Archive for the ‘January 31’ Category

Devotion for the Fourth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year C (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Exorcism at the Synagogue in Capernaum

Image in the Public Domain

God’s Ways and Thoughts

JANUARY 31, 2021

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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2 Chronicles 21:5-20 or Joshua 4:19-5:12

Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20

Ephesians 2:1, 11-22

Luke 4:31-44

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We human beings like barriers, literal and metaphorical.  We like walls, categories, and other ways of establishing who is an outsider and who is an insider.  Usually, of course, we define “insider” to mean “like ourselves.”

God’s categories are not ours.  God’s ways and thoughts differ from our ways and thoughts.  We may seek to keep blessings for ourselves and those similar to ourselves, but we err in doing so.  We will still suffer if we are faithful to God; I should not have to write that.  Yet even when we suffer because of faithlessness, we do not suffer in the absence of God.

In my individualistic culture, collective suffering is frequently a difficult topic.  In 2 Chronicles 21 we read of a kingdom (innocent subjects) suffering because of royal decisions and actions.  Fewer kings populate the Earth in 2020, but the principle that a leader’s decisions and actions have consequences for many other people remains relevant.  It seems unfair.  It may be unfair.  Yet it is reality, the way of the world.

God’s ways and thoughts are not our ways and thoughts.  If our ways and thoughts were more similar to those of God, the world would be a much better place.  We can, at least, marvel at God and admit how far we fall from that high standard.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAN SARKANDER, SILESIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND “MARTYR OF THE CONFESSIONAL,” 1620

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA BARBARA MAIX, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SISTERS OF THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2020/03/17/gods-ways-and-thoughts/

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

Above:   Rahab, by Frederick Richard Pickersgill

Image in the Public Domain

Deliverance and Liberation

JANUARY 31, 2021

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Joshua 2:1-9, 12-16

Psalm 117

Acts 9:23-31

Mark 8:22-26

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Praise the LORD, all you nations;

laud him, all you peoples.

For his loving-kindness toward us is great,

and the faithfulness of the LORD endures for ever.

Hallelujah!

–Psalm 117, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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David Ackerman, in Beyond the Lectionary (2013), explains the unifying theme of these lections as how the deliverance of spies (in Joshua 2) and St. Paul the Apostle (in Acts 9)

leads to the liberation of Gentile people

–page 29

Rahab and her family become part of the Hebrew community.  She is a foreigner, yes, but, as Psalm 117:1 says,

Praise the LORD, all you nations.

St. Paul the Apostle, recently converted, survives to preach to Gentiles.  Both he and Rahab escape over city walls.  (That shared element is a nice touch.)

With regard to the reading from Mark 8, the formerly blind man sees clearly–literally.  Rahab sees clearly–metaphorically–also.  So does St. Paul, after his long-term spiritual blindness and short-term physical blindness.  Sometimes clear vision of the spiritual variety places one at great risk, as in the case of St. Paul.

The themes of light and of the inclusion of Gentiles fit well into the Season After the Epiphany.  For we who are Gentiles this might not seem scandalous.  Yet we read in the Bible that such radical inclusion was quite controversial.  This fact should prompt us to ponder prayerfully whom we exclude wrongly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 3, 2017 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WHITING, HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/deliverance-and-liberation/

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

the-wrath-of-elihu-william-blake

Above:  The Wrath of Elihu, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

The Oratory and Theology of Elihu, Part II

JANUARY 31, 2021

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Job 33:1-33

Psalm 34:11-18

Matthew 12:1-21 or Mark 3:7-19 or Luke 6:1-16

Hebrews 12:(1-3) 4-17

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When the righteous cry for help,

the LORD hears,

and rescues them from all their troubles.

–Psalm 34:17, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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The speeches of Job in most of the Book of Job say otherwise.

Elihu, sounding pious and spouting a mix of truth and bad theology, blames the victim in Job 33.  Job must be suffering because of a sin, Elihu is certain.  Elihu is correct that

God does not fit man’s measure.

–Verse 12b, The Jerusalem Bible (1966).

Nevertheless, Elihu fails to recognize that God does not fit his measure.  Spiritual discipline by God is a reality, of course, but it does not explain all suffering.

One can quite easily become fixated on a set of rules and fail to recognize that they do not describe how God works.  For example, keeping the Sabbath is a healthy spiritual exercise.  It is properly an indication of freedom.  It is properly a gift.  It is properly a form of recognition of the necessity of rest.  It is improperly an occasion of legalism, such as in the cases of Jesus healing on the Sabbath and of he and his Apostles picking corn and grain on that day.  They did have to eat, did they not?  And did the man with the withered hand deserve to wait another day to receive his healing?

That healing on the Sabbath, according to all three accounts of it, prompted some of our Lord and Savior’s critics to plot his death.  Luke 6:11 (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989) reports that they were “filled with fury.”

Compassion is a timeless spiritual virtue, one frequently sacrificed on the altars of legalism and psychological defensiveness.  To be compassionate is better than to seek to sin an argument or to destroy one’s adversary.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 8, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SHEPHERD KNAPP, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GOTTFRIED WILHELM SACER, GERMAN LUTHERAN ATTORNEY AND HYMN WRITER; AND FRANCES ELIZABETH COX, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN DUCKETT AND RALPH CORBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS IN ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF NIKOLAI GRUDTVIG, HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/09/08/the-oratory-and-theology-of-elihu-part-ii/

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

Josiah

Above:  Josiah

Image in the Public Domain

Something Old, Something New

JANUARY 31, 2019

FEBRUARY 1 and 2, 2019

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God,

increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and love;

and that we may obtain what you promise,

make us love what you command,

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 34:1-7 (Thursday)

2 Chronicles 35:20-27 (Friday)

2 Chronicles 36:11-21 (Saturday)

Psalm 71:1-6 (All Days)

Acts 10:44-48 (Thursday)

Acts 19:1-10 (Friday)

John 1:43-51 (Saturday)

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I find my security in you, LORD,

never let me be covered with shame.

You always do what is right,

so rescue me and set me free.

Listen attentively to me and save me.

Be my rock where I can find security,

be my fortress and save me;

indeed you are my rock and fortress.

My God, set me free from the power of the wicked,

from the grasp of unjust and cruel men.

For you alone give me hope, LORD,

I have trusted in you since my early days.

I have leaned on you since birth,

when you delivered me from my mother’s womb.

I praise you continually.

–Psalm 71:1-6, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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The story of King Josiah of Judah (reigned 640-609 B.C.E.) exists in two versions, each with its own chronology.  The account in 2 Chronicles 34:1-35:37 is more flattering than the version in 2 Kings 22:1-23:30.  Both accounts agree that Josiah was a strong king, a righteous man, and a religious reformer who pleased God, who postponed the fall of the Kingdom of Judah.  The decline of the kingdom after Josiah’s death was rapid, taking only about 23 years and four kings.

Josiah’s reforms met with opposition, as did Jesus and nascent Christianity.  The thorny question of how to treat Gentiles who desired to convert was one cause of difficulty.  The decision to accept Gentiles as they were–not to require them to become Jews first–caused emotional pain for many people attached to their Jewish identity amid a population of Gentiles.  There went one more boundary separating God’s chosen people from the others.  For Roman officialdom a religion was old, so a new faith could not be a legitimate religion.  Furthermore, given the commonplace assumption that Gentiles making offerings to the gods for the health of the empire was a civic, patriotic duty, increasing numbers of Gentiles refusing to make those offerings caused great concern.  If too many people refused to honor the gods, would the gods turn their backs on the empire?

Interestingly enough, the point of view of much of the Hebrew Bible is that the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah fell because of pervasive idolatry and related societal sinfulness.  The pagan Roman fears for their empire were similar.  How ironic!

The pericope from John 1 is interesting.  Jesus is gathering his core group of followers.  One Apostle recruits another until St. Nathanael (St. Bartholomew) puts up some opposition, expressing doubt that anything good can come out of Nazareth.  St. Philip tries to talk St. Nathanael out of that skepticism.  “Come and see,” he replies.  Jesus convinces that St. Nathanael by informing him that he (Jesus) saw him (St. Nathanael) sitting under a fig tree.  Father Raymond E. Brown spends a paragraph in the first of his two volumes on the Gospel of John listing a few suggestions (of many) about why that was so impressive and what it might have meant.  He concludes that all such suggestions are speculative.  The bottom line is, in the words of Gail R. O’Day and Susan E. Hylen, is the following:

The precise meaning of Jesus’ words about the fig tree is unclear, but their function in the story is to show that Jesus has insight that no one else has…because of Jesus’ relationship with God.

John (2006), page 33

Jesus was doing a new thing which was, at its heart, a call back to original principles.  Often that which seems new is really old–from Josiah to Jesus to liturgical renewal (including the revision of The Book of Common Prayer).  Along the way actually new developments arise.  Laying aside precious old ideas and embracing greater diversity in the name of God for the purpose of drawing the proverbial circle wider can be positive as well as difficult.    Yet it is often what God calls us to do–to welcome those whom God calls insiders while maintaining proper boundaries and definitions.  Discerning what God calls good and bad from one or one’s society calls good and bad can be quite difficult.  May we succeed by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 5, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DAVID NITSCHMANN, SR., “FATHER NITSCHMANN,” MORAVIAN MISSIONARY; MELCHIOR NITSCHMANN, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR; JOHANN NITSCHMANN, JR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; ANNA NITSCHMANN, MORAVIAN ELDRESS; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, MISSIONARY AND FIRST BISHOP OF THE RENEWED MORAVIAN CHURCH

THE FEAST OF BRADFORD TORREY, U.S. ORNITHOLOGIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HARRY EMERSON FOSDICK, NORTHERN BAPTIST PASTOR AND OPPONENT OF FUNDAMENTALISM

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED REFORMED CHURCH, 1972

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/10/05/something-old-something-new/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Fourth Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   7 comments

Millet_Gleaners

Above:  The Gleaners, by Jean-Francois Millet

Image in the Public Domain

Caring for Others

JANUARY 30 and 31, 2020

FEBRUARY 1, 2020

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The Collect:

Holy God, you confound the world’s wisdom in giving your kingdom to the lowly and the pure in heart.

Give us such a hunger and thirst for justice, and perseverance in striving for peace,

that in our words and deeds we may see the life of your Son, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 16:18-20 (Thursday)

Deuteronomy 24:17-25:4 (Friday)

Micah 3:1-4 (Saturday)

Psalm 15 (all days)

1 Peter 3:8-12 (Thursday)

1 Timothy 5:17-24 (Friday)

John 13:31-35 (Saturday)

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Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle?

Who may abide upon your holy hill?

Those who lead a blameless life and do what is right,

who speak the truth from their heart;

they do not slander with the tongue,

they do no evil to their friends;

they do not cast discredit upon a neighbor.

In their sight the wicked are rejected,

but they honor those who fear the LORD.

They have sworn upon their health

and do not take back their word.

They do not give their money in hope of gain,

nor do they take bribes against the innocent.

Those who do these things shall never be overthrown.

–Psalm 15, Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006)

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The Law of Moses and other segments of the Bible speak of the responsibilities we humans have toward each other.  Authors thunder condemnations of judicial corruption and economic exploitation from the pages of the Bible.  And the Law of Moses provides culturally-specific applications of the universal, timeless standard to care for the less fortunate.  The texts for today offer examples of these generalizations.

Furthermore, those in authority are supposed to look out for the best interests of their people.  Often, however, many of them do not even try to do this.  Too often I read news stories of the vulnerable members of society suffering from cuts in government social programs as either

  1. no private sector agents step up to do the work as well or better,
  2. no private sector agents can do the work as well or better, or
  3. no private sector agents do the work, but not as effectively.

Something is terribly wrong and socially sinful when one or more of these scenarios is part of reality.  That which is most effective is the strategy I favor in any given case.  This is about ideology, not “please do not confuse me with the facts” ideology.

Perhaps the most difficult advice from the readings for these days is this:

Never repay one wrong with another, or one abusive word with another; instead, repay with a blessing.  That is what you are called to do, so that you inherit a blessing.

–1 Peter 3:9-10, The New Jerusalem Bible

We have all violated that rule, have we not?  The desire for revenge is natural yet wrong.  And the goal of having the last word might satisfy one in the short term yet does not help matters.  And, when forgiveness comes slowly, the desire to forgive might precede it.  Giving up one’s anger (even gradually) and the target(s) of it to God and moving on with life is a positive thing to do.  And praying for–not about–people can change the one who prays.  That is also good.

There is also the question of violence, which can prove to be complicated.  Sometimes, when the oppressors insist on continuing to oppress, the best way to deliver their victims is devastating to the perpetrators.  Yet, on other occasions, violence does not resolve the issue at hand and creates new problems instead.  It is often easier to make such distinctions with the benefit of hindsight, which, of course, does not exist in the heat of the moment of decision.  So I offer no easy one-size-fits-all formulas here, for none exist.  The best I can do is pray that those in authority will decide and behave wisely.

Yes, sometimes life offers a choice between just the bad and the worse.  In such cases I favor choosing the bad, for at least it is not worse.  The best we can do is all that anyone ought to expect of us.  And, if we strive to love one another as actively and effectively as possible, we are at least on the right track.

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/caring-for-others/

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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 31 and February 1 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  John Calvin

Image Source = Library of Congress

False Prophets, Alleged and Actual

JANUARY 31 and FEBRUARY 1, 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:

Zechariah 10:1-11:3 (January 31)

Zechariah 11:4-17 (February 1)

Psalm 116 (Morning–January 31)

Psalm 85 (Morning–February 1)

Psalms 26 and 130 (Evening–January 31)

Psalms 25 and 40 (Evening–February 1)

2 Timothy 3:1-17 (January 31)

2 Timothy 4:1-18 (February 1)

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The readings for January 31 and February 1 make more sense together then spread across two days.  That is my conclusion, at least.

“False prophets” is the unifying theme.  In Zechariah the speak lies, console with illusions, and lead members of the flock astray.  Thus God, angered, vows to punish these bad shepherds and provide proper leadership for the human flock.  To continue the theme, we read that, in the Last Days,

There will be some difficult times.  People will be self-centred and avaricious, boastful, arrogant, and rude, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, irreligious; heartless and intractable; they will be slanderers, profligates, savages, and enemies of everything that is good; they will be treacherous and reckless and demented by pride, prefering their own pleasure to God.  They will keep up the outward appearance of religion but will have rejected the inner power of it.

–2 Timothy 3:1b-5a, The New Jerusalem Bible

(Human nature has at least been constant.  The past, present, and future seem identical in this regard.)  Anyhow, we read in 2 Timothy to follow the truth, accept sound teaching, and be on guard against harmful people.

We–beginning with the author of this post–must always be careful not to confuse disagreement with one (in my case, myself) as proof positive that the other person is a bad shepherd, a false prophet, a harmful individual.  Maybe the other person is all those things, but perhaps he or she just has some different opinions.  I am convinced, for example, that early Church leaders were correct to insist that Gnosticism constituted false doctrine.  The main problem with Gnosticism is that it denies the Incarnation, without which there is no Christianity.  That one was easy.  Law and theology are easy at the extremes.  But what about opinions regarding certain points of Calvinism, for example?  Christians of good will can–and do–disagree strongly.  And all follow Jesus.

Speaking of Calvinism, one aspect of it offers a nice and good way out of many disputes.  John Calvin spoke and wrote of a category called “Matters Indifferent.”  Anything in that category is optional.  The Incarnation is vital, but whether one observes Christmas is a Matter Indifferent, for example.  So, with Calvin’s category in mind and a well-honed sense of theological humility before us, may we avoid idolizing our own opinions.  We might change them one day, after all.  And we are imperfect.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 11, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIONYSIUS OF CORINTH, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY NEYROT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF GEORGE AUGUSTUS SELWYN, ANGLICAN PRIMATE OF NEW ZEALAND

THE FEAST OF SAINT STANISLAUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF KRAKOW

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/false-prophets-alleged-and-actual/

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