing the Right Thing

FEBRUARY 19, 2019

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The Collect:

Living God, in Christ you make all things new.

Transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace,

and in the renewal of our lives make known your glory,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezra 1:1-11

Psalm 120

2 Corinthians 1:12-19

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Deliver me, O LORD, from lying lips

and from the deceitful tongue.

–Psalm 120:2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Some people seem to live to criticize.  They are not content to be happy, so they carp.  St. Paul the Apostle knew this well.  After a painful visit to the Corinthian church, he had planned to visit them again yet changed his mind not out of spite (as some in Corinth alleged), but out of consideration.  The reading from 2 Corinthians (actually part of the fourth letter to them) is an exercise in easing ruffled feathers.  That pericope is similar in tone to 2 Corinthians 10, the beginning of his third letter to the Corinthians.  (For your information, O reader, 1 Corinthians was St. Paul’s second letter to that church, and the first letter is lost.)

Regardless of all the motivations of King Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes (reigned 559-530 B.C.E.), his decision to send Jewish exiles to their ancestral homeland was God’s work.  Cyrus II might have been a nice person, but he certainly had some political reasons.  So be it.  He was as benevolent a foreign ruler as Jews could expect at the time.

People do the right things for a variety of reasons.  Motivations count, of course, but how many beneficiaries care about the reasons?  The actions themselves count also.  The best combination of motivation and action remains doing the right thing for the proper reason.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 14, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN MISSIONARIES

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL ISAAC JOSEPH SCHERESCHEWSKY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF SHANGHAI

THE FEAST OF THOMAS HANSEN KINGO, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND “POET OF EASTERTIDE”

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/doing-the-right-thing-2/

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Devotion for Monday After the Sixth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Zedekiah

Above:  Zedekiah

Image in the Public Domain

Four Kings

FEBRUARY 18, 2019

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The Collect:

Living God, in Christ you make all things new.

Transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace,

and in the renewal of our lives make known your glory,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 24:18-25:21

Psalm 120

1 Corinthians 15:20-34

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Too long have I had to live

among the enemies of peace.

I am on the side of peace,

but when I speak of it, they are for war.

–Psalm 120:6-7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Two of the three readings today include much doom.  Psalm 120 is overwhelmingly gloomy, as is the pericope from 2 Kings.  The reign of King Zedekiah (born Mattaniah) as the vassal King of Judah (reigned 597-586 B.C.E.) marked the bitter end of that kingdom.  Mattaniah (literally “gift of YHWH”) did not even get to keep his name, for his political master was Nebuchadnezzar II (reigned 605-562 B.C.E.) of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  So Mattaniah became Zedekiah (literally “YHWH is righteousness”).  The regnal name indicated the semblance of respect for Jewish traditions while simultaneously reminding the monarch that he was a vassal.

St. Paul the Apostle understood the death and resurrection of Jesus to have been literal events.  The Apostle also used them as spiritual metaphors, such as dying to sin and rising to new life in Christ.  Jesus will reign, we read, but only until he has conquered all enemies, the last of which is death, which he is in the process of conquering.  At the end Jesus will become subject to God the Father (YHWH).

Trinitarian theology developed over centuries, and St. Paul wrote near the beginning of that process.  His epistles do not stand up well to strict scrutiny according to the conclusions of the Council of Nicaea (325).  Neither do writings of other Ante-Nicene Church Fathers.  I refuse to judge them according to an ex post facto standard.

As for St. Paul’s christology, I refer to William F. Orr and James Arthur Walther, authors of The Anchor Bible volume on 1 Corinthians (1976):

Paul has not developed a trinitarian doctrine, but his christology is nonetheless a remarkable achievement.  overwhelming as is the work of salvation in the resurrection, it must be seen within the context of the purpose of the creator God.  Paul meticulously maintains his Jewish monotheistic tradition:  therefore the son himself is finally subjected, a statement that must be read, not from the perspective of a subordinationalist christology, but from Paul’s position, which is determined to set forth God as the all in all.

–Page 334

There were four kings.  Zedekiah was subject to Nebuchadnezzar II.  Sorting out the question of the subjection of Jesus to YHWH entails cutting through filters such as subsequent Trinitarian theology.  St. Paul was correct in asserting the supremacy of God, for, in the original scheme of things, YHWH was supposed to be the only King of Israel anyway.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 14, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN MISSIONARIES

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL ISAAC JOSEPH SCHERESCHEWSKY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF SHANGHAI

THE FEAST OF THOMAS HANSEN KINGO, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND “POET OF EASTERTIDE”

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/four-kings/

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Devotion for Saturday Before the Sixth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Baal

Above:  Baal

Image in the Public Domain

Idols and Icons

FEBRUARY 16, 2019

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The Collect:

Living God, in Christ you make all things new.

Transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace,

and in the renewal of our lives make known your glory,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 17:1-4

Psalm 1

Luke 11

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Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked,

nor lingered in the way of sinners,

nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

Their delight is in the law of the LORD,

and they meditate on his law day and night.

They are like trees planted by streams of water,

bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither;

everything they do shall prosper.

It is not so with the wicked;

they are like chaff which the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked shall not stand when judgment comes,

nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.

For the LORD knows the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked is doomed.

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

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The theme of idolatry unites the main two pericopes.  It occupies the core of the reading from Jeremiah 17, where idolatry will lead to destruction.  The lesson from Luke 11 concludes a narrative in which some critics have accused Jesus of being in league with Satan, prompting our Lord and Savior to respond with his “house divided” discourse.  Christ’s critics in that account could not recognize God incarnate in their presence.

An idol is anything–a thought, a practice, an object–which prevents one from recognizing God where God is present.  One person’s idol might be another person’s icon–through which one sees God.  The difference between an idol and an icon is how one uses it.  Among my favorite words is bibliolatry, which means treating the Bible as an idol.  That is an unfortunate reality for many who seek God.  Their desire for something concrete leads them astray as they seek the invisible God.

May we, as we seek God, avoid all idols, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 14, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN MISSIONARIES

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL ISAAC JOSEPH SCHERESCHEWSKY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF SHANGHAI

THE FEAST OF THOMAS HANSEN KINGO, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND “POET OF EASTERTIDE”

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/idols-and-icons-2/

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