Archive for the ‘January 9’ Category

Devotion for the First Sunday After the Epiphany, Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch by the Deacon Philip, by Lambert Sustris

Image in the Public Domain

The Kingdom of God

JANUARY 9, 2022

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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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Isaiah 12:1-6

Psalm 29

Acts 8:26-39

John 1:29-34

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Isaiah 12:1-6 flows from Chapter 11.  The two chapters are the final section of a poem about the ideal king in a peaceful future.  As elsewhere in the Bible, divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.

Psalm 29 praises God.  It is also an adaptation of a hymn to Baal Peor, the Canaanite storm god.  Rewriting pagan stories and texts for Jewish theological purposes was a fairly common practice.  Doing so was one way of asserting the sovereignty of God and affirming faith in the one true deity.  Rewriting pagan texts also constituted an argument against the original texts’ validity.  In this case, rewriting a hymn in praise of Baal Peor was rebutting the legitimacy of his cultus.

Acts 8:26-39 and John 1:29-34 point to Jesus, as they should.

The ideal future remains an unfulfilled prophecy.  Nevertheless, I, as a Christian, affirm that the Incarnation was a game changer.  I hold that the reality of God’s presence became obvious in a way it was not previously obvious.

The presence of God is evident in many ways in our deeply flawed societies.  There are no gods; there is God.  God is sovereign, despite all appearances to the contrary.

May we–you, O reader, and I–keep the faith and work to make the world resemble more closely the fully realized Kingdom of God.  Only God can save the world and usher in the fully realized Kingdom of God, of course.  Yet we–you, O reader, and I–have a divine mandate to leave the world better than we found it.  

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 27, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS, YEAR B

THE THIRD DAY OF CHRISTMAS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2020/12/27/the-kingdom-of-god-part-vii/

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This is post #550 of ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS.

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

Above:   Adam and Eve Expelled from Paradise, by Marc Chagall

Use of Image Permissible According to Fair Use

Our Common Life

JANUARY 9, 2022

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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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Genesis 3:1-7, 22-24

Isaiah 4:2-6

Acts 15:22-35

John 3:22-30

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The reading from Genesis 3 always prompts me to ask what is wrong with being able to discern between good and evil.  I tend to argue with the story.  I also recognize an opposite vision in Isaiah 4:  the return from exile.

The Bible opens with God creating the world and people messing it up.  The sacred anthology concludes with God restoring the world.  Genesis and Revelation are the best possible bookends for the Bible, which contains stories about the relationship between God and mere mortals.  We should learn, among other lessons, to obey certain ethical teachings, to rely on God completely, to love each other as we love ourselves, and to emphasize God, not ourselves.  We, as Christians, must say with St. John the Evangelist,

He must increase

while I must decrease.

–Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John (I-XII) (1966), page 150

When we seek to glorify ourselves, we set out on a fool’s errand.  Yet the world praises such men and women.  Often these individuals build themselves up at the expense of others, according to the ethic of the old economic theory of mercantilism, according to which there is a finite supply of wealth, hence more for one means less for others.  In contrast we consider Jesus, who humbled and sacrificed himself.  He was a failure, according to worldly standards of success.  Yet we know him to have been successful, do we not?  So much for worldly standards!

May we increase in love for God and each other and in our understanding of our complete reliance on God and our interdependence.  As The Book of Common Prayer (1979) reminds us:

O God, your unfailing providence sustains the world we live in and the life we live:  Watch over those, both night and day, who work while others sleep, and grant that we may never forget that our common life depends upon each other’s toil; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Page 134

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGISMUND OF BURGUNDY, KING; SAINT CLOTILDA, FRANKISH QUEEN; AND SAINT CLODOALD, FRANKISH PRINCE AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JAMES LEWIS MILLIGAN, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCULF OF NANTEUIL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/05/02/our-common-life/

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

Salome with the Head of John the Baptist

Above:  Salome with the Head of John the Baptist, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

Atonement and the Sovereignty of God

JANUARY 9, 2022

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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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Leviticus 16:1-34

Psalm 69

Matthew 14:1-12

Hebrews 9:1-28

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O God, you know my folly;

the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.

–Psalm 69:5, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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The contents of Leviticus 16 might seem odd to a Gentile, especially one who is a Christian.  Part of a note from The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) explains it well:

The preceding chs have established that sins and bodily impurities contaminate the Tabernacle.  Regular atonement for unintentional sin and the routine eradication of impurity eliminate as much of both types of defilement as possible.  Yet, since not all unintentional wrongs are discovered and not everyone is diligent about atonement, a certain amount of defilement remains.  In particular, deliberate crimes, which contaminate the inner sanctum where the divine Presence is said to dwell, are not expurgated by the regular atonement rituals.  This ch thus provides the instructions for purging the inner sanctum along with the rest of the Tabernacle once a year, so that defilement does not accumulate.  It logically follows the laws of purification (chs 12-15), as they conclude with the statement that only by preventing the spread of impurity can the Israelites ensure God’s continual presence among them (15:31).  The annual purification ritual, briefly alluded to in Ex. 30:10, is to be performed on the tenth day of the seventh month (v. 29).  Elsewhere (23:27, 28; 25:9) this day is referred to as “yom hakippurim”–often translated as “Day of Atonement.”

–Page 231

When we turn to the Letter to the Hebrews we read an extended contrast between the annual rites for Yom Kippur and the one-time sacrifice of Jesus.  We also read a multi-chapter contrast between human priests and Jesus, who is simultaneously the priest and the victim.

How much more will the blood of Christ, who offered himself, blameless as he was, to God through the eternal Spirit, purify our conscience from dead actions so that we can worship the living God.

–Hebrews 9:14, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

St. John the Baptist, of whose death we read in Matthew 14:1-12, was the forerunner of Jesus.  Not only did John point to Jesus and baptize him, but he also preceded him in violent death.  The shedding of the blood of St. John the Baptist on the orders of Herod Antipas was a political and face-saving act.  Antipas had, after all, imprisoned John for political reasons.  The alleged crime of St. John the Baptist was to challenge authority with his words, which was one reason for the crucifixion of Jesus also.

Part of the grace evident in martyrdom (such as that of St. John the Baptist) and of the crucifixion of Jesus was that those perfidious deeds glorified not those who ordered and perpetrated them but God.  We honor St. John the Baptist, not Herod Antipas, and thank God for John’s faithful witness.  We honor Jesus of Nazareth and give thanks–for his resurrection; we do not sing the praises of the decision-making of Pontius Pilate on that fateful day.  Another part of the grace of the crucifixion of Jesus is that, although it was indeed a perfidious act, it constituted a portion of the process of atonement for sins–once and for all.

Certain powerful people, who found Jesus to be not only inconvenient but dangerous, thought they had gotten rid of him.  They could not have been more mistaken.  They had the power to kill him, but God resurrected him, thereby defeating their evil purposes.  God also used their perfidy to affect something positive for countless generations to come.  That was certainly a fine demonstration of the Sovereignty of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2016 COMMON ERA

PROPER 18:  THE SIXTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN PEACEMAKERS AND PEACE ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF PAUL JONES, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF UTAH AND PEACE ACTIVIST; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, JOHN NEVIN SAYRE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND PEACE ACTIVIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/09/04/atonement-and-the-sovereignty-of-god/

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Devotion for January 9, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Biblical World

Above:  Map of Ancient Israel

Image Source = Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (1957)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

The Glory of God, Filling the Earth, Part II

JANUARY 9, 2022

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you gave us your only Son

to take on our human nature and to illumine the world with your light.

By your grace adopt us as your children and enlighten us with your Spirit,

through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 24:15-19

Psalm 72

Luke 1:67-79

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May his rule extend from sea to sea,

from the river to the ends of the earth.

–Psalm 72:8, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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Balaam was a Hebrew prophet who consented to prophesy for hire, to say what his new, temporary employer wanted him to say.  At the time many people thought that blessings and curses had power, so, in the context of Numbers 24, Balaam’s words mattered.  God worked through Balaam, much to the chagrin of the prophet’s temporary employer.  The Hebrews, Balaam proclaimed, would rule the Transjordan region.  That prophecy might have been an addition to the original story of Balaam (complete with the talking donkey), for, at the time of King David, the Kingdom of Israel conquered Moab and Edom.  If the prophecy in question is of later origin, my point remains unaltered.  That point is that, according to the text, the Hebrews would triumph over their enemies and that the closest thing to the Kingdom of God on the Earth would win its battles.

The hope for a literal Kingdom of God on the Earth is ancient.  Many authors of the Hebrew Scriptures echoed it repeatedly, as in Psalm 72, a coronation text.  In time the aspirations of Psalm 72 became messianic.  The prophecy of Zechariah in Luke 1:67-79 fit in well with the desire for a different world order.

My reading in Biblical studies has taught me much about the Kingdom of God.  It has been partially present on the Earth for a long time.  Attempting (as I have done) to identify how long the Kingdom of God has been present on the Earth is probably not the best intellectual exercise to undertake, for, strictly speaking, God has not, at any point in the human past, been closer to or farther away from us than at any other point in the human past.  The Kingdom of God, therefore, has not been nearer to us or more distant from us at any point of time than at another.  Nevertheless, we await the fully unveiled Kingdom of God.

As we wait for, as members of many preceding generations have awaited the fully realized Kingdom of God, may we never lose sight of the partially realized Kingdom of God among us and our roles in it.  May we love our fellow human beings as we love ourselves.  May we put away fear, hatred, bigotry, and everything else that separates us from accomplishing the goal of beloved community.  May we respect the image of God in each other then act accordingly.  Whenever we help the least of those among us we aid Christ.  Likewise, whenever we refuse to help the least of those among us, we refused to aid Christ.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 20, 2015 COMMON ERA

PROPER 20–THE SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF HENRI NOUWEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY COLERIDGE PATTESON, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF MELANESIA, AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF NELSON WESLEY TROUT, FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN U.S. BISHOP

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/09/21/the-glory-of-god-filling-the-earth-part-ii/

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Devotion for Friday and Saturday Before the First Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Samuel Anoints David

Above:  Samuel Anoints David

Image in the Public Domain

The Call of God, Part II

JANUARY 8 and 9, 2021

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The Collect:

Holy God, creator of light and giver of goodness, your voice moves over the waters.

Immerse us in your grace, and transform us by your Spirit,

that we may follow after your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you 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 16:1-13 (Friday)

1 Kings 2:1-4, 10-12 (Saturday)

Psalm 29 (Both Days)

1 Timothy 4:11-16 (Friday)

Luke 5:1-11 (Saturday)

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The LORD shall give strength to his people;

the LORD shall give his people the blessing of peace.

–Psalm 29:11, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The LORD shall give his strength and his bless of peace to his people to equip them to do that which he has called them to do.  What people do with that call and that blessing is not always with a faithful response to God, however.  Let us, O reader, consider King David, formerly a shepherd.  The work of a shepherd was crucial, so may nobody dismiss it.  Yet David had a greater destiny, to which God called him via Samuel.  Nevertheless, David had a dark side, which remained evident until his final advice to Solomon.  (The lectionary pericope from 1 Kings 2 omits the verses in which David gives advice to kill people.)  And the reigns of David and Solomon contained abuses of power.  Solomon existence because of an abuse of David’s power, in fact.  If David was truly a man after God’s own heart, I harbor reservations about the proverbial divine heart.

In the New Testament we read of Apostles and St. Timothy.  Sts. James and John (sons of Zebedee and first cousins of Jesus) and St. Simon Peter were fishermen.  That was an honest and necessary profession, but it was not their destiny.  They were, of course, flawed men (as all people have flaws), but they did much via the power of God.  The advice (in the name of St. Paul the Apostle) to St. Timothy not to let anyone dismiss him because of his youth applies to many people today.  God calls the young, the middle-aged, and the elderly.  God commissions and empowers people from a variety of backgrounds.  God is full of surprises.

Sometimes God surprises us in ways we dislike.  I think of a story which, if it is not true, ought to be.  In the late 1800s, in the United States, a lady on the lecture circuit of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) spoke in a certain town.  She completed her speech about how God wants people to avoid alcohol at all times.  Then entered the Q & A part of her presentation.  One man asked,

If what you say is true, how do you explain Jesus turning water into wine?

The speaker replied,

I would like him better if he had not done that.

Sometimes the call of God in our lives is to deal properly with ways in which God makes us uncomfortable.  (This presupposes the ability to discern from the reality of God and our inaccurate perceptions thereof, of course.)  If Jesus seems to agree with us all of the time, we are relating not to the real Jesus but to an imagined Christ we constructed for our convenience.  The genuine article is a challenging figure who should make us uncomfortable.  And we should seize the opportunity to grow spiritually regardless of any factor, such as age, experience, inexperience, or background.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 15, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBERT THE GREAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF REGENSBURG

THE FEAST OF JOHANN GOTTLOBB KLEMM, INSTRUMENT MAKER; DAVID TANNENBERG, SR., GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN ORGAN BUILDER; JOHANN PHILIP BACHMANN, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN INSTRUMENT BUILDER; JOSEPH FERDINAND BULITSCHEK, BOHEMIAN-AMERICAN ORGAN BUILDER; AND TOBIAS FRIEDRICH, GERMAN MORAVINA COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF MARGARET MEAD, ANTHROPOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF PHILIP WILLIAM OTTERBEIN, COFOUNDER OF THE CHURCH OF THE UNITED BRETHREN IN CHRIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/11/21/the-call-of-god-part-ii/

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Devotion for January 7, 8, and 9, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

GFS_8086

Above:  Good Friday Pilgrimage for Immigrants, Atlanta, Georgia, April 18, 2014

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Living Faithfully

JANUARY 7-9, 2021

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, you revealed the incarnation of your Son by the brilliant shining of a star.

Shine the light of your justice always in our hearts and over all lands,

and accept our lives as the treasure we offer in your praise and for your service,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 21

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 1:22-2:10 (January 7)

Exodus 2:11-25 (January 8)

Exodus 3:7-15 (January 9)

Psalm 110 (All Days)

Hebrews 11:23-26 (January 7)

Hebrews 11:27-28 (January 8)

John 8:39-59 (January 9)

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

until I make your enemies your footstool.”

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

saying, “Rule over your enemies round about you.

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.”

The LORD has sworn and he will not recant:

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

The Lord who is at your right hand

will smite kings in the day of his wrath;

he will rule over nations.

He will heap high the corpses;

he will smash heads over the wide earth.

He will drink from the brook beside the road;

therefore he will lift high his head.

–Psalm 110, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Tradition attributes authorship of Psalm 110 to David.  One cannot be certain of the veracity of that claim, given the tendency of many people from Biblical times to attribute authorship to the famous dead regardless of who actually wrote a given text.  That issue is a minor point, however.  A Hebrew monarch has won a military victory, hence the content and tone of the text.  One can read the poem and identify passages germane to both Moses and Jesus, as well as those irrelevant to each person.  We read of Moses smiting in Exodus, for example.  And Jesus, like the king in the Psalm, sits enthroned at the right hand of Yahweh.

One might also compare Moses and Jesus, as the author of the Gospel of Matthew did frequently.  Both men were, for example, far more than they appeared to be; they were deliverers and princes, although not of the same variety.  No, Jesus was (and remains) far greater than Moses, for our Lord and Savior’s “I am” (John 9:58) carries the same meaning as “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14).  Jesus was the human incarnation of the deity who spoke to Moses.

Both men had to decide between a faithful life and a safer, more comfortable one.  They chose well, to the benefit of many people.  You and I, O reader, will probably not receive the mandate to liberate a large population.  We will certainly not have the vocation to redeem the world.  Yet we do have to decide between following God and doing otherwise.  The faithful path can be a dangerous and frequently uncomfortable one, but it is the superior way.  God calls us to act for the benefit of others, even when many of them reject God and us by extension.  But, as Charles William Everest (1814-1877) wrote in 1833:

“Take up thy cross,” the Savior said;

“if thou wouldst my disciple be,

take up thy cross with willing heart

and humbly follow after me.”

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Take up thy cross, let not its weight

fill thy weak spirit with alarm;

his strength shall bear thy spirit up,

and brace thy heart and nerve thine arm.

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Take up thy cross, nor heed the shame,

and let thy foolish pride be still;

the Lord refused not e’en to die

upon a cross, on Calv’ry’s hill.

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Take up thy cross and follow Christ,

nor think till earth to lay it down,

for only they who bear the cross

may hope to wear the glorious crown.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 12, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSAPHAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF POLOTSK, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CHARLES SIMEON, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF RAY PALMER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ARTHUR DUNKERLEY, BRITISH NOVELIST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/11/12/living-faithfully/

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Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before the First Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

8a35512v

Above:  Making Stew at the May Day Pageant, Siloam, Greene County, Georgia, May 1941

Photographer = Jack Delano

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USF33- 020878-M1

The Call of God

JANUARY 9 and 10, 2020

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The Collect:

O God our Father, at the baptism of Jesus you proclaimed him your beloved Son

and anointed him with the Holy Spirit.

Make all who are baptized into Christ faithful to their calling

to be your daughters and sons,

and empower us with your Spirit,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you 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 3:1-9 (Thursday)

1 Samuel 3:10-4:1a (Friday)

Psalm 29 (both days)

Acts 9:1-9 (Thursday)

Acts 9:10-19a (Friday)

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The voice of the Lord is mighty in operation;

the voice of the Lord is a glorious voice.

The voice of the Lord breaks the cedar trees;

the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon;

He makes Lebanon skip like a calf

and Sirion like a young wild ox.

–Psalm 29:4-6, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The daily lectionary from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006) pairs two stories of God calling people in extraordinary ways.  Most followers of God never hear a divine voice, much less get knocked to the ground by God.  But Samuel and Saul/St. Paul the Apostle had unusual experiences.  And both of them did great things for God.  Their legacies survive them long after they died.  Those last two facts regarding those men impress me the most.

My experience of God has been the opposite of dramatic.  I have never even had so much as a “born again” experience.  No, God, has dealt with me (and continues to do so) in a quiet, gradual manner punctuated with occasional periods of more noticeable activity.  In 2007, when the bottom fell out of my life, In felt God’s presence and activity more acutely, for I needed that different form of presence and activity then, for example.

My points are these:

  1. We all need God.
  2. God relates to people in a variety of ways.
  3. God relates to the same people differently over time.
  4. So nobody ought to assume that his or her experience of God is mandatory for everyone.
  5. Yet it is mandatory that we respond favorably to God and do great things for God.

The variety of these great things is part of the spice of Godly life.  What are the flavors you, O reader, God is calling you to contribute to the stew?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 3, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CARL LICHTENBERGER, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF J. R. R. TOLKIEN, NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF JIMMY LAWRENCE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF PRUDENCE CRANDALL, EDUCATOR

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/the-call-of-god-2/

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Devotion for January 9, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

3c33676v

Above:  Astarte (1902), by John Singer Sargent

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-133676

Idolatry Among Us

JANUARY 9, 2020

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, you revealed the incarnation

of your Son by the brilliant shining of a star.

Shine the light of your justice always in our hearts and over all lands,

and accept our lives as the treasure we offer in your praise and for your service,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 21

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The Assigned Readings:

Micah 5:2-9 (Protestant Versification)/Micah 5:1-8 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Versification)

Psalm 72

Luke 13:31-35

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Blessed are you, O Lord our God:

for you alone do marvellous things.

Blessed be your glorious name for ever:

let the whole earth be filled

with your glory.  Amen.  Amen.

–Psalm 72:19-20, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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The reading from Luke 13 prompts me to think of the Classic Theory of the Atonement, a.k.a. the Conquest of Satan and Christus Victor.  This interpretation dates to early Christianity, for Origen, St. Irenaeus, and St. Justin Martyr argued for it.  I have read more recent iterations of it in the works of Gustav Aulen and N. T. Wright.  As St. Irenaeus (died 202 C.E.) wrote:

The Word of God was made flesh in order that He might destroy death and bring men to life, for we were tied and bound in sin, we were born in sin and live under the dominion of death.

–Quoted in Linwood Urban, A Short History of Christian Thought, Revised and Expanded Edition (New York, NY:  Oxford University Press, 1995), page 109

Perfidious men–men, not people generically (I like to use gendered language precisely)–plotted to kill Jesus.  They succeeded in that goal.  Yet our Lord and Savior did not remain dead for long.  So those perfidious men failed ultimately.

God wins ultimately, despite our best human attempts to thwart that result.  Such is the best definition of the sovereignty of God I can muster.

Micah 5:1-8/5:2-9 (depending on the versification in the translation one reads) sounds reassuring for the Hebrew nation in the late eighth century B.C.E.-early seventh century B.C.E., the timeframe for Isaiah 1-39.  Woe be unto any Assyrian invaders, it says.  If one continues to read, however, one discovers that the Assyrians are not the only ones who should quake in fear of divine retribution, which will fall also on the homefront as well:

In anger and fury I shall wreak vengeance

on the nations who disobey me.

–Micah 5:15, The Revised English Bible

The disobedience in Micah 5 took various forms, including idolatry.

Idols range from false deities to anything which anyone lets stand between him or her and God.  I live in Athens, Georgia, a football-mad town.  Often I note the tone of reverence regarding University of Georgia athletics in the local press.  And frequently have I heard sports fans liken sports to religion.  It is one for many of them.  And, ironically, the Bible functions as an idol for many honest seekers of God.  The Scriptures are supposed to be as icons, through which people see God, but their function varies according to the user thereof.

Religion is a basic human need.  Even many militant fundamentalist Atheists possess the same irritating zeal as do many fundamentalists of theistic varieties.  I stand in the middle, rejecting both excessive skepticism and misplaced certainty, overboard materialism and rationality with the haunting fear that having sex standing up will lead to (gasp!) dancing.  So I reject idols on either side of my position while know that I need to examine my own position for the presence of idols, as abstract as they might be.

Perhaps the greatest spiritual challenge is to identify and reject all idols, which do not seem as what they are to us because the most basic assumptions people carry do not look like assumptions to us.  Thus we justify ourselves to ourselves while we stand in serious error.  Sometimes our idols and false assumptions, combined with fears, lead us commit violence–frequently in the name of God or an imagined deity, perhaps understood as being loving.

We are really messed up.  Fortunately, there is abundant grace available to us.  But can we recognize that if idolatry blinds us spiritually?

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 2, 2013 COMMON ERA

LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF HANNAH, MOTHER OF SAMUEL

THE FEAST OF DAVID CHARLES, WELSH CALVINISTIC METHODIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF NEW GUINEA

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM OF ROSKILDE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/idolatry-among-us/

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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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First Sunday after the Epiphany: The Baptism of Our Lord, Year C   4 comments

Above:  The Holy Spirit as a Dove

Receive the Holy Spirit

JANUARY 9, 2022

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Isaiah 43:1-7 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob,

he who formed you, O Israel:

Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by name, you are mine.

When you pass through the waters I will be with you;

and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;

when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,

and the flame shall not consume you.

For I am the LORD your God,

the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

I give Egypt as your ransom,

Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.

Because you are precious in my eyes,

and honored, and I love you,

I give men in return for you,

peoples in exchange for your life.

Fear not, for I am with you;

I will bring your offspring from the east,

and from the west I will gather you;

I will say to the north, Give up,

and o the south, Do not withhold;

bring my sons from afar

and my daughters from the end of the earth,

every one who is called by my name,

whom I have created for my glory,

whom I formed and made.

Psalm 29 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Ascribe to the LORD, you gods,

ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;

worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.

3 The voice of the LORD is upon the waters;

the God of glory thunders;

the LORD is mighty upon the waters.

4 The voice of the LORD is a powerful voice;

the voice of the LORD is a voice of splendor.

The voice of the LORD breaks the cedar trees;

the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon;

6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,

and Mount Hermon like a young wild ox.

The voice of the LORD splits the flames of fire;

the voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness;

the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

The voice of the LORD makes the oak trees writhe

and strips the forest bare.

9 And in the temple of the LORD

all are crying, “Glory!”

10 The LORD sits enthroned above the flood;

the LORD sits enthroned as King for evermore.

11 The LORD shall give strength to his people;

the LORD shall give his people the blessing of peace.

Acts 8:14-17 (Revised English Bible):

When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent off Peter and John, who went down there and prayed for the converts, asking that they might receive the Holy Spirit.  Until then the Spirit had not come upon any of them, they had been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus, that and nothing more.  So Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

As the people were in expectation, all men questioned in their hearts concerning John, whether perhaps he were the Christ.  John answered them all,

I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming; the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form, as a dove, and a voice came from heaven,

You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.

The Collect:

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

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Some Related Posts:

Baptism of Jesus:  Prayers:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/baptism-of-jesus-prayers/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/12/22/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-first-sunday-after-epiphany-the-baptism-of-our-lord/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/12/22/prayer-of-confession-for-the-first-sunday-after-epiphany-the-baptism-of-our-lord/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/12/22/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-first-sunday-after-epiphany-the-baptism-of-our-lord/

When Jesus Came to Jordan:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/11/19/when-jesus-came-to-jordan/

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Water can be threatening.  People have drowned in it.  Sometimes water has flooded, causing great devastation.  Yet water is essential to life; those who dwell in the desert know this well.  An insufficient supply of drinkable water causes death, but too much water can have the same effect.  Yet just enough is healthy.

And water played a vital role in the history of the Jews.  The passage through the Sea of Reeds during the Exodus from Egypt marked the birth of the Hebrew nation.  Episcopal baptismal rituals refer to the Exodus, for in water we have a potent symbol of life, physical and spiritual.

…and the flame will not consume you,

we read in the context of promised divine protection in Isaiah 43:2b.  Fire is also an image for the Holy Spirit, said (in lovely poetic language) to have descended upon Jesus

in bodily form like a dove

(Luke 3:22a).  Fire is also either helpful or harmful, depending on the context.  But the proverbial fire of the Holy Spirit is positive.  As a High Churchy Episcopalian I understand the Holy Spirit differently than do Pentecostals and Charismatics, so I will try to express my concept clearly.  The Holy Spirit, one third of the Trinity (however that works) is how God works on Earth in the here and now.  It is how God speaks to us today.  And God speaks to many people in different ways.

However God speaks to each of us, may all of us receive the Holy Spirit. And, if or when one manner of receiving it differs  from another, so be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZACHARY, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF EDMUND MUSKIE, UNITED STATES SENATOR AND SECRETARY OF STATE

THE FEAST OF SAINT LOUISE DE MARILLAC, COFOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF CHARITY

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/08/15/receive-the-holy-spirit/

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