Archive for the ‘January 18’ Category

Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Second Sunday After the Epiphany, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Death of Simon Magus

Above:  The Death of Simon Magus

Image in the Public Domain

Grace, Demanding Faithful Responses, Part I

JANUARY 17, 18, and 19, 2019

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The Collect:

Lord God, source of every blessing,

you showed forth your glory and led many to faith by the works of your Son,

who brought gladness and salvation to his people.

Transform us by the Spirit of his love,

that we may find our life together in him,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 3:1-5 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 3:19-25 (Friday)

Jeremiah 4:1-4 (Saturday)

Psalm 36:5-10 (All Days)

Acts 8:18-24 (Thursday)

1 Corinthians 7:1-7 (Friday)

Luke 11:14-23 (Saturday)

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Like a generous host you give them their fill of good food from your larder.

From your lovely streams which bring such pleasure you give them water to drink.

–Psalm 36:9, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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That is true, of course, so idolatry is especially galling.  Marriage, a literal matter in 1 Corinthians 7, is a metaphor in Jeremiah 3 and 4, where whoring becomes a metaphor for idolatry.  A relationship with God is intimate, this language tells us.

One of the themes in the Gospel of Mark, no part of which we read today, is that those who think they are insiders might actually be outsiders.  That theme applies to our Lord and Savior’s accusers in Luke 11; he was never in league with evil.  The fact that a person who knew Jesus could not recognize that reality speaks badly of that individual.  Jesus was no more in league with evil than Simon Magus could purchase the Holy Spirit, the offer to do which led to a quotable rebuke:

May your silver be lost for ever, and you with it, for you think that money could buy what God has given for nothing!  You have no share, no part, in this:  God can see how your heart is warped.  Repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the LORD that this scheme of yours may be forgiven; it is plain to me that you are held in the bitterness of gall and the chains of sin.

–Acts 8:20b-23, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

From that incident came the word “simony.”

Grace is free yet not cheap.  We can never purchase or earn it, but we can respond favorably to it.  Grace demands concrete evidence of its presence, as measured in deeds, which flow from attitudes.  Do we love our neighbors as we love ourselves?  I prefer that standard to any Pietistic list of legalistic requirements.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 27, 2015 COMMON ERA

PROPER 21:  THE EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEOBA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE CHURCH OF SOUTH INDIA, 1947

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/09/27/grace-demanding-faithful-responses-part-i/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After the Second Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Saul Rejected as King

Above:  Saul Rejected as King

Image in the Public Domain

Excuses

JANUARY 18 and 19, 2021

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The Collect:

Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ, most merciful redeemer,

for the countless blessings and benefits you give.

May we know you more clearly,

love you more dearly,

and follow you more nearly,

day by day praising you, with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 9:27-10:8 (Monday)

1 Samuel 15:10-31 (Tuesday)

Psalm 86 (Both Days)

2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 (Monday)

Acts 5:1-11 (Tuesday)

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Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth;

knit my heart to you that I may fear your name.

–Psalm 86:11, Common Worship (2000)

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The assigned readings for these two days pertain to the theme of commitment to God.

The lessons from 1 Samuel tell us of King Saul of Israel.  We read first of God choosing him and Samuel anointing him.  In Chapter 15 we find one account of God and Samuel rejecting the monarch for violating the rules of holy war.   Saul’s army did not kill enough people and destroy enough property, apparently.  (1 Samuel 15 does not reflect my understanding of God.)  Two facts attract my attention:

  1. Saul simultaneously seeks forgiveness and shifts the blame.
  2.  1 Samuel 13 contains a different account of God and Samuel rejecting Saul.  There the monarch’s offense is to usurp the priest’s duty.  Making an offering to God properly was a major issue in the Old Testament, for some people died because they made offerings improperly.

When we turn to the New Testament readings we find fatal lack of commitment in Acts 5 and a stern Pauline warning regarding human relationships in 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1.  The unified message of the pericopes is to commit to God–not to be content with half measures.  We should, I propose, feel free to ask questions about people dying because of deception in Acts 5 and why Saul’s offense in 1 Samuel 15 was such a bad thing to have done, for asking intelligent questions is not a faithless act.  Nevertheless, I recall the words of Jesus to a man who used an excuse to refuse our Lord and Savior’s call to discipleship.  Christ said:

Once the hand is laid on the plow, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.

–Luke 9:62, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

At that point in the Lukan narrative Jesus was en route to Jerusalem for the climactic week of Passover.  He was neither offering nor accepting excuses.  Who dares offer one?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 20, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD WATSON GILDER, U.S. POET, JOURNALIST, AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF HENRY FRANCIS LYTE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LEO TOLSTOY, NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT MECHTILD OF MAGDEBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/11/21/excuses/

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

V&A_-_Raphael,_The_Miraculous_Draught_of_Fishes_(1515)

Above:  The Miraculous Draught of Fishes, by Raphael

(Image in the Public Domain)

Called to Serve God

JANUARY 18, 2020

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The Collect:

Holy God, our strength and our redeemer,

by your Spirit hold us forever, that through your grace we may

worship you and faithfully serve you,

follow you and joyfully find you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 19:19-21

Psalm 40:1-11

Luke 5:1-11

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He has put a new song in my mouth,

a song of praise to our God;

many shall see and fear

and put their trust in the Lord.

–Psalm 40:3, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The ELCA Daily Lectionary of 2006 pairs two stories of people called to discipleship.  First we read of Elisha leaving his family behind to follow Elijah.  Then we have an account of Jesus calling his first several Apostles, already acquainted with him.  Sts. James and John, sons of Zebedee, were our Lord’s cousins through St. Mary’s sister.  And St. Simon (Peter) was their business partner whose mother-in-law Jesus had cured in the previous chapter.

None of these men (except Jesus) were perfect.  St. Simon Peter was quick to speak before he thought sufficiently.  The brothers jostled for positions of privilege in the Kingdom of God.  And Elisha, as Walter Harrelson wrote n the 1962 Encyclopedia Americana,

offered no word of protest against Jehu’s bloody purge of Ahab’s 70 sons and others of his kin, of Ahaziah’s 42 brethren, and of the worshipers of Baal (II Kings 10).

And he

cursed playful children for mocking him, whereupon bears devoured them (II Kings 2:23-24).

–Volume 10, page 214

Yet, as Harrelson notes, Elisha also showed mercy on Syrian captives, healed Naaman, and cared about the common people of the kingdom.  The good came mixed with the bad.

Elisha and the Apostles did much that was great in the name of God.  They changed the world the better.  And so can I.  So can you, O reader.  The same power which flowed through them is available to us.  We can be effective instruments of God by divine grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 5, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MOTHER TERESA OF CALCUTTA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF GREGORIO AGLIPAY, PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENT BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/called-to-serve-god/

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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 January 18 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  Christmas Gifts

Image Source = Kelvin Kay

The Presence of God

JANUARY 18, 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:

Ezekiel 40:1-4; 43:1-12

Psalm 130 (Morning)

Psalms 32 and 139 (Evening)

Romans 8:18-39

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For I am certain of this:  neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nothing in existence and nothing still to come, nor any power, nor the heights nor the depths, nor any created thing whatever, will be able to come between us and the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.

–Romans 8:38-39, The New Jerusalem Bible

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I recall that, when I was very young, I heard my father speak of the presence of God.  At the time my age had only one digit and my Piagetan stage of cognitive development reflected literal, concrete thinking.  So I wondered where the presents of God were.  They might come in boxes wrapped in shiny paper, I thought.

The “Presence of God” figures prominently in the readings from Ezekiel.  The people have sinned yet the divine Presence will return to the site of the Temple at Jerusalem, the text says.  And we read in Romans 8:18-39 that God, in the form of the Holy Spirit, intercedes for us.  Furthermore, nothing can separate us from the love of God.

We are always in the presence of God, who is everywhere.  Yet many of us do not live accordingly.  And others of us need to live accordingly more often than we do.  (I count myself among the latter.)  Being aware  of being in the presence of God and responding to it positively is the best definition of prayer I can muster.  Such a response is far better than any number of gifts in boxes wrapped in shiny paper.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 25, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF OUR LORD

THE FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR B

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/the-presence-of-god-2/

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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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Week of 1 Epiphany: Saturday, Year 2   8 comments

Above:  A Donkey

Saul:  “An odd thing happened when I was chasing my father’s runaway donkeys.”

JANUARY 18, 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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1 Samuel 9:1-4, 15-19; 10:1ab (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, a Benjaminite, a man of wealth; and he had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man.  There was not a man among the sons of Israel more handsome than he; from his soldiers upward he was taller than any of the people.

Now the donkeys of Kish, Saul’s father, were lost.  So Kish said to Saul his son,

Take one of the servants with you, and arise, go, and look for the donkeys.

And they passed through the hill country of Ephraim and passed through the land of Shalishah, but they did not find them.  And they passed through the land of Shaalim, but they were not there.  Then passed through the land of Benjamin, but did not find them.

Now the day before Saul came, the LORD had revealed to Samuel:

Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince over my people Israel.  He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines; for I have seen the affliction of my people, because their cry has come to me.

When Samuel saw Saul, the LORD told him,

Here is the man of whom I spoke to you!  He it is who shall rule over my people.

Then Saul approached Samuel in the gate, and said,

Tell me where is the house of the seer?

Samuel answered Saul,

I am the seer; go up before me to the high place, for today you shall eat with me, and in the morning I will let you go and will tell you all that is on your mind.

Then Samuel took a vial of oil and poured it on his head, and kissed him and said,

Has not the LORD anointed you to be prince over his people Israel?  And you shall reign over the people of Israel and you will save them from the hand of their enemies round about.

Psalm 21 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

The king rejoices in your strengh, O LORD;

how greatly he exults in your victory!

2 You have given him his heart’s desire;

you have not denied him the request of his lips.

For you meet him with blessings of prosperity,

and set a crown of fine gold upon his head.

He asked you for life, and you gave it to him:

length of days, for ever and ever.

5 His honor is great, because of your victory;

splendor and majesty have you bestowed upon him.

For you will give him everlasting felicity

and will make him glad with the joy of your presence.

7  For the king puts his trust in the LORD;

because of the loving-kindness of the Most High, he will not fall.

Mark 2:13-17 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

He went out again beside the sea; and all the crowd gathered about him, and he taught them.  And as he passed on, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and he said to him,

Follow me.

And he rose and followed him.

And as he sat at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were sitting with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many who followed him.  And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples,

Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?

And when Jesus heard it, he said to them,

Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.

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The Collect:

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of 1 Epiphany:  Saturday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/week-of-1-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

Matthew 9 (Parallel to Mark 2):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/week-of-proper-8-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/20/proper-5-year-a/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/third-day-of-lent/

Luke 5 (Parallel to Mark 2):

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/fourth-day-of-lent/

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Saul, son of Kish, woke up one day.  He probably thought that it would be just another day, not all that different from recent ones.  His father sent him and a servant on a mission to find two runaway donkeys.  This assignment was below Saul’s social standing, but there is no evidence that he complained about this fact.  So Saul and the servant searched long, far, and unsuccessfully for the wandering animals.  They were gone for a long time, probably long enough to cause Kish concern for the safety of his son and servant.

Saul did not find the donkeys; another person did that (1 Samuel 9:20).  He found Samuel, instead.  The surprising end of Saul’s donkey chase was his anointing as the first human King of Israel.  Certainly he did not foresee that on the morning of the day he set out to seek runaway donkeys.

This was a surprising call.  There is no hint of Saul’s bad end in this, our introduction to him.  At this point in the narrative there is still hope that he might be a good king, one who protects his subjects.

We read of another surprising call in Mark 2.  Matthew/Levi was a Roman tax collector, a literal tax thief for the occupying power.  But he answered our Lord’s call to pursue a different vocation, apostleship, which ended in martyrdom.

When will God call you?  What will the results be?

KRT

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (January 18-25)   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Barnabas Episcopal-Lutheran Worshiping Community, Jefferson City, Tennessee

(Their website is here:  http://stbarnabas.etdiocese.net/)

Let Us Emphasize Our Common Ground and Build On It

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From Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), the hymnal of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:

Isaiah 2:2-4

Psalm 122

Ephesians 4:1-6

John 17:15-23

God our Father, your Son Jesus Christ prayed that his followers might be one.  Make all Christians one with him as he is one with you, so that in peace and concord we may carry to the world the message of your love, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

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Now, for my thoughts….

We Christians have divided ourselves into competing theological and liturgical tribes since the earliest decades of the Jesus movement.  For confirmation of this, read the New Testament epistles.  Sometimes these divisions are silly or based on ego gratification.  Other times, however, the matters are weightier.  Yet the tragedy of schism remains, even after stated issues which people used to justify the schism have become moot points or ceased to points of contention.  Inertia preserves a high degree of divisiveness within Christianity.

Sometimes schisms remain insurmountable.  Yet this fact should not prevent Christians of good will from reaching across boundaries to identify and build upon common ground, to do something positive and for the glory of God together.  I do not expect the Anabaptists and Roman Catholics to reconcile, but they can cooperate.  Last Sunday afternoon I listened to a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) radio interview with a Mennonite pastor who maintains a close faith-based relationship with nearby Catholic monks, often praying with them.

And I believe that when two or more denominations cease to have good reasons to remain separate they should open negotiations to unite organically.  But when issues, such as baptismal theology, prevent a merger, the groups can still cooperate on other matters.  We Christians have more in common with each other than not.  May we build on that.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 11, 2010

THE FEAST OF ST. BARNABAS THE APOSTLE

THE FEAST OF THE REVEREND VERNON JOHNS, U.S. CIVIL RIGHTS PIONEER

Week of 2 Epiphany: Monday, Year 1   19 comments

Above:  Spring Flowers

Image Source = Anita Martinz

Enjoying God and Life

JANUARY 18, 2021

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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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Hebrews 5:1-10 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.  He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.  Because of this he is bound to offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as those of the people.  And one does not take the honor upon himself, but he is called by God, just as Aaron was.

So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him,

You are my Son,

today I have begotten you;

as he says also in other place,

You are a priest for ever,

according to the order of Melchizedek.

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear.  Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Psalm 110 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand,

until I make your enemies your footstool.”

2 The LORD will send the scepter of your power out of Zion,

saying, “Rule over your enemies round about you.

3 Princely state has been yours from the day of your birth;

in the beauty of holiness have I begotten you,

like dew from the womb of the morning.”

4 The LORD has sworn and he will not recant;

“You are a priest for ever in the order of Melchizedek.”

5 The Lord who is at your right hand

will smite kings in the day of his wrath;

he will rule over the nations.

6 He will heap high the corpses;

he will smash heads over the wide earth.

7 He will drink from the brook beside the road;

therefore he will lift high his head.

Mark 2:18-22 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him,

Why do John’s disciples and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?

And Jesus said to them,

Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?  As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.  The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.  No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; if he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made.  And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but new wine is for fresh skins.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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What is the chief and highest end of man?

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

–Question #1 from the Westminster Larger Catechism (1647), as printed in The Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1965)

I am a ritualist.  I admit this fact freely and without compunction.  Rituals are crucial to the healthy maintenance of society, and anyone who says otherwise is mistaken.  Ritualism is like any other good thing in so far as that it can become a bad thing if one takes it too far, though.  An icon is something or someone through which we see God; an idol distracts us from God.  A ritual can be either an icon or an idol, depending on what we choose to make it.

Consider fasting, for example.  This can be a healthy spiritual exercise.  Yet, when one approaches it from the wrong angle, fasting becomes an occasion of pride, not humility.  First Century C.E. Palestinian Judaism came with one compulsory fast day, the Day of Atonement.  Many especially observant Jews chose to fast from 6:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. each Monday and Thursday, too.  There was no fault in this practice, assuming that one did not approach it as a way to display one’s holiness before others and hopefully to attract God’s favor.  Jesus rejected such displays, preferring instead to enjoy food, often in the company of disreputable people, as in the Gospel reading from Saturday.  Now that was a different kind of display, was it not?

How would you react or respond if your pastor or priest spent much time dining with disreputable people, not engaging in public activities associated commonly with holiness?  How long would he or she remain in your parish or mission congregation?  Think about it.  The more we are like Jesus, the less respectable we become.  The Jesus of many imaginations is a respectable, even bourgeoisie, figure.  This version of Jesus is a fiction.  The real Jesus was scandalous.  And we are called to follow him.

And Jesus enjoyed life, eating much food and drinking much wine.  He savored wonderful conversation, too.  Enjoying life is a call of every Christian, therefore.  From time to time  I have had the great displeasure of meeting and having to spend too much time in the company of a self-professing Christian with no apparent sense of humor.  You, O reader, might have had the same experience.  Life is a gift of God; let us enjoy it in God and glorify God through it.

May we delight in all that is beautiful, good, and meritorious.  Koholeth, the author of Ecclesiastes, reminds us that there is a time and a season for everything. Taking proper times and seasons into account is part of determining if something is beautiful, good, and meritorious.  We follow the greatest high priest, who can and does identify with us.  The fact of his Incarnation, followed by his life and our Atonement, ought to comfort us.  So why should we walk around looking as if our parents weaned us on dill pickles?

Laugh. Chortle.  Have a good belly laugh.  Enjoy staring at cloud formations.  Dare I say it, even tell atrocious puns.  Savor a well-written novel or poem.  And enjoy God during all of it.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/enjoying-god-and-life/