Archive for the ‘January 23’ Category

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

Ruins of Corinth

Above:  Ruins of Corinth

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-00671

Fidelity and Factions

JANUARY 22 and 23, 2019

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The Collect:

Lord God, source of every blessing,

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

who brought gladness and salvation to his people.

Transform us by the Spirit of his love,

that we may find our life together in him,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Song of Songs 4:1-8 (Tuesday)

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

Psalm 145 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 1:3-17 (Tuesday)

Luke 5:33-39 (Wednesday)

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The Lord draws near to all who summon him,,

to all who summon him in sincerity.

For his worshippers he does all they could wish for,

he hears their cry for help and saves them.

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

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 27, 2015 COMMON ERA

PROPER 21:  THE EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEOBA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND MISSIONARY

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

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/09/27/fidelity-and-factions/

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

jeremiah-sistine-chapel

Above:  Jeremiah, from the Sistine Chapel, by Michelangelo Buonarroti

Image in the Public Domain

Apocalyptic Warnings

JANUARY 21-23, 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:

Jeremiah 19:1-15 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 20:7-13 (Friday)

Jeremiah 20:14-18 (Saturday)

Psalm 65:5-12 (All Days)

Revelation 18:11-20 (Thursday)

2 Peter 3:1-7 (Friday)

Luke 10:13-16 (Saturday)

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Those who dwell at the ends of the earth tremble at your marvels;

the gates of the morning and evening sing your praise.

–Psalm 65:7, Common Worship (2000)

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The prophet Jeremiah would have been thrilled for that statement to have applied to Jerusalem.  Alas, some people there even sacrificed their children to pagan gods at the valley whose name became the source for the label “Gehenna,” a place of suffering in the afterlife.  Jeremiah condemned such idolatrous and violent practices and pronounced divine punishment.  For his trouble he faced flogging and imprisonment.  Yet those who mistreated him would, he said, die as exiles in Babylon.  That prediction came true.

A common expectation in New Testament times was that Jesus would return quite soon.  It was an age of apocalyptic hopes that God would end the violent and exploitative rule of the Roman Empire, set the world right, and that the divine order would govern the planet.  In that context a lack of repentance was especially bad, as in Luke 10:13-16.  In Revelation 18 the Roman Empire had fallen (within the Johannine Apocalypse only), but the imperium survived well beyond the first century of the Common Era.  Discouragement and scoffing had become evident by the 80s and 90s, the timeframe for the writing of 2 Peter.  Yet the calls to repentance remained applicable.

Divine time and human time work differently, but some things remain the same.  Fearful theocrats react badly to honest prophets.  The realization that God has not met a human schedule leads to bad spiritual results.  Violent, oppressive, and exploitative governments continue to exist.  And the promise that God will destroy the evil order then replace it with a holy and just one remains a future hope.  In the meantime we would do well to consider the moral lessons of Revelation 18.  For example, do we benefit from any violent, oppressive, and/or exploitative system?  If so, what is the “Babylon” or what are the “Babylons” to which we have attached ourselves, from which we benefit, and whose passing we would mourn?

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/apocalyptic-warnings/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Third Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

Brugghen,_Hendrick_ter_-_The_Calling_of_St._Matthew_-_1621

Above:  The Calling of St. Matthew, by Hendrick ter Brugghen

(Image in the Public Domain)

Vindication and Faithfulness

JANUARY 23-25, 2020

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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:

1 Samuel 1:1-20 (Thursday)

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

1 Samuel 15:34-16:13 (Saturday)

Psalm 27:1-6 (all days)

Galatians 1:11-24 (Thursday)

Galatians 2:1-10 (Friday)

Luke 5:27-32 (Saturday)

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One thing I have asked of the LORD;

one thing I seek;

that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life;

to behold the fair beauty of then LORD,

to seek God in the temple.

–Psalm 27:4, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The readings for these three days tell of faithfulness to God, of faithlessness, and of vindication.  Along the way we read of two different Sauls.

Hannah was childless.  For this her husband’s other wife mocked her.  But Elkanah loved Hannah, his wife.   And God answered Hannah’s prayer for a child, giving her the great prophet Samuel.  He, following divine instructions, anointed two kings of Israel–Saul and David, both of whom went their own sinful ways.  Yet Saul, no less troublesome a figure than David, faced divine rejection.  Saul’s attempts at vindication–some of them violent–backfired on him.

Saul of Tarsus, who became St. Paul the Apostle, had to overcome his past as a persecutor of the nascent Christian movement as well as strong opposition to his embrace of the new faith and to his mission to Gentiles.  Fortunately, he succeeded, changing the course of events.

And Jesus, who dined with notorious sinners, brought many of them to repentance.  He, unlike others, who shunned them, recognized the great potential within these marginalized figures.  For this generosity of spirit our Lord and Savior had to provide a defense to certain respectable religious authorities.

Sometimes our quests for vindication are self-serving, bringing benefit only to ourselves.  Yet, on other occasions, we have legitimate grounds for vindication.  When we are in the right those who cause the perceived need for vindication–for whatever reason they do so–ought to apologize instead.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 6, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALLAN CRITE, ARTIST

THE FEAST OF CHARLES ELLIOTT FOX, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF MADELEINE L’ENGLE, NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF PETER CLAVER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/vindication-and-faithfulness/

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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 23 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   7 comments

Above:  A Soup Kitchen

Image Source = U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist Steve Johnson

Hospitality

JANUARY 23, 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:

Joel 2:18-32/3:3:5

Psalm 65 (Morning)

Psalms 125 and 91 (Evening)

Romans 11:25-12:13

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Then the LORD was roused

On behalf of His land.

And had compassion

Upon His people.

–Joel 2:18, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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In the service of the LORD work not half-hearted but with conscientiousness and as an eager spirit.  Be joyful in hope, persevere in hardship, keep praying regularly; share with any of God’s holy people who are in need; look for opportunities to be hospitable.

–Romans 12:11-13, The New Jerusalem Bible

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TECHNICAL NOTE:

Versification of  parts of the Hebrew Bible differs depending upon whether one reads from a Protestant translation or a Jewish, Roman Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox one.  Such is the case in Joel, where 2:1-32 in Protestant versions equals 2:1-3:5 in Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox translations.  And Joel 4 in Jewish, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox versions equals Joel 3 in Protestant translations.

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Many houses in the rural U.S. South during the nineteenth century used to have a front porch, a back porch, and a connecting breezeway.  That was a time before electricity, much less air conditioning, in the region, so many people designed their homes to fit nature and the technology they had.  With that in mind, it was common for a kitchen to be separate from the rest of the house.  If there were a fire, the rest of the house would be more likely to survive.  And they could build another kitchen.

All that was quite practical.  So was another common feature of many such houses:  a guest bedroom which opened up onto a porch and not into any other room.  If a traveler needed to spend a night, such a room offered shelter.  This was both practical and hospitable, for there were no motels in many areas.  Hospitality, in many cases, made the difference between life and death, or at least between relative ease and undue hardship.  Hospitality was a virtue which more than one biblical writer extolled. The texts contain, in fact, condemnations of its absence.  Hospitality still saves lives and eases discomfort, as many who dispense or receive it can attest.

The affirmation of hospitality does not indicate a complete lack of accountability.  Read Joel and Romans, for example.  But hospitality does provide a counter-force, a balance.  There is a time to judge and there is a time to forgive.  There is a time to punish and there is a time to extend the hand of hospitality.  May we–you and I, O reader, get the balance correct.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 2, 2012 COMMON ERA

MONDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN PAYNE AND CUTHBERT MAYNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF HENRY BUDD, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JAMES LLOYD BRECK, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JOHN PAUL II, BISHOP OF ROME

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

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Before a Bible Study   Leave a comment

Above:  An Old Family Bible

Image Source = David Ball

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God of glory,

as we prepare to study the Bible,

may we approach the texts with our minds open,

our intellects engaged,

and our spirits receptive to your leading,

so that we will understand them correctly

and derive from them the appropriate lessons.

Then may we act on those lessons.

For the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Amen.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 7, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MELCHIOR MUHLENBERG, SHEPHERD OF LUTHERANISM IN THE AMERICAN COLONIES

THE FEAST OF FRED KAAN, HYMNWRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN WOOLMAN, ABOLITIONIST

Posted October 7, 2011 by neatnik2009 in 2020-2021, December 1, December 10, December 11, December 12, December 13, December 14, December 15, December 16, December 17, December 18, December 19, December 2, December 20, December 21, December 22, December 23, December 24: Christmas Eve, December 25: First Day of Christmas, December 26: Second Day of Christmas/St. Stephen, December 27: Third Day of Christmas/St. John the Evangelist, December 28: Fourth Day of Christmas/Holy Innocents, December 29: Fifth Day of Christmas, December 3, December 30: Sixth Day of Christmas, December 31: Seventh Day of Christmas/New Year's Eve, December 4, December 5, December 6, December 7, December 8, December 9, February 1, February 10, February 11, February 12, February 13, February 14, February 15, February 16, February 17, February 18, February 19, February 2, February 20, February 21, February 22, February 23, February 24, February 25, February 26, February 27, February 28, February 29, February 3, February 4, February 5, February 6, February 7, February 8, February 9, January 10, January 11, January 12, January 13, January 14, January 15, January 16, January 17, January 18, January 19, January 1: Eighth Day of Christmas/Holy Name of Jesus/New Year's Day, January 20, January 21, January 22, January 23, January 24, January 25, January 26, January 27, January 28, January 29, January 2: Ninth Day of Christmas, January 30, January 31, January 3: Tenth Day of Christmas, January 4: Eleventh Day of Christmas, January 5: Twelfth Day of Christmas, January 6: Epiphany, January 7, January 8, January 9, March 1, March 2, March 3, March 4, March 5, March 6, March 7, March 8, March 9, November 27, November 28, November 29, November 30

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Week of 2 Epiphany: Thursday, Year 2   9 comments

Above:  Saul Throws the Spear at David, by George Tinworth

Jonathan, a Good Friend

JANUARY 23, 2020

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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1 Samuel 18:6-9; 19:1-7 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

As they were coming home, when David returned from slaying the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with timbrels, with songs of joy, and with instruments of music.  And the women sang to one another as they made merry,

Saul has slain his thousands,

and David his ten thousands.

And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him; he said,

They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?

And Saul eyed David from that day on.

…(Saul tried to kill David, who lives anyway and marries Michal, daughter of Saul.)…

And Saul spoke to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should kill David.  But Jonathan, Saul’s son, delighted much in David.  And Jonathan told David,

Saul my father seeks to kill you; therefore take heed to yourself in the morning, stay in a secret place and hide yourself; and I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are, and I will speak to my father about you; an if I learn anything I will tell you.

And Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father, and said to him,

Let not the king sin against his servant David; because he has not sinned against you, and because his deeds have been of good service to you; for he took his life in his hand and he slew the Philistine, and the LORD wrought a great victory for all Israel.  You saw it, and rejoiced; why then will you sin against innocent blood by killing David without cause?

And Saul listened to the voice of Jonathan; Saul swore,

As the LORD lives, he shall not be put to death.

And Jonathan called David, and Jonathan showed him all these things.  And Jonathan brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence as before.

Psalm 56 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Have mercy on me, O God,

for my enemies are hounding me;

all day long they assault and oppress me.

2  They hound me all the day long;

truly there are many who fight against me, O Most High.

3  When I am afraid,

I will put my trust in you.

4  In God, whose word I praise,

in God I trust and will not be afraid,

for what can flesh do to me?

5  All day long they damage my cause;

their only thought is to do me evil.

6  They band together; they lie in wait;

they spy upon my footsteps;

because they seek my life.

7  Shall they escape despite their wickedness?

O God, in your anger, cast down the peoples.

8  You have noted my lamentation;

put my tears into your bottle;

are they not recorded in your book?

9  Whenever I call upon you, my enemies will be put to flight;

this I know, for God is on my side.

10  In God, the LORD, whose word I praise,

in God I trust and will not be afraid,

for what can mortals do to me?

11  I am bound by the vow I made to you, O God;

I will present to you thank-offerings;

12  For you have rescued my soul from death and my feet from stumbling,

that I may walk before God in the light of the living.

Mark 3:7-12 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed; also from Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from about Tyre and Sidon a great multitude haring all that he did, came to him.  And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they should crush him, for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him.  And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out,

You are the Son of God.

And he strictly ordered them not to make him known.

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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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A Related Post:

Week of 2 Epiphany:  Thursday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/week-of-2-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

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I have been watching Bobby Fischer documentaries recently.  The brilliant chess master was not emotionally, mentally, and psychologically well for most of his life.  And his illness grew worse as he aged.

King Saul reminds of Bobby Fischer in some ways.  The Biblical authors understood the king’s mental disturbance as the result of possession by an evil spirit, but today professionals would offer a clinical diagnosis.  Nevertheless, one fact remains:  Saul had become dangerous to others, especially David.  Fortunately, David benefited (in the short term, at least) from the intercession his good friend, Jonathan, his brother-in-law and a son of Saul.

The lectionary I am following will skip to 1 Samuel 24 for tomorrow’s purposes, so I sense the imperative of explaining part of 1 Samuel 20.  Many translations of the Bible are overly polite in places.  Consider the Psalms, for example.  Whereas a literal translation of Hebrew text might be close to “Look, Yahweh!,” many translators have preferred something closer to “I beseech you, O Lord.”  Even the Hebrew texts use euphemisms for cursing, so many a modern version of the Bible does also.  Then there is The Living Bible (completed in 1971).  This is how Kenneth N. Taylor described a confrontation between Saul and Jonathan, per 1 Samuel 20:30-31:

Saul boiled with rage.  “You son of a bitch!” he yelled at him.  “Do you think I don’t know that you want this son of a nobody to be king in your place, shaming yourself and your mother?  As long as this fellow is alive, you’ll never be king.  Now go and get him, so I can kill him!”

A 1980s printing of The Living Bible in my library substitutes “fool” for “son of a bitch,” but Taylor captured the flavor of Saul’s outburst well the first time.  “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman,” a standard English rendering, does not have the same power.

(Aside:  Pay attention.  This is probably the only time I will say or write anything nice about The Living Bible.  The best way to communicate my attitude toward that version is to tell a story.  A few years ago, in a Bible study of the Matthew Beatitudes, someone read them from The Living Bible.  The ethos of TLB, so evident in that particular text, inspired me to sing, “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony….”  I was, of course, echoing an early 1970s Christmas advertisement for Coca-Cola.)

In the short term, at least, Jonathan was able to shield David from his father’s violent rages.  Jonathan was in a difficult personal and political circumstance, but he did the right thing.  Sometimes doing the right thing is both hard and risky.  Yet mere human decency requires us to act properly.  Are you, O reader, in a difficult and risky situation with conflicting loyalties?  What does mere decency require of you?  And how much might it cost you?

Remember that what I do affects others, as does what you do.  What you do not do affects others, as does what I do not do.  Your circumstance might seem like a small and relatively insignificant one, but it might be more important than appearances indicate, for we are all connected to others.  So make the right decision and stand by it because it is the right thing to do, perhaps for more people than you can imagine.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/jonathan-a-good-friend/

Week of 2 Epiphany: Saturday, Year 1   16 comments

Above:  Christ in Majesty

Image Source = ich

More Than a Prophet

JANUARY 23, 2021

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Hebrews 9:2-3, 11-14 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

For a tent was prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread offering; it is called the Holy Place.  Behind the second curtain stood a tent called the Holy of Holies….

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once and for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but not his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.  For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Psalm 47 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Clap your hands, all you peoples;

shout to God with a cry of joy.

2 For the LORD Most High is to be feared;

he is the great King over all the earth.

3 He subdues the peoples under us,

and the nations under our feet.

4 He chooses our inheritance for us,

the pride of Jacob whom he loves.

5 God has gone up with a shout,

the LORD with the the sound of the ram’s horn.

6 Sing praises to God, sing praises;

sing praises to our King, sing praises.

7 For God is King of all the earth;

sing praises with all your skill.

8 God reigns over all the nations;

God sits upon his holy throne.

9  The nobles of the peoples have gathered together

with the people of the God of Abraham.

10 The rulers of the earth belong to God,

and he is highly exalted.

John 8:51-59 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Jesus said,

Truly, truly, I say to you, if any one keeps my word, he will never see death.

The Jews said to him,

Now we know that you have a demon.  Abraham died, as did the prophet; and you say, ‘If any one keeps my word, he will never taste death.’  Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died?  And the prophets died!  Who do you claim to be?

Jesus answered,

If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing; it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say that he is your God.  But you have not known him; I know him.  If I said, I do not know him, I should be a liar like you; but I do know him and I keep his word.  Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad.

The Jews then said to him,

You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?

Jesus said to them,

Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.

So they took up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.

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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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John Marsh, in his commentary on the Johannine Gospel (Pelican Books, 1968), labels the John 8:48-59 section “Demented or Divine?”  Indeed, if Jesus were not divine, he would have been demented.  I grew up with the canonical Gospels, so I understand them accordingly; I take some theological propositions for granted.  Yet, when I hear people relatively new to Christianity discuss these books, I hear a different take; Jesus would seem presumptuous at best and demented at worst if he were not speaking truthfully.  Ideas such as the deity of Jesus are “old hat” to me, and I see no reason to look at that hat twice.  I just wear the hat.

A few explanatory notes are in order:

  1. Leviticus 24:16 calls for the stoning of a blasphemer.
  2. Jesus referred to rabbinical interpretations of Abrahamic prophecies.  The citations are Genesis 15:8-21 and 17:17.
  3. Let us take note of the vitriol embedded in the Fourth Gospel, the last of the canonical Gospels written.  The Johannine Gospel dates from a time of Jewish-Christian conflict, which Christians were losing.  The Christians, then still technically Jews, were sufficiently marginalized that they referred to orthodox Jews as “the Jews.”

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming….

The Jesus of Mark (which we read most of the time on this lectionary) is unlike the Christ of John.  In Mark Jesus orders people not to say who and what he is; he maintains his Messianic Secret until the end.  In John, however, he broadcasts who and what he is, even using the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “I AM” in reference to himself.  All the Gospels are theological works grounded in history.  Mark, I suspect, is closer to history than is John.  None of this bothers me, for I am not and have never been a biblical literalist.

Anyhow, as the authors of Hebrews and John remind us, Jesus was no ordinary sage or prophet.  The author of Hebrews employs Greek philosophy to make the point that Jesus is the unblemished, sacrificial lamb.  The author of John understands the crucifixion Jesus as the exaltation and glorification of Jesus.  In the Johannine Gospel the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior occurs on Thursday, at the same time priests at the Temple are sacrificing animals.  The point is clear:  Jesus did not celebrate Passover that year; he was the Passover.

He was much more than a prophet.

And what will we do with this?  As the title of this post makes clear, this is an Epiphany devotion.  The theme of the season of Epiphany is taking the message of Jesus to the Gentiles.  We have a great treasure in Jesus, and we need to share it, not sit on it.  Even the calmest, most intellectual and well-reasoned explanation of Christianity can sound demented to someone from a different background.  It might sound demented to me had I not grown up within it.   Yet good catechetical pedagogy, combined with a life of faith and love of God, can prove effective in many cases.  May we try, at least.  We will not succeed with everybody; not even Jesus did.  Yet he succeeded well enough, did he not?

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/more-than-a-prophet/

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