Archive for the ‘February 7’ Category

Devotion for the Fifth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year C (Humes)   2 comments

Above:  The King Uzziah Stricken with Leprosy, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Suffering

FEBRUARY 7, 2021

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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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2 Chronicles 26:3-5, 16-21 or Joshua 6:16-21

Psalm 78:1-4, 9-18, 30

Ephesians 4:1-16

Luke 5:12-26

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I…beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called….

–Ephesians 4:1, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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That is the theme uniting the assigned readings.  The call is both individual and collective, and always in the context of community.

The righteous and the unjust suffer.  Does God afflict faithless people with physical ailments.  My theology answers, “no.”  Much of the Hebrew Bible disagrees with me, of course.  My disgust with bigoted televangelists who have have attributed diseases and natural disasters (such as Hurricane Katrina, 2005) to the wrath of God informs my opinion.  Sometimes people are merely unfortunate.  On other occasions. some people suffer the consequences of their actions.  I do not that interpret that as God smiting people.  No, I understand that as people smiting themselves.

We will suffer as surely as we breathe.  May we, by grace, not suffer because of our sins, individually.  Given that we live in community, each of us will suffer because of the actions and inaction of others.  Not one of us can change that reality.  Each one of us can, however, trust God and follow Jesus.  Each of us can use our spiritual gifts properly, for the glory of God and for the common good.  Each of us can be a conduit of divine love.  If we do not think doing so will prompt certain others to target us, we deceive ourselves, unfortunately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 18, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEONIDES OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 202; ORIGEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN; SAINT DEMETRIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT CYRIL OF JERUSALEM, BISHOP, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGIST

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAUL OF CYPRUS, EASTERN ORTHODOX MARTYR, 760

THE FEAST OF ROBERT WALMSLEY, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER

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https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/03/18/devotion-for-proper-3-year-c-humes/

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2020/03/18/suffering-part-v/

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Devotion for the Fifth Sunday After the Epiphany (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:   Eyes

Image in the Public Domain

Eyes

FEBRUARY 7, 2021

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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 6:1-5, 15-25

Psalm 135:1-7

Acts 10:1-28

Luke 11:34-36

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Hallelujah!

Praise the Name of the LORD;

give praise, you servants of the LORD.

–Psalm 135:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The themes of light and of the liberation of Gentile people, present in the post for the previous Sunday, are obvious her also.  Rahab and her family find deliverance.  Also, St. Cornelius the Centurion and his household join the Christian fold formally.  In the same story St. Simon Peter learns the difference between separatism and holiness.

The reading from Luke 11 requires some explanation.  The erroneous physiological assumption at work is one common at the time.  That assumption is that the eyes allow the light of the body to go out, hence

Your eyes are the lamp of your body.  If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but if it is not healthy, your body is full of darkness.

–Luke 11:34, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

(Jesus was the Savior of the world.  He was not an optometrist.)

Nevertheless, the issue of inner spiritual light and darkness is a true and timeless one.  Gentiles can have light within them, just as Jews can have darkness within them.  (Read Luke 11:37-54.)  Indeed, each of us has both inner light and darkness.  The question is, which one is dominant?  Just as good people commit bad deeds, bad people commit good deeds too.

May God liberate us from our inner darkness and our inability and unwillingness to recognize the light in others, especially those different from ourselves.

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/eyes/

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Devotion for the Fifth Sunday After the Epiphany (Year D)   1 comment

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 III

FEBRUARY 7, 2021

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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 34:1-20

Psalm 28

Matthew 6:7-15

Hebrews 13:9-14 (15-16) 17-25

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Elihu seems like a rather annoying person.  He is eager to defend God against Job’s complaints and to offer a more vigorous theodicy than that of Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite.  Elihu argues, in part:

So far is God removed from wickedness,

and Shaddai from injustice,

that he requites a man for what he does,

treating each one as his way of life deserves.

God is never wrong, do not doubt that!

Shaddai does not deflect the course of right.

–Job 34:10b-12, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Translation:  Job sinned, and these sufferings of his are divine punishment for those sins.  If he repents, God will forgive Job and end his sufferings.  This conclusion contradicts Job 1 and 2, which offer a truly disturbing answer:  God has permitted an innocent man to suffer as part of a wager.

This seems like an excellent place at which to add the analysis of John Job, author of Job Speaks to Us Today (Atlanta, GA:  John Knox Press, 1977), pages 102-103.  The author asks, “Why are Job’s friends not truly wise?”  He concludes, in part:

The friends, first of all, are shameless utilitarians.  Repentance, in the estimation of Eliphaz, is a kind of insurance policy.  Making petition to God is advocated, not for the intrinsic value of a relationship with him, but simply for the pay-off in material terms–as when he says, “Come to terms with God and you will prosper; that is the way to mend your fortune” (22:21).  The interesting point here is that the friends adopt precisely the position which Satan regards as universally occupied by those who make a show of being god-fearing.  “Does Job fear God for nothing?” he had asked.  Eliphaz makes no secret of the grounds on which he is advising Job to fear God.  It is all too shallow.  Faith is depersonalized:  it becomes self-centered instead of God-centered.  Its character as faith is destroyed.  Fear of God is simply not the right way to describe it.

If one replaces “Eliphaz” with “Elihu” and changes the citation from Job 22 to one from Chapter 34, this analysis remains valid.

The Book of Job defies the desire for easy answers that fundamentalism typifies.  God is just, correct?  Then how does one explain the wager in Job 1 and 2?  And does not Job deserve better than the “I am God and you are not” speeches in Job 38-41?  In Job 42, however, God expresses his displeasure with Eliphaz and company for speaking falsely about him and praises Job for speaking honestly about him (God).  Those two responses seem incompatible, do they not?  Of course, one came from one source and the other came from another.  Elihu, who states correctly that God does not meet human measures (Job 33:12b), also spouts foolishness.  The Book of Job provides no easy answers and offers a false, Hollywood ending, at least in its final, composite form.  The original version ends with Job’s repentance for overreaching a few verses into Chapter 42.

Job needed good friends, not Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu.  He needed people who came to comfort him, to listen to him, and to let him cry on their shoulders.  He needed friends who followed advice from Hebrews 13:16:

Never neglect to show kindness and to share what you have with others; for such are the sacrifices which God approves.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

The standard we apply to others will be the standard God applies to us; we read this in Matthew 7:1-5.  Forgiveness is something we are to extend to others, and divine forgiveness of our sins depends on our forgiveness of the sins of others.  This is a lesson the author of Psalm 28 had not yet learned.  This is a lesson with which I have struggled mightily and with which I continue to struggle.  Success in the struggle does not depend on my own power, fortunately; grace is abundant.  The desire to do something one knows one ought to do is something with which God can work.  It is, metaphorically, a few loaves and fishes, which God can multiply.

In Job 42 God burned with anger toward Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar.  (The text does not mention Elihu, most likely because the text of the Book of Job did not yet contain the Elihu cycle.)  The alleged friends had not spoken truthfully of God, but Job had.  Job interceded on their behalf, however, and God excused their folly and forgave their sins.  Job, who had complained bitterly to his alleged friends, who had taunted him and sometimes even enjoyed his sufferings, all while imagining that they were pious and that he had done something to deserve his plight, prayed for their forgiveness.

That is a fine lesson to draw from the Book of Job.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 9, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CONSTANCE AND HER COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF ANNE HOULDITCH SHEPHERD, ANGLICAN NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ISAAC THE GREAT, PATRIARCH OF ARMENIA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CHATTERTON DIX, HYMN WRITER

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

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Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before the Fifth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Icon of Aaron

Above:  Icon of Aaron

Image in the Public Domain

Leadership

FEBRUARY 7 and 8, 2019

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The Collect:

Most Holy God, the earth is filled with your glory,

and before you angels and saints stand in awe.

Enlarge our vision to see your power at work in the world,

and by your grace make us heralds of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 20:22-29 (Thursday)

Numbers 27:12-23 (Friday)

Psalm 138 (Both Days)

Acts 9:19b-25 (Thursday)

Acts 9:26-31 (Friday)

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The LORD will make good his purpose for me;

O LORD, your love endures for ever;

do not abandon the works of your hands.

–Psalm 138:9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Moses and Aaron had been leaders of the Israelite community in the desert for decades.  Both of them had, however, rebelled against God.  Their penalty was never to enter the Promised Land.  Aaron died, and a son became the next priest.  Moses passed the torch of leadership to Joshua son of Nun before dying.  God’s work continued via different people.

Saul of Tarsus had also rebelled against God before God intervened directly and Saul became St. Paul the Apostle, one of the greatest and most influential Christian theologians and evangelists.  The Apostle’s life after his conversion was much more hazardous than it had been prior to his fateful journey to Damascus.  Apart from biography, perhaps the greatest difference between Moses and Aaron on one hand and St. Paul on the other hand was that Moses and Aaron rebelled against God while on duty for God.  St. Paul was a reformed rebel.  Richard Elliott Friedman wrote,

Leaders of a congregation cannot violate the very instruction that they uphold and teach to others.

Commentary on the Torah with a New English Translation and the Hebrew Text (2001), page 497

Or rather, they can violate that instruction yet may not do so.

A leader is one whom others follow.  If one thinks that one might be a leader, one should turn around and see if anybody is following one.  If no person is following one, one is merely walking.

With leadership comes the responsibility to lead well.  Among the best forms of leadership is setting a good example.  Hypocrisy creates scandal much of the time and weakens one’s ability to lead properly.  For example, one who condemns gambling (a good thing to criticize) yet frequents casinos or a casino and gets caught doing so justly loses credibility.

Are you a leader, O reader?  If so, may you lead well, as God directs you, for the glory of God and the benefit of those who follow you.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 9, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DENIS, BISHOP OF PARIS, AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUIS BERTRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GROSSETESTE, SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF WILHELM WEXELS, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; HIS NIECE, MARIE WEXELSEN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER; LUDWIG LINDEMAN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN ORGANIST AND MUSICOLOGIST; AND MAGNUS LANDSTAD, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, FOLKLORIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/leadership/

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Devotion for Friday and Saturday Before the Fifth Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Cuci_tangan_pakai_sabun

Above:  Washing Hands With Soap

Image Source = Serenity

Deeds and Rituals

FEBRUARY 7 and 8, 2020

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The Collect:

Lord God, with endless mercy you receive

the prayers of all who call upon you.

By your Spirit show us the things we ought to do,

and give us the grace and power to do them,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 29:1-12 (Friday)

Isaiah 29:13-16 (Saturday)

Psalm 112:1-9 [10] (both days)

James 3:13-18 (Friday)

Mark 7:1-8 (Saturday)

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Light shines in the darkness for the upright;

the righteous are merciful and full of compassion.

It is good for them to be generous in lending

and to manage their affairs with justice.

–Psalm 112:4-5, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Ritualism, in and of itself, is positive.  It, paired with lived faith in God–the kind of faith which finds expression in, among other things, an active concern for what James 3:18 (The New Jerusalem Bible) calls

a harvest of justice,

is consistent with the witness of Hebrew prophets who decried judicial and political corruption and economic exploitation.  In fact, the instructions for the house of worship in the Law of Moses indicate a space designed for ritualism.  But the Law of Moses (when it does not call for stoning people or reflect a negative view of female biology) speaks of lived holiness for the community.

Many activities are positive.  Among these is washing one’s hands before eating–certainly a sanitary action.  Yet sanitation was not the concern Jesus addressed in Mark 7.  No, our Lord and Savior discussed tradition for its own sake and the sake of making some people appear holier than others.  He knew that washing hands could not purify one’s self-righteous attitude.  So rituals ought not to function as totems, which people imagine vainly will protect them from the wrath of God or merely from the consequences of their bad deeds and sins of omission.

May each of us engage in good deeds and rituals.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 10, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD; AND SAINT JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF YORK, ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF VIDA DUTTON SCUDDER, WRITER

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/10/18/deeds-and-rituals/

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An Invitation to Observe a Holy Epiphany and Season after Epiphany   Leave a comment

Above:  Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, Atlanta, Georgia, January 8, 2012

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Liturgical time matters, for it sacramentalizes days, hours, and minutes, adding up to seasons on the church calendar.  Among the frequently overlooked seasons is the Season after Epiphany, the first part of Ordinary Time.  The Feast of the Epiphany always falls on January 6 in my tradition.  And Ash Wednesday always falls forty days (excluding Sundays) before Easter Sunday.  The Season after Epiphany falls between The Feast of the Epiphany and Ash Wednesday.  In 2013 the season will span January 7-February 12.

This season ought to be a holy time, one in which to be especially mindful of the imperative to take the good news of Jesus of Nazareth to others by a variety of means, including words when necessary.  Words are meaningless when our actions belie them, after all.  Among the themes of this season is that the Gospel is for all people, not just those we define as insiders.  No, the message is also for our “Gentiles,” those whom we define as outsiders.  So, with that thought in mind, I encourage you, O reader, to exclude nobody.  Do not define yourself as an insider to the detriment of others.  If you follow this advice, you will have a proper Epiphany spirit.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 9, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN CHEMNITZ, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

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

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Devotion for February 7 and 8 in Epiphany/Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  Job and His Alleged Friends

Job and John, Part IV:  Ideology

FEBRUARY 7 and 8, 2021

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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 everlasting 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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The Assigned Readings:

Job 4:1-21 (February 7)

Job 5:1-27 (February 8)

Psalm 97 (Morning–February 7)

Psalm 51 (Morning–February 8)

Psalms 16 and 62 (Evening–February 7)

Psalms 142 and 65 (Evening–February 8)

John 2:1-12 (February 7)

John 2:13-25 (February 8)

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I have combined the readings for February 7 and 8 to keep Eliphaz the Temanite material together.  Doing this has another effect:  keeping miracle at Cana and the Johannine account of the cleansing of the Temple together.  Shall we proceed?

Job had bad excuses for friends.  Exhibit A is Eliphaz the Temanite, who defended his concept of God by insisting that Job must have done something to warrant suffering.  After all, in Eliphaz’s view, the good prospered and the bad suffered.  This was demonstrably false theology.  Just look around:  Truly bad people prosper and morally sound people suffer.  The Gospel of John, like all canonical Gospels, written from a post-Resurrection perspective, places a prediction of our Lord’s suffering at the beginning of our Lord’s suffering at the beginning of the text.  If Eliphaz was correct, Jesus should not have suffered.  But he did.  So Eliphaz was incorrect.

There is more to John 2:1-25.  The story of the miracle at Cana speaks of extravagance.  In Jesus, it tells us, was something new–well, old really–but new relative to the perspective of the people at the time–and unstinting.  This was not a rejection of Judaism; rather it emerged from Judaism.  Jesus was, after all, a practicing Jew.  Yet the cleansing of the Temple–placed at the beginning of our Lord’s ministry in John, in contrast to the Synoptic chronology–did indicate a rejection of the Temple system, which placed undue burdens on those who could least afford them.  Money changers profited from the religious imperative to exchange idolatrous Roman currency before buying a sacrificial animal.  But Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice in time.

The character of Eliphaz the Temanite experienced cognitive dissonance over Job’s sufferings.  Eliphaz resolved that dissonance by doubling down on his ideology, even though evidence contradicted it.  The emergence of Jesus pointed to a new (to humans) approach to God.  In each case predictable conservatism clung to the old ways of thinking.  But the dogmas of the past were inadequate to the demands of the then-current reality.  Conservatism is not inherently bad; it is just not appropriate at all times and in all places.  The question concerns what one seeks to conserve.  Sometimes a revolutionary is just what God ordered.

May our assumptions–especially those so deeply embedded that we do not think of them as assumptions–not prevent us from recognizing God’s ways of working.  And may these assumptions not blind us to our own errors.

Until the next segment of our journey….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 13, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HERMENEGILD, VISIGOTHIC PRINCE AND ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUGH OF ROUEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, ABBOT, AND MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARTIN I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF MIKAEL AGRICOLA, FINNISH LUTHERAN BISHOP OF TALLINN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/job-and-john-part-iv-ideology/

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Before a Bible Study   Leave a comment

Above:  An Old Family Bible

Image Source = David Ball

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God of glory,

as we prepare to study the Bible,

may we approach the texts with our minds open,

our intellects engaged,

and our spirits receptive to your leading,

so that we will understand them correctly

and derive from them the appropriate lessons.

Then may we act on those lessons.

For the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Amen.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 7, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MELCHIOR MUHLENBERG, SHEPHERD OF LUTHERANISM IN THE AMERICAN COLONIES

THE FEAST OF FRED KAAN, HYMNWRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN WOOLMAN, ABOLITIONIST

Posted October 7, 2011 by neatnik2009 in 2020-2021, December 1, December 10, December 11, December 12, December 13, December 14, December 15, December 16, December 17, December 18, December 19, December 2, December 20, December 21, December 22, December 23, December 24: Christmas Eve, December 25: First Day of Christmas, December 26: Second Day of Christmas/St. Stephen, December 27: Third Day of Christmas/St. John the Evangelist, December 28: Fourth Day of Christmas/Holy Innocents, December 29: Fifth Day of Christmas, December 3, December 30: Sixth Day of Christmas, December 31: Seventh Day of Christmas/New Year's Eve, December 4, December 5, December 6, December 7, December 8, December 9, February 1, February 10, February 11, February 12, February 13, February 14, February 15, February 16, February 17, February 18, February 19, February 2, February 20, February 21, February 22, February 23, February 24, February 25, February 26, February 27, February 28, February 29, February 3, February 4, February 5, February 6, February 7, February 8, February 9, January 10, January 11, January 12, January 13, January 14, January 15, January 16, January 17, January 18, January 19, January 1: Eighth Day of Christmas/Holy Name of Jesus/New Year's Day, January 20, January 21, January 22, January 23, January 24, January 25, January 26, January 27, January 28, January 29, January 2: Ninth Day of Christmas, January 30, January 31, January 3: Tenth Day of Christmas, January 4: Eleventh Day of Christmas, January 5: Twelfth Day of Christmas, January 6: Epiphany, January 7, January 8, January 9, March 1, March 2, March 3, March 4, March 5, March 6, March 7, March 8, March 9, November 27, November 28, November 29, November 30

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Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B   10 comments

Above:  Clouds at Sunset

Image Source = Fir0002

The Call of God, With All Its Responsibilities

FEBRUARY 7, 2021

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Isaiah 40:21-31 (New Revised Standard Version):

Have you not known?  Have you not heard?

Has it not been told you from the beginning?

Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,

and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;

who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,

and spreads them like a tent to live in;

who brings princes to naught,

and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.

Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,

scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,

when he blows upon them, and they wither,

and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

To whom then will you compare me?

or who is my equal? says the Holy One.

Lift up your eyes on high and see:

Who created these?

He who brings out their host and numbers them,

calling them all by name;

because he is great in strength,

mighty in power,

not one is missing.

Why do you say, O Jacob,

and speak, O Israel,

My way is hidden from the LORD,

and my right is disregarded by my God?

Have you not known?  Have you not heard?

The LORD is the everlasting God,

the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary;

his understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the faint,

and strengthens the powerless.

Even youths will faint and be weary,

and the young will fall exhausted;

but those who wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength,

they shall mount up with wings like eagles,

they shall run and not be weary,

they shall walk and not faint.

Psalm 147:1-12, 21c (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Hallelujah!

How good it is to sing praises to our God!

how pleasant it is to honor him with praise!

2  The LORD rebuilds Jerusalem;

he gathers the exiles of Israel.

3  He heals the brokenhearted

and binds up their wounds.

4  He counts the number of the stars

and call s them all by their names.

5  Great is our LORD and mighty in power;

there is no limit to his wisdom.

6  The LORD lifts up the lowly,

but casts the wicked to the ground.

7  Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving;

make music to our God upon the harp.

8  He covers the heavens with clouds

and prepares the rain for the earth;

9  He makes grass to grow upon the mountains

and green plants to serve mankind.

10  He provides food for flocks and herds

and for the young ravens when they cry.

11  He is not impressed by the might of a horse;

he has no pleasure in the strength of a man;

12  But the LORD has pleasure in those who fear him,

in those who await his gracious favor.

21c  Hallelujah!

1 Corinthians 9:16-23 (New Revised Standard Version):

If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!  For if I do this on my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission.  When then is my reward?  Just this:  that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free if charge, as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.

For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them.  To the Jews I became a Jew, in order to win Jews.  To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law.  To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law.  To the weak I became weak, so I might win the weak.  I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

Mark 1:29-39 (New Revised Standard Version):

As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.  Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once.  He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up.  Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.  And the whole city was gathered around the door.  And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.  And Simon and his companions hunted for him.  When they found him, they said to him,

Everyone is searching for you.

He answered,

Let us go on to the neighboring towns , so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.

And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

The Collect:

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

Isaiah 40:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/eleventh-day-of-advent/

Mark 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/17/week-of-1-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

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In the Autumn of 1991, during my first quarter at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Tifton, Georgia, my father was the newly appointed pastor the Sumner United Methodist Church, Sumner, Georgia.  I did not know it yet, but I was on the cusp of converting to The Episcopal Church, which I did at St. Anne’s Church, Tifton, on December 22, 1991.   In the meantime, however, I was still a United Methodist.  One Sunday morning, while teaching adult Sunday School, I offended someone by accident.

You, O reader, might wonder what terrible thing I said, what utterly offensive comment I made.  I will tell you.  I was discussing grace, especially the prevenient variety, by which God brings us into the Christian fold.  God does beckon us, after all.  I offered a scenario:  God is beckoning a non-Christian man, who responds favorably and obediently to God’s prevenient grace yet dies before making a profession of faith.  Does the man go to Heaven or to Hell?  In other words, will God be faithful to this man, who had responded favorably to him?  Most people said that the man would go to Heaven.  But two visitors, a daughter and son-in-law of a member, said that he would go to Hell, for he had not made a profession of faith and been baptized yet.  I made clear in a polite and civilized way, in a pleasant and conversational tone, and free of any insult or hint thereof, that I disagreed.

That was my offense.  I disagreed.  I learned after the fact that the visitors had taken offense.  I was unapologetic then, as I remain, for another person’s thin theological skin is not my responsibility.

And I remain convinced that we human beings ought to admit that the only limits on grace and divine forgiveness are those God imposes on them, and that only God knows what those limits are.  Or, as David said in 2 Samuel 24:14,

…let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man.  (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition)

Grace is of the essence.  With that summary, let us work through the readings for this Sunday.

The lesson from Isaiah 40 predicts the liberation of Jews from the Babylonian Exile.  This is a chapter of comfort, as it begins with these words:

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,

and cry to her

that her warfare is ended,

that her iniquity is pardoned,

that she has received from the LORD’s hand

double for all her sins.

(Isaiah 40:1-2, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition)

The God of Isaiah 40 and Psalm 147 is the Creator, the judge who also shows mercy, looks favorably upon the faithful, and is infinitely wise.  The chapter, which begins with “…comfort my people,” ends with the promise that God will grant “power to the faint.”

That power enabled Paul the Apostle to persist faithfully through death threats, beatings, imprisonments, and a shipwreck, all the way until an employee of the Roman Empire cut his head off.  Grace moved Paul from the “right side of the law” and placed him in risky situations.  This was not cheap grace, that which demands nothing of one and is therefore useless.  No, it was costly grace–free in so far as Paul received it freely–but costly in terms of what it demanded of him.  The restrictions of Torah law no longer applied to him, but the law of the love of Christ demanded his all.

Jesus, of course, was perfect as well as fully human and fully divine.  Yet even he needed to get away, find quiet time, and pray.  A day full of healing will take a great deal out of a Messiah, I suppose.  He was grace incarnate.  It was Christ whom Paul preached and followed from his conversion to his execution.  It is Jesus whom we ought to follow, if we are not doing so already, and to whom God beckons people.

And if even Jesus needed to be quiet and to pray, how much more do we need to do these?  I live in a technology-soaked society, where many people are never really “away from it all” (except when sleeping) because somebody can contact them the rest of the time.  This is not healthy.  We need to nourish ourselves with peace, quiet, and God.  Otherwise, we will nothing constructive to offer anyone else.

Paul had a vocation as an evangelist and ultimately a martyr.  I have my vocation, and you, O reader, have yours.  The details of our vocations will vary according to various factors, but the principle is the same:  to glorify God, to be a light of God to others, to encourage our fellow Christians in their discipleship, to attract others to our Lord and Savior, to understand that there is no distinction between evangelism and positive social action.  As Shirwood Eliot Wirt, a close associate of Billy Graham wrote in the final chapter of The Social Conscience of the Evangelical (1968):

James was not wrong when he demanded that Christians show their faith by their works.  Jesus Christ was not wrong when he told his listeners in effect to stop sitting on their hands and to get to work doing God’s will.  He did not come to earth to split theological hairs, but to minister to a world in need and to save men out of it for eternity.  It is time the air is cleared.  To pit social action against evangelism is to raise a phony issue, one that Jesus would have spiked in a sentence.  He commanded his disciples to spread the Good News, and to let their social concern be made manifest through the changed lives of persons of ultimate worth.  (Page 154)

If I love my neighbor as I love myself, I cannot say honestly that I do not care about the injustice he or she endures, that he or she does not earn a living wage, that a flawed justice system convicted and sent him or her to prison unjustly, that he or she suffers under the weight of undue stigma, et cetera.  Grace demands me to care about all this and to act accordingly as well as whether my neighbor has a positive, growing relationship with Jesus of Nazareth. These are some of my responsibilities.  They are also yours.

God’s hands are my hands–and yours.  God’s voice is my voice–and yours.  May they be useful and eloquent, respectively.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/the-call-of-god-with-all-its-responsibilities/

Week of 4 Epiphany: Friday, Year 2   4 comments

Above:  An Eastern Orthodox Icon of David

To Glorify God

FEBRUARY 7, 2020

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 47:2-11 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

As the fat is selected from the peace offering,

so David was selected from the sons of Israel.

He played with lions as with young goats,

and with bears as with lambs of the flock.

In his youth did he not kill a giant,

and take away reproach from the people,

when he lifted his hand with a stone in the sling

and struck down the boasting of Goliath?

He appealed to the Lord, the Most High,

and he gave him strength in his right hand

to slay a man mighty in war,

to exalt the power of his people.

So they glorified him for his ten thousands,

and praised him for the blessings of the Lord,

when the glorious diadem was bestowed upon him.

For he wiped out his enemies on every side,

and annihilated his adversaries the Philistines;

he crushed their power even to this day.

In all that he did he gave thanks

to the Holy One, the Most High, with ascriptions of glory;

he sang praise with all his heart,

and he loved his Maker.

He placed singers before the altar,

to make sweet melody with their voices.

He gave beauty to the feasts,

and arranged their times throughout the year,

while they praised God’s holy name,

and the sanctuary resounded from early morning.

The Lord took away his sins,

and exalted his power for ever;

he gave him the covenant of kings

and a throne of glory in Israel.

Psalm 18:31-33, 46-50 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

31  As for God, his ways are always perfect;

the words of the LORD are tried in the fire;

he is a shield to all who trust in him.

32  For who is God, but the LORD?

who is the Rock, except our God?

33  It is God who girds me about with strength

and makes my way secure.

46  The LORD lives!  Blessed is my Rock!

Exalted is the God of my salvation!

47  He is the God who gave me victory

and cast down the peoples beneath me.

48 You rescued me from the fury of my enemies;

you exalted me above those who rose against me;

you saved me from my deadly foe.

49 Therefore will I extol you among the nations, O LORD,

and sing praises to your Name.

50 He multiplies the victories of his king;

he knows loving-kindness to his anointed,

to David and his descendants for ever.

Mark 6:14-29 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known.  Some said,

John the Baptist has been raised from the dead; that is why these powers are at work in him.

But others said,

It is Elijah.

And others said,

It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.

But when Herod heard of it he said,

John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.

For Herod had sent and seized John, and bound him for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife.  And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him.  But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe.  When he heard him, he was much perplexed; and yet he heard him gladly.  But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and the leading men of Galilee.  For when Herodias’ daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl,

Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will grant it.

And he vowed to her,

Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.

And she went out, and said to her mother,

What shall I ask?

And she said,

The head of John the Baptist.

And she came in immediately with haste to the king, and asked, saying,

I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.

And the king was exceedingly sorry; but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her.  And immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard and gave orders to bring his head.  He went and beheaded him in the prison, and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother.  When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of 4 Epiphany:  Friday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/08/week-of-4-epiphany-friday-year-1/

Matthew 14 (Parallel to Mark 6):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/week-of-proper-12-saturday-year-1/

Luke 9 (Parallel to Mark 6):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/07/week-of-proper-20-thursday-year-1/

Feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist (August 29):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-the-beheading-of-st-john-the-baptist-martyr-august-29/

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One might add to the Canadian Anglican lectionary another response, an alternative to Psalm 18:31-33, 46-50.  Psalm 151 is part of the Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox traditions.

First I offer the New Revised Standard Version rendering:

1  I was small among my brothers,

and youngest in my father’s house;

I tended my father’s sheep.

2  My hands made a harp;

my fingers fashioned a lyre.

3  And who will tell my Lord?

The Lord himself; it is he who hears.

4  It was he who sent his messenger

and took me from my father’s sheep,

and anointed me with his anointing oil.

5  My brothers were handsome and tall,

but the Lord was not pleased with them.

6  I went out to meet the Philistine,

and he cursed me by his idols.

7  But I drew his own sword;

I beheaded him, and took away disgrace from the people of Israel.

And here is the translation of Psalm 151 from the St. Athanasius Academy Septuagint (2008):

1  I was small among my brothers

And the youngest in my father’s house;

I tended my father’s sheep.

2  My hands built a musical instrument;

My fingers tuned a lyre.

3  And who shall tell my Lord?

The Lord Himself, He Himself hears.

4  He sent forth His Angel

And took me from my father’s sheep;

5  My brothers were handsome and tall,

But the Lord took no pleasure in them.

6  I went out to meet the foreigner,

And he cursed me with his idols;

7  But I drew his own sword and beheaded him,

And removed disgrace from the children of Israel.

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What is the chief end of man?

Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

–The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question #1, as contained in the Book of Confessions (1967), of The United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America

The lectionary readings pair two rulers and two beheadings with only the most superficial similarities.  The differences, however, are quite revealing.

Herod Antipas was a son of Herod the Great.  Antipas, like his father, was a cruel and devious man who held his position only because the Roman Empire said so.  Antipas had married Herodias, his late half-brother’s niece.  Let that sink in.  John the Baptist had called him out on this, so Antipas had him arrested and imprisoned.  Then, at a party, Antipas so enjoyed his wife’s/late half-brother’s niece’s daughter erotic dancing (Let that sink in.) that he made a hasty pledge, which culminated in the execution of the forerunner of the Messiah.  Antipas, by the way, died in exile in Gaul.

In contrast to Herod Antipas we have David, which, 1 and 2 Samuel tell us, was far from perfect.  But David comes across as a hero and a man who heeded criticism from prophets.  And from David came the lineage which included Jesus, who called Herod Antipas “that fox.”

The basic virtue of David was that he tried (much of the time, at least) to glorify God and defend his kingdom.  It is always a good thing for anyone to glorify God.  And, when a ruler faces a national security threat, it is good for him or her to defend his or her realm while obeying basic principles of human rights.  David, as the texts present him, believed in something greater than himself, but Herod Antipas seems to have been a mere opportunist.

David glorified God, and history and tradition have honored him justifiably.  May we glorify God in our own day and circumstances, for that is the right thing to do.

KRT