Archive for the ‘January 25’ Category

Devotion for Friday Before the Third Sunday After the Epiphany, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Nehemiah Views the Ruins of Jerusalem's Walls--Gustave Dore

Above:  Nehemiah Views the Ruins of Jerusalem’s Walls, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

Mutuality, Society, and the Body of Christ

JANUARY 25, 2019

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord God, you have caused the holy scriptures

to be written for the nourishment of your people.

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

that, comforted by your promises,

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Nehemiah 2:1-10

Psalm 19

Romans 12:1-8

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No one can see his own mistakes,

acquit me of my hidden faults.

Hold me back, too, from sins I know about,

do not let them gain mastery over me.

Then shall I keep my integrity

and be innocent of any great sin.

–Psalm 19:13-14, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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Underpinning much of the Bible is an ethos of mutuality and of recognition of complete human dependence on God.  We are responsible to each other and for each other.  We are supposed to support each other in vocations from God, not seek to advance on the proverbial ladder by kicking other people off that ladder.  And we ought to act based on the knowledge that everything we have comes from God.  There is no such being as a self-made person.

St. Paul the Apostle, writing in Romans 12, likened Christian community to the body of Christ.  He meant what he wrote plainly–that Christians are members of each other and that all spiritual gifts are necessary.  Nobody in the body of Christ is insignificant and no gift is too small.

God has equipped all people for a productive role or roles in society.  One vital function of each person is to help others to fulfill their vocation or vocations as the opportunities to do so present themselves.  Whenever I read about a person who has accomplished much, I notice that others helped him or her along the way to one accomplishment or another.  Such helpers tend not to receive the credit they should, but they are always essential.

Nehemiah, who left a position in the Persian royal court, was able, with the help of King Artaxerxes I (reigned 465-424 B.C.E.) and many others, most of whose names have not come down to us, to help rebuild Jerusalem.  The efforts of those whose labors supported Nehemiah’s project were no less important than Nehemiah’s zeal.  The visionary and his helpers were essential, for one without the other would have accomplished nothing.

In the spirit of mutuality we ought to help each other spiritually.  Each of us has blind spots in spiritual matters, but others can tell us what occupies them.  We also need encouragement to continue to do the right things the right ways.  Positive reinforcement is also crucial to maintaining good practices.  A third category of mutual spiritual help is providing feedback in the middle ground between “keep doing that” and “stop doing the other thing.”  Sometimes we are moving in the right direction yet require advice in how to pursue that path more effectively.  Often we have difficulty recognizing our deficiencies in that category also.

A true friend is one who says and does that which one needs, not necessarily what one wants.  A “yes man” is not a true friend.  Within the bounds of social and ecclesiastical friendship we ought to be true friends to each other.  How many of us will fulfill that vocation?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 3, 2015 COMMON ERA

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

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

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

THE FEAST OF JOHN RALEIGH MOTT, ECUMENICAL PIONEER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/10/03/mutuality-society-and-the-body-of-christ/

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

Abraham_Journeying_into_the_Land_of_Canaan

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

Image in the Public Domain

The Call of God, Part III

JANUARY 25 and 26, 2021

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The Collect:

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

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

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 12:1-9 (Monday)

Genesis 45:25-46:7 (Tuesday)

Psalm 46 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 7:17-24 (Monday)

Acts 5:33-42 (Tuesday)

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The Lord of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

–Psalm 46:7, Common Worship (2000)

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 23, 2014 COMMON ERA

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

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLEMENT I OF ROME, BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF MIGUEL AUGUSTIN PRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

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

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Devotion for 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 25 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

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

Scrupulousness

JANUARY 25, 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 1:1-21/1:1-2:4

Psalm 86 (Morning)

Psalms 6 and 19 (Evening)

Romans 14:1-23

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

–Romans 14:20a, The New Jerusalem Bible

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TECHNICAL NOTE:

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 9, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DIETRICH BONHOEFFER, MARTYR AND GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

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

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Before a Bible Study   Leave a comment

Above:  An Old Family Bible

Image Source = David Ball

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God of glory,

as we prepare to study the Bible,

may we approach the texts with our minds open,

our intellects engaged,

and our spirits receptive to your leading,

so that we will understand them correctly

and derive from them the appropriate lessons.

Then may we act on those lessons.

For the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Amen.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 7, 2011 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF FRED KAAN, HYMNWRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN WOOLMAN, ABOLITIONIST

Posted October 7, 2011 by neatnik2009 in 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: Saturday, Year 2   10 comments

Above:  Jonathan and David (1642), by Davids Abschied von Jonathan

David Laments Saul and Jonathan

JANUARY 25, 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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2 Samuel 1:1-4, 11-12, 19-27 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

After the death of Saul, when David had returned from the slaughter of the Amalekites, David remained two days in Ziklag; and on the third day, behold, a man came from Saul’s camp, with his clothes torn and earth upon his head.  And when he came to David, he fell to the ground and did obesiance.  David said to him,

Where do you come from?

And he said to him,

I have escaped from the camp of Israel.

And David said to him,

How did it go?  Tell me.

And he answered,

The people have fled from the battle, and many of the people also have fallen and are dead; and Saul and his son Jonathan are also dead.

…(The visitor, an Amalekite resident alien, claims to have killed Saul at the king’s request before fleeing with the royal crown  and armlet.)…

Then David took hold of his clothes, and tore them; and so did all the men who were with him; and they mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and for Jonathan his son and for the people of the LORD and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.

…(David orders the execution of the Amalekite.)…

[And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and Jonathan…]

Your glory, O Israel, is slain upon your high places!

How are the mighty fallen!

Tell it not in Gath,

publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon;

lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice,

lest the daughters of the uncircumcised exult.

You mountains of Gilboa,

let there be no dew or rain upon you,

nor upsurging of the deep!

For there the shield of the mighty was defiled,

the shield of Saul, not anointed with oil.

From the blood of the slain,

from the fat of the mighty,

the bow of Jonathan turned not back,

and the sword of Saul returned not empty.

Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely!

In life and in death they were not divided;

they were swifter than eagles,

they were swifter than lions.

You daughters of Israel, weep over Saul,

who clothed you daintily in scarlet,

who put ornaments of gold upon your apparel.

How are the mighty fallen

in the midst of battle!

Jonathan lies slain upon your high places.

I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;

very pleasant have you been to me;

your love tome was wonderful,

passing the love of women.

How are the mighty fallen,

and the weapons of war perished!

Psalm 80:1-7 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock;

shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim.

2  In the presence of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh,

stir up your strength and come to help us.

3  Restore us, O God of hosts;

show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

4  O LORD God of hosts,

how long will you be angered

despite the prayers of your people?

5  You have fed them with the bread of tears;

you have given them bowls of tears to drink.

6 You have made us the derision of our neighbors,

and our enemies laugh us to scorn.

7  Restore us, O God of hosts;

show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

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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A Related Post:

Week of 2 Epiphany:  Saturday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/week-of-2-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

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Details matter, some more than others.  But it is sufficed to say that if one is mistaken about a preponderance of details (whether historical or literary or theological, etc.), one risks missing even the main point of what one is trying to say.  I am a history buff and a stickler for details, so I try to get as many details accurate as often as possible.  It is what I do, sometimes driving others inadvertently to fits of frustration with me.  C’est la vie.  

Using this approach, I consider 2 Samuel 1 and its immediate predecessor, 1 Samuel 31.  I accept neither Biblical inerrancy nor infallibility intellectually or as an article of my faith; I have read the book too closely for that.  Nevertheless, I do take the Bible quite seriously, try to keep my details straight, and endeavor not to imagine or manufacture a contradiction.  When I catch myself in error, I correct myself.  So know, O reader, that I have read 1 Samuel 31 and 2 Samuel 1 very closely and found no contradictions between them.

1 Samuel 31 tells us that King Saul and his forces fought Philistines at Mt. Gilboa, where Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua, sons of Saul died and the king suffered an injury.  Not wanting the Philistines to capture him alive, Saul, asked his armor-bearer to kill him with his sword.  When the armor-bearer declined to do this, Saul did it himself.  National humiliation followed, with Philistines decapitating Saul’s corpse, placing his armor in a pagan temple, and fastening his body to a wall.  Yet “valiant men” of Israel recovered the corpses of Saul and his sons then proceeded to burn them and bury the remains properly.

Now read the portion of Psalm 80 again.  It fits well after what I have just described.

So now we come to 2 Samuel 1.  An Amalekite resident alien carrying Saul’s crown and armlet wanders into David’s camp.  He reports accurately that Saul and Jonathan are dead then states that he killed Saul at the king’s request.  The Amalekite says this; there is no narrator’s voice confirming his account.  David takes the news badly, orders the execution of the Amalekite, and laments Saul and Jonathan.

There was at least one other living of Saul, however, for he, Ish-bosheth, became king in Saul’s place.  (See 2 Samuel 2:8-11.)  David’s rebellion continued.

(By the way, compare the accounts in the early chapters in 2 Samuel with those in 1 Chronicles 10 and 11.)

Saul and David had had a difficult relationship.  Saul, David’s father-in-law, had tried to kill him more than once.  Yet David had spared Saul’s life twice and ordered his men not to kill the king.  Saul, in David’s mind, was still “the anointed of the LORD.”

It is easy to understand why David mourned Jonathan, his brother-in-law and good friend, who had saved his life.

How prone are you and I to seek the best for our enemies and to mourn their passing?  I can speak only for myself; I need to work on that, by grace.

KRT

Week of 3 Epiphany: Monday, Year 1   16 comments

Above:  Bonfire

Image Source = Fir0002

Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

JANUARY 25, 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 9:15, 24-28 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred which redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant.

For Christ has entered , not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.  Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the Holy Place yearly with blood not his own; for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world.  But as it is, he has appeared once for all for the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.  And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly awaiting him.

Image Source = Raul654

Psalm 98 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Sing to the LORD a new song,

for he has done marvelous things.

2 With his right hand and his holy arm

has he won for himself the victory.

3 The LORD has made known his victory;

his righteousness has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.

4 He remembers his mercy and faithfulness to the house of Israel,

and all the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

5 Shout with joy to the LORD, all you lands;

lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing.

6 Sing to the LORD with the harp,

with the harp and the voice of song.

7 With trumpets and the sound of the horn

shout with joy before the King, the LORD.

8 Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it,

the lands and those who dwell therein.

9 Let the rivers clap their hands,

and let the hills ring out with joy before the LORD,

when he comes to judge the earth.

10 In righteousness shall he judge the world

and the peoples with equity.

Mark 3:19b-30 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Then he went home, and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat.  And when his friends heard it, they went out to seize him, for they said,

He is beside himself.

And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said,

He is possessed by Beelzebul, and by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.

And he called to him and said to them in parables,

How can Satan cast out Satan?  If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end.  But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man; then indeed he may plunder his house.

Truly I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”–for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.

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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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We humans like to judge each other.  Yet we have partial knowledge, so our judgments are prone to error, often of a severe nature.  God is the ultimate judge, however, and judgment belongs there properly.   We ought to demonstrate enough humility to recognize the limits of our knowledge and wisdom, and to leave judgment to God.

The Bible uses many metaphors for God.  Among these is “a consuming fire,” an image similar to representations of the Holy Spirit as tongues of flame.  With these facts in mind, I selected a Wikipedia image of a bonfire for this post.  The metaphor works on another level, too:  The unpardonable sin is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, and unpardonable sin leads to Hell, depicted also with flames.

So, what is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?  It is the inability to recognize goodness when a person sees it.  Thus one does not see one’s sin, and cannot ask pardon and repent of it.  So a person has erected a barrier between himself or herself and God.

Consider the context in Mark; scribes have attributed acts of God (and goodness) to Satan (and evil).  They were so spiritually blind that they could not bring themselves to recognize acts of mercy as such.  Perhaps they did this as psychological self-defense; often we humans see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear.  The possibility that we are wrong can prove devastating to our egos.  And, if we admit that we are wrong and act accordingly, we might endanger our livelihood and our social definition and standing.

But may we mere mortals refrain from proclaiming anyone as guilty of the unpardonable sin.  Such judgments reside properly within the purview of God alone.  Besides, I find that my own sins that I recognize as such keep me occupied; the sins of others are between them and God.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/05/blasphemy-against-the-holy-spirit/

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