Archive for the ‘January 18’ Category

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

Ruins of Corinth

Above:  Ruins of Corinth

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-00671

Fidelity and Factions

JANUARY 18 and 19, 2022

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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:

Song of Songs 4:1-8 (Tuesday)

Song of Songs 4:9-5:1 (Wednesday)

Psalm 145 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 1:3-17 (Tuesday)

Luke 5:33-39 (Wednesday)

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The Lord draws near to all who summon him,,

to all who summon him in sincerity.

For his worshippers he does all they could wish for,

he hears their cry for help and saves them.

–Psalm 145:18-19, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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They should, therefore, dwell in unity and mutual respect, I suppose, but the opposite is true much of the time.

Two of the three readings contain references to disputes.  (The lovers in the Song of Songs are in harmony with each other.)  The question of fasting–that some people do it and others do not–arises in Luke 5.  And in 1 Corinthians, that community’s notorious factionalism is at issue.  Such divisiveness probably arose from well-intentioned attempts to discern and to act in accordance with the will of God and to hold to correct theology; that is my most charitable guess.  However, again and again we human beings have proven ourselves capable of fouling up while trying to do the right thing.  Then opinions become tribal boundaries.  The result is an unholy mess.

The truth is, of course, that there is such a thing as objective reality, and that each of us is right about some details of it and wrong about others.  Laying competing fundamentalisms aside and acknowledging a proper degree of ambiguity (in what Calvinist theology labels matters indifferent) is a fine strategy for working toward peace and faithful community.

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/fidelity-and-factions/

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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 Wednesday After the Second Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Restless Weaver

Above:  The Copyright Information for “Restless Weaver,” an Excellent 1988 and 1993 Hymn, Number 658 in Chalice Hymnal (1995)

The Old and the New

JANUARY 18, 2023

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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:

Isaiah 48:12-21

Psalm 40:6-17

Matthew 9:14-17

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Let all who seek you rejoice in you and be glad;

let those who love your salvation say always, “The Lord is great.”

–Psalm 40:17, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The words of a dying church, I have heard, are

We’ve never done it that way before.

The Bible speaks again and again of God doing new things and provides examples–the main one being the Incarnation and all that flowed from it.  The tension between the traditional and the innovative is an old story.  One can find both gold and dross among both the old and the new.  Yet how can one distinguish between the dross and the gold?

That is a difficult question, one worth wrestling with over time.  My study of the past tells me that hindsight proves useful.  Traditional interpretations of the Bible in the Antebellum U.S. South affirmed chattel slavery.  Thus, according to that standard, abolitionists were heretics.  Yet the alleged heretics were really the orthodox and the alleged orthodox were really the heretics.  The new was superior to the old.   Yet hindsight does not exist in the moment.  That is a problem.

Here is another example:  I like hymns with theologically deep words.  These hymns might be old or new.  Their value does not depend on their age.  But “seven-eleven songs”–songs with seven words one sings eleven times–are dross.  Thus I despise praise songs and choruses, heaping upon them a great amount of undying contempt for their shallowness.

Striking the proper balance between the old and the new can prove difficult.  I propose a standard from Philip H. Pfatteicher, an expert on Lutheran liturgy.  He wrote:

…the new is not always found in opposition to the old but arises from the old as its natural growth and development.  Stability and continuity are essential elements of catholic Christianity.

Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship:  Lutheran Liturgy in Its Ecumenical Context (Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Fortress, 1990), page 10

It is good to remember that our traditions began as innovations.  They became traditions only with the passage of time.  And neither theology nor liturgy should function as museums.  Yet neither ought the faddish displace the tried-and-true, as my studies of liturgical development have revealed.  (Some 1970-1972 liturgies have not aged well.)

Furthermore, some issues are questions purely of taste, with no right or wrong involved.  One ought to recall that also.

Isaiah 48:12-21 condemns the faithlessness of both Chaldea and Judah yet ends with the promise of the redemption of the latter.

If you had only listened to my commands,

verse 18a reads in The Revised English Bible (1989).  The commands of God are old sometimes and new on other occasions, from our temporal perspectives.  May we, by grace, identify these commands and follow them, separating the new and worthy from the new and faddish and the old and worthy from the old and erroneous.  So, with the worthy old and the worthy new, may we rejoice in the Lord.

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/the-old-and-the-new/

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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, 2023

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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 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 2 Epiphany: Tuesday, Year 2   12 comments

Above:  Samuel Anoints David

Seemingly Unlikely Qualifications in Dangerous Times

JANUARY 18, 2022

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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 16:1-13 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

The LORD said to Samuel,

How long will you grieve over Saul, seeing I have rejected him from being king over Israel?  Fill your horn with oil, and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.

And Samuel said,

How can I go?  If Saul hears it, he will kill me.

And the LORD said,

Take a heifer with you, and say, “I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.”  And invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me him whom I will name to you.

Samuel did what the LORD commanded, and came to Bethlehem.  The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said,

Do you come peaceably?

And he said,

Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD; consecrate yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.

And he sacrificed Jesse and his sons, and invited them to the sacrifice.

When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought,

Surely the LORD’s anointed is before him.

But the LORD said to Samuel,

Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.

Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel.  And he said,

Neither has the LORD chosen this one.

Then Jesse made Shammah pass by.  And he said,

Neither has the LORD chosen this one.

And Jesse made seven of this sons pass before Samuel.  And Samuel said to Jesse,

The LORD has not chosen these.

And Samuel said to Jesse,

Are all your sons here?

And he said,

There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.

And Samuel said to Jesse,

Send and fetch him; for we will not sit down till he comes here.

And he sent, and brought him in.  Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome.  And the LORD said,

Arise, anoint him; for this is he.

Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward.  And Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.

Psalm 89:19-27 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

19 You spoke once in a vision and said to your faithful people:

“I have set the crown upon a warrior

and have exalted the one chosen out of the people.

20 I have found David my servant;

with my holy oil I have anointed him.

21 My hand will hold him fast

and my arm will make him strong.

22 No enemy shall deceive him,

nor any wicked man bring him down.

23 I will crush his foes before him

and strike down those who hate him.

24 My faithfulness and love shall be with him,

and he shall be victorious through my Name.

25 I shall make his dominion extend

from the Great from the Great Sea to the River.

26 He will say to me, ‘You are my Father,

my God, and the rock of my salvation,’

27 I will make him my firstborn

and higher than the kings of the earth.

Mark 2:23-28 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain.  And the Pharisees said to him,

Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?

And he said to them,

Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him; how he entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the showbread, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?

And he said to them,

The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath; so the Son of man is lord even of the sabbath.

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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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Some Related Links:

Week of 2 Epiphany:  Tuesday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/23/week-of-2-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

Matthew 12 (Parallel to Mark 2):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/29/week-of-proper-10-friday-year-1/

Luke 6 (Parallel to Mark 2):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/week-of-proper-17-saturday-year-1/

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It was a dangerous time for Samuel.  He was on a mission to find Saul’s replacement, but Saul was not going to vacate the throne for years, as events played out.  From a certain point of view Samuel was on a treasonous mission, hence the necessity of the plausible cover story about making a sacrifice to God.

This is how 1 Samuel 9:2b-3 describes Saul shortly before he became king:

…a handsome young man.  There was not a man among the sons of Israel more handsome than he; from his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.

Now reread the account from 1 Samuel 16:1-13.  God tells Samuel not to focus on outward appearances.  David was the Anti-Saul.  Both were handsome, according to the texts, but David was “ruddy.”  Outwardly he did not seem qualified to govern a kingdom, but the shepherd became the founder of a dynasty.

David did find himself in great danger for the next few years, given the political threat he posed to Saul.  There was even a civil war, but David won in the end.  The rest is history.

As a student of history, especially the U.S. Presidency, I am well aware of the fact that one’s resume can be of limited value in evaluating whether a candidate will be a good leader.  For example, James Buchanan (in office 1857-1861) had a long and distinguished resume, yet was a terrible president.  And Herbert Hoover (in office 1929-1933) was a great humanitarian, a man who had overseen food rationing at home during World War I then fed much of Europe.  To “Hooverize” something was to do it well, right up until the Great Depression.  On the other hand, Abraham Lincoln had a much shorter political resume than did Buchanan before become President of the United States in 1861.  And Harry Truman, before making his name in the Senate during World War II, owed his federal career to patronage from a corrupt man.

Perhaps we ought to reevaluate our concepts of qualifications for certain posts sometimes.  It is vital not to fall into the grave error of anti-intellectualism when doing this, for anti-intellectualism leads to other mistakes.   The impulse to favor “people like me” while eschewing alleged eggheads and others who have studied crucial issues of the day closely for years is politically unwise.  But the lesson to focus too much on outward appearances–today we would say one’s image on television–remains timeless.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/seemingly-unlikely-qualifications-in-dangerous-times/

Week of 2 Epiphany: Wednesday, Year 1   14 comments

Above:  Ruins of the Capernaum Synagogue, Built in the 300s C.E.

Good Works are Lawful Every Day

JANUARY 18, 2023

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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 7:1-3, 15-17 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him; and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything.  He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is without father or mother or genealogy, and has neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest for ever.

This becomes even more evident when another priest in the likeness of Melchizedek, and who has become a priest, not according to a legal requirement concerning bodily descent but by the power of an indestructible life.  But it is witnessed of him,

You are a priest for ever,

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 3:1-6 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand.  And they watched him, to see whether he would heal him.  And he said to the man who had the withered hand,

Come here.

And he said to them,

Is it lawful on the sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?

But they were silent.  And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.”  He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.  The Pharisees went out, and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

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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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Is it lawful to perform a good and kind work on the sabbath?  Or, to state the matter another way, is it ever wrong to do something good and kind?  Jesus’ answer is that goodness and kindness are lawful in the eyes of God at all times and all places.  This seems obvious to me, but why was it not obvious to our Lord’s critics in the Gospel reading?

There is much depth and subtlety in the reading from Hebrews.  Part of  it is this:  Jesus is the great high priest because of who he is, not due to his lineage.  Thus he stands apart from human religious establishments, especially priesthoods.  The Gospels tell many stories of Jesus contradicting something one of the religious parties (or a representative thereof) of his time advocated or did.  He stood apart from them.  Many people become quite defensive about religion, and some take this mindset to malicious extremes.

Religion which is inherently self-defensive is negative, and can turn easily against any good soul who just happens to have another opinion.  In the case of these certain Pharisees, they turned against Jesus (truly a good person) and enlisted the help of Herodians, natural rivals.  But the enemy of my enemy is friend, as the old saying goes.  Even if one were not familiar with the Synoptic Gospel narrative, one reading Mark closely should pick up some foreboding hints about the fate of Jesus by now.

These Pharisees were holding onto their traditions and egos, and others be damned.  Jesus be damned, they said, in so many words.  The unfortunate man with a withered hand be damned, they said, in so many words.  The man with a withered hand could not use that hand to hold onto anything, so he had nothing to lose but everything to gain.  These Pharisees, however, had everything to lose.

Jesus taught by his words and his deeds that good works and simple human kindness are always righteous.  Today we have other cultural and legal restrictions against good works and simple human kindness.  Some basic facts never change, only the details, such as names, dates, places, and clauses.  Yet some facts remain constant.  God is love.  God commands us love God fully, and our neighbors as ourselves.  The Golden Rule still applies.  And good deeds and simple acts of kindness are righteous at any time and any place.

I encourage you, O reader, to devote yourself to ever-increasing good and kind works for the benefit of others, especially those who will never be able to repay you in any way.  Do this for the others and for God.  And know that, along the way, you will attract criticism, sometimes from people who should know better.  Some things never change, but neither does the divine mandate to love each other.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/good-works-are-lawful-every-day/

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