Archive for the ‘January 25’ Category

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

Jehoiakim

Above:  Jehoiakim

Image in the Public Domain

Building Up Others

JANUARY 24-26, 2022

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord God, you have caused the holy scriptures

to be written for the nourishment of your people.

Grant that we may hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that, comforted by your promises,

we may embrace and forever hold fast to the hope of eternal life,

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 36:1-10 (Monday)

Jeremiah 36:11-26 (Tuesday)

Jeremiah 36:27-32 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:89-96 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 14:1-12 (Monday)

2 Corinthians 7:2-12 (Tuesday)

Luke 4:38-44 (Wednesday)

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Your word endures for ever, LORD;

it stands firm in the heavens.

Your faithfulness lasts for all time;

it stands firm in the earth you founded.

Your decrees stand firm even today;

all these are your servants.

Unless your law had been a source of delight to me

I should have perished amid my afflictions,

I will never neglect your rules

for by them you have kept me alive.

I belong to you.  Save me!

For I have sought to keep your rules.

Wicked people are waiting to destroy me

but I have looked closely into your instructions.

I have seen how everything comes to an end once it is finished

but your commandment knows no bounds.

–Psalm 119:89-96, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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Proclaiming the words of God can prove to be a risky undertaking.

The prophet Jeremiah and his scribe Baruch knew this truth well.  They worked in a particular political context.  Not only was there no separation of religion and government, but the monarch, Jehoiakim (reigned 608-598 B.C.E.), was a vassal.  Neco, the Pharaoh of Egypt, had chosen him to rule as King of Judah in lieu of Jehoahaz (reigned 609 B.C.E.), another son of the great Josiah (reigned 640-609 B.C.E.).  In time Jehoiakim became a vassal of Nebuchadnezzar II (reigned 605-562 B.C.E.) of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, against whom he rebelled.  Nebuchadnezzar II was not amused.  (You, O reader, can read more at 2 Kings 23:28-24:7 and 2 Chronicles 36:1-8).  The purpose of the contents of the first scroll in Jeremiah 36 was to create an opportunity for repentance–the act of turning around or changing the mind.  King Jehoiakim and his courtiers did not repent.  No, he burned the scroll.  YHWH was not amused.  Jeremiah and Baruch found themselves in legal trouble, but YHWH hid them.  And Jeremiah dictated a second scroll to Baruch.

St. Paul the Apostle and his traveling companions also knew well the political and legal hazards of proclaiming the words of God.  In fact, the Apostle became a martyr because of that proclamation.  He also knew the risks of hurting the feelings of people who were precious to him.  As St. Paul knew, one is not responsible for the thin skins of other people.

Jesus and St. Paul understood the value of building up others and faithful community.  Sometimes acting on this principle requires moving along to another place, to engage in the work of building up others there.

I have belonged to a series of congregations, mostly during my time in the household of my father, a United Methodist minister.  I moved on psychologically, burying many memories, when I relocated physically.  Nevertheless, I recall that certain members of those rural congregations in southern Georgia, U.S.A., used their positions, whether formal or informal, to build up themselves to the detriment of faith community.  They forgot, if they ever knew, that the congregation belonged to God, not to them.  Those churches would have been healthier faith communities if those people had acted differently and others had not enabled such destructive behavior.  I have seen such behavior less frequently in Episcopal congregations I have attended, not than one denomination is more prone to this pathology than another.

What is God calling you, O reader, to do in the context of faith community?  Building it up is a general description, what are the details in your context?  And, if proclaiming the words of God faithfully puts you at risk, are you willing to proceed anyway?  Whatever your circumstances are or will become, may the love of God and the imperative of building up others, society, and faith community compel you.  And may you succeed, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 3, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE EVE OF THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI:  PROPER FOR THE GOODNESS OF CREATION

THE FEAST OF THEODOR FLIEDNER, PIONEER OF THE DEACONESS MOVEMENT IN THE LUTHERAN CHURCH

THE FEAST OF GEORGE KENNEDY ALLEN BELL, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CHICHESTER

THE FEAST OF JOHN RALEIGH MOTT, ECUMENICAL PIONEER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/10/03/building-up-others/

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

Abraham_Journeying_into_the_Land_of_Canaan

Above:  Abraham Journeying into the Land of Canaan, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

The Call of God, Part III

JANUARY 25 and 26, 2021

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The Collect:

Almighty God, by grace alone you call us and accept us in your service.

Strengthen us by your Spirit, and make us worthy of your call,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 12:1-9 (Monday)

Genesis 45:25-46:7 (Tuesday)

Psalm 46 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 7:17-24 (Monday)

Acts 5:33-42 (Tuesday)

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The Lord of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

–Psalm 46:7, Common Worship (2000)

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I refuse to defend St. Paul the Apostle’s consistent failure to condemn slavery.  Perhaps he thought that doing so was unnecessary, given his assumption that Jesus would return quite soon and correct societal ills.  The Apostle was wrong on both counts.  At least he understood correctly, however, that social standing did not come between one and God.

Whom God calls and why God calls them is a mystery which only Hod understands.  So be it.  To fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant partially via notorious trickster and con artist as well as his sons, some of whom sold one of their number into slavery, was to take a route which many people (including the author of this post) would have avoided.  And the eleven surviving Apostles (before the selection of St. Matthias) had not been paragons of spiritual fortitude throughout the canonical Gospels.  Yet they proved vital to God’s plan after the Ascension of Jesus.

Those whom God calls God also qualifies to perform important work for the glory of God and the benefit of others.  This is about God and our fellow human beings, not about those who do the work.  So may we, when we accept our assignments, fulfill them with proper priorities in mind.  May we do the right thing for the right reason.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 23, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 29–CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY–THE LAST SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF JOHN KENNETH PFOHL, SR., U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP; HIS WIFE, HARRIET ELIZABETH “BESSIE” WHITTINGTON PFOHL, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN; AND THEIR SON, JAMES CHRISTIAN PFOHL, SR., U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLEMENT I OF ROME, BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF MIGUEL AUGUSTIN PRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/11/23/the-call-of-god-part-iii/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After the Third Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

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Above:  Gideon’s Fountain, Between 1900 and 1920

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-11402

The God of Surprises

JANUARY 23-25, 2023

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The Collect:

Lord God, your loving kindness always goes before us and follows us.

Summon us into your light, and direct our steps in the ways of goodness

that come through he cross of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Judges 6:11-24 (Monday)

Judges 7:12-22 (Tuesday)

Genesis 49:1-2, 8-13, 21-26 (Wednesday)

Psalm 27:1-6 (all days)

Ephesians 5:6-14 (Monday)

Philippians 2:12-18 (Tuesday)

Luke 1:67-79 (Wednesday)

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You speak in my heart and say, “Seek my face.”

Your face, LORD, will I seek.

–Psalm 27:8, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Gideon, in Judges 6:13-14a, lamented:

Pray, my lord, if the LORD really is with us, why has all this happened to us?  What has become of all those wonderful deeds of his, of which we have heard from our forefathers, when they told us how the LORD brought us up from Egypt?

The Revised English Bible 

He received his answer and won a victory by God’s power, the subsequent narrative tells us.  This saving, delivering deity was the same God of Jacob and of Sts. Mary and Joseph of Nazareth.  This deity is the God of the baby Jesus also.

I do not pretend to have arrived at a complete comprehension of the nature of God, for some matters exist beyond the range of human capacity to grasp.  Yet I do feel confident in making the following statement:  God is full of surprises.  So we mere mortals ought to stay on the alert for them, remembering to think outside the box of our expectations, a box into which God has never fit.  This is easy to say and difficult to do, I know, but the effort is worthwhile.

The Bible is full of unexpected turns.  Gideon’s army needed to be smaller, not larger.  God became incarnate as a helpless infant, not a conquering hero.  The selling of Joseph son of Jacob into slavery set up the deliverance of two nations.  The hungry will filled and the full will be sent away empty, the Gospel of Luke says.  Outcasts became heroes in parables of Christ.  Saul of Tarsus, a persecutor of nascent Christianity, became one of its greatest evangelists.  The list could go on, but I trust that I have made my point sufficiently.

So, following God, however God works in our lives, may we walk in the light, for the glory of God and the benefit of others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 7, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF THE PACIFIC

THE FEAST OF ELIE NAUD, HUGUENOT WITNESS TO THE FAITH

THE FEAST OF JANE LAURIE BORTHWICK, TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER, POET

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/the-god-of-surprises/

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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 25 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  Peter’s Vision of the Sheet with Animals, by Henry Davenport Northrop

Scrupulousness

JANUARY 25, 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:

Zechariah 1:1-21/1:1-2:4

Psalm 86 (Morning)

Psalms 6 and 19 (Evening)

Romans 14:1-23

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Do not wreck God’s work for the sake of food.

–Romans 14:20a, The New Jerusalem Bible

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TECHNICAL NOTE:

Zechariah 1:-21 in Protestant Bibles equals Zechariah 1:1-2:4 in Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox ones.

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Was it lawful to eat meat once offered to imaginary deities or to consume food impure by the standards of the Law of Moses?  Paul understood the answer to that question to be yes, although he chose to abstain from certain culinary options for the sake of others.  It was difficult to find meat not sacrificed to idols, so one might have become a vegetarian to avoid even the appearance of something considered improper.  On the other hand, since those gods did not exist, why let good food go to waste?

Scrupulousness is good, but it can go too far.  A lack of scrupulousness, in Zechariah, had prompted God’s anger.  Yet there would be mercy for the punished Hebrews.  Once again judgment and mercy came in proximity to each other.  Paul’s personal deprivation aside, I feel no need to deny myself proper pleasures which others might interpret wrongly.  The truth is that anything I do might offend someone of a certain rigidity of attitudes.  I refuse to permit such rigidity dictate my lifestyle choices.  Yet neither will I confront them about their choices.  Their business is theirs, as mine is my own.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 9, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DIETRICH BONHOEFFER, MARTYR AND GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/scrupulousness/

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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 3 Epiphany: Tuesday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  A Jewish High Priest; His Ephod is Yellow

Family Squabbles

JANUARY 25, 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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2 Samuel 6:12-19 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And it was told King David,

The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.

So David sent and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing; and when those who bore the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling.  And David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was belted with a linen ephod.  So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting and with the sound of the horn.

As the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart.  And they brought in the ark of the LORD and set it in its place, inside the tent which David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts, and distributed among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, to each a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins.   Then all the people departed, each to his house.

Psalm 24:7-10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7  Lift up your heads, O Gates;

lift them high, O everlasting doors;

and the King of glory shall come in.

8  “Who is this King of glory?”

“The LORD, strong and mighty,

the LORD, mighty in battle.”

9  Lift up your heads, O gates;

lift them high, O everlasting doors;

and the King of glory shall come in.

10  “Who is he, this King of glory?”

“The LORD of hosts,

he is the King of glory.”

Mark 3:31-35 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And his mother and his brethren came; and standing outside they sent to him and called him.

Your mother and your brethren are outside, asking for you.

And he replied,

Who are my mother and my brethren?

And looking around on those who sat about him, he said,

Here are my mother and my brethren.  Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.

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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 Posts:

Week of 3 Epiphany:  Tuesday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/30/week-of-3-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

O Blessed Mother:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/o-blessed-mother/

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Sometimes Michal gets a bad rap.  She had loved David, but how much did David love her?  Michal, a daughter of Saul, had married David then protected her husband from her father in 1 Samuel.  But politics, namely David’s rebellion, intervened, and Saul married her off to one Paltiel, who apparently adored her.  Nevertheless, in 2 Samuel 3, David demanded Michal back–this time as one of several wives–and Ish-bosheth, her brother, consented to the demand, much to Paltiel’s grief and disappointment.

In 2 Samuel 6 David is established as King of Israel, with Jerusalem as his capital city.  He is celebrating the transfer of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.  He is doing this while wearing an ephod–basically an apron–and nothing else–while dancing then performing priestly functions.  David was sometimes so devoted to lofty ideas that he forgot royal dignity, but Michal, a born princess, could not forget royal dignity.  By the way, an argument between Michal and David rounds out the chapter.  The two are married in name only from this point forward.

David seemed not to care how foolish he looked; dishonor did not matter to him in this context.  Sometimes, however, there is much to say for decorum, or at least wearing something beneath one’s ephod.

I side with Michal.

Meanwhile, in Mark, Mary and some of our Lord’s “brethren” (probably children of Joseph and Mary–why not?) are concerned that Jesus might, in the words of Cotton Patch Gospel, might be talking to the man upstairs while living in a one-story house.  If anyone should have known better, it was Mary.  At least her heart was in the right place.

I side with Jesus, without condemning Mary and her children.

Nevertheless, there is a transcendent message here.  Sometimes, in our obedience to God, we will act in ways which concern others.   Some of the Hebrew prophets were truly marginal characters–eating scrolls, walking around naked, et cetera.  They were either holy or in need of psychiatric care.  And, in modern terms, that was the concern Mary and her children had regarding Jesus.  But he was quite well.

Mary and her children misunderstood Jesus.  Often the people we misunderstand the most are those who are closest to us.  Notice, however, that Jesus did not reject them.  Rather, he expanded the definition of family to make it spiritual, not just emotional and genetic.

So my brothers and sisters are those who do the will of God, as Jesus knew and understood God.  It is a large family, one in which squabbles take place.  These are, however, family squabbles.  That said, family squabbles can be quite destructive, so may there be fewer of them.  Instead, may there be more understanding and attempts at reconciliation, so that the family will be more functional.

And may the peace making begin with you, O reader, and with me.  (Conventions of the English language do dictate that I place “you” before “me.”)

KRT

Week of 3 Epiphany: Wednesday, Year 1   17 comments

Above:  Landscape with the Parable of the Sower, by Peter Bruegel the Elder, 1557

Let Us Avoid Shallow Faith and Nurture Spiritual Maturity

JANUARY 25, 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 10:11-18 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.  But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, then to wait until his enemies should be made a stool for his feet.  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.  And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

This is the covenant that I will make with them

after those days, says the Lord:

I will put my laws on their hearts,

and write them on their minds,

then he adds,

I will remember their sins and their misdeeds no more.

Where there is forgiveness for these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

Psalm 110:1-4 (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 after the order of Melchizedek.”

Mark 4:1-20 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And he began to teach beside the sea.  And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and at in it on the sea; and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land.  And he taught them in  parables, and in his teaching he said to them:

Listen!  A sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it.  Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it had not much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil; and when the sun rose it was scorched, and since it had no root it withered away.  Other seed fell among thorns and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain.  And other seeds fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.

And he said,

He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

And when he was alone, those who were about him with the Twelve asked him concerning the parables.  And he said to them,

To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables; so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand; lest they should turn again, and be forgiven.

And he said to them,

Do you understand this parable?  How then will you understand all the parables?  The sower sows the word.  And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown; when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word which is sown in them.  And these in like manner are the ones sown upon rocky ground, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.  And others are the ones sown among thorns; they are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the delight in riches, and the desire for other things, enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.  But those that were sown among the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.

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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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Often I hear people far to my right speak of how the United States used to a Christian nation.  I do not know whereof they speak.  This was never a Christian nation–certainly not when we had chattel slavery or de jure racial segregation.  There was a time, however, when knowledge of the Bible was more common than is true today in North America.  This decline in biblical knowledge is partially the responsibility of churches, but mostly the fault of people within their homes.  Parents are the first teachers of their children, and people need to correct this and other social issues household by household.  Societal institutions wrestle with the problems that emerge from homes, and to place too much blame on the institutions is to miss the point.

Occasionally I read about a new poll which reveals how uninformed most Americans are about religion.  Actually, many Atheists are some the people best informed about religion, but many regular church goers are woefully ignorant of the Bible and their own traditions.  Many Protestants do not know of the pivotal role of Martin Luther and a high proportion of Mass-attending Roman Catholics do not know their church teaches transubstantiation of the bread and wine.  Many conversations I have had over the years have revealed evidence which confirms these findings.  I have met staunch Southern Baptists who did not know they were Protestants, Protestants who had never heard of Martin Luther, and people who claimed to read the Bible daily yet could not name one biblical king.

These unsettling facts came to mind as I read and typed the Parable of the Sower.  And, while attempting (and hopefully succeeding) in refraining from judging others, I propose that, unless one knows what one believes (trusts in), one does not believe.  One might assent vaguely to something a pastor or friend or family member said, but one does not believe something unless one grasps it first.

When I was an adolescent, I began to examine seriously what I claimed to believe.  I discovered that I gave mere lip service to most of it.  Since then I have been on a continuous spiritual voyage of self-examination.  If I do not trust (a better translation of “believe” in Greek), I do not claim to believe.  At least I can be intellectually honest in these matters.  And I have changed my mind, with the option of reverting to an earlier conclusion.  I am, by some standards, a heretic, although I am really more orthodox than many might suspect.  But there is no canonical examination to pass before entering Heaven, so my opinion of Single Predestination is irrelevant to salvation.  Nevertheless, it is important that I know what I believe, and why I believe it.

To borrow a line from St. Patrick, as Cecil Frances Alexander translated it, “salvation is of Christ the Lord”  (“I Bind Unto Myself Today,” Hymn #370, The Hymnal 1982).  This I have believed.  This I continue to believe.  This has sunk deeply into my essence and informed my thoughts and actions.  My parents planted this seed of the word of God within me, and the plant has yielded much.  And I know why I believe, although sometimes words fail me.  By grace, I believe and know why.  If I am a heretic, I am least a faithful one within the household of God.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/05/let-us-avoid-shallow-faith-and-nurture-spiritual-maturity/

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