Archive for the ‘Revised Common Lectionary Year A’ Category

Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A   21 comments

Above:  A Map of the Known World, According to Posidonius, dated 150-130 B.C.E.

“That salvation may reach to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6c, NRSV)

JANUARY 19, 2020

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Isaiah 49:1-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

Listen to me, O coastlands,

pay attention, you peoples from far away!

The LORD called me before I was born,

while I was still in my mother’s womb he named me.

He made my mouth like a sharp sword,

in the shadow of his hand he hid me;

he made me a polished arrow,

in his quiver he hid me away.

And he said to me,

You are my servant,

Israel, in whom I will be glorified.

But I said,

I have labored in vain,

I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;

yet surely my cause is with the LORD,

and my reward is with my God.

And now the LORD says,

who formed me in the womb to be his servant,

to bring Jacob back to him,

and that Israel might be gathered to him,

for I am honored in the sight of the LORD,

and my God has become my strength–

he says,

It is too light a thing that you should be my servant

to raise up the tribes of Jacob

and to restore the survivors of Israel;

I will give you as a light to the nations,

that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.

Thus says the LORD,

the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One,

to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations,

the slave of rulers.

Kings shall see and stand up,

princes, and they shall prostrate themselves,

because of the LORD, who is faithful,

the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.

Psalm 40:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

I waited patiently for the LORD;

he inclined his ear tome and heard my cry.

He drew me up from the desolate pit,

out of the miry bog,

and set my feet upon a rock,

making my steps secure.

He put a new song in my mouth,

a song of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear,

and put their trust in the LORD.

Happy are those who make

the LORD their trust,

who do no turn to the proud,

to those who go astray after false gods.

You have multipied, O LORD my God,

your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;

none can compare with you.

Were I to proclaim and tell of them,

they would be more than can be counted.

Sacrifice and offering you do not desire,

but you have given me an open ear.

Burnt offering and sin offering

you have not required.

Then I said,

Here I am;

in the scroll of the book it is written of me.

I delight to do your will, O my God;

your law is within my heart.

I have told the glad news of deliverance

int he great congregation;

see, I have not restrained my lips,

as you know, O LORD.

I have not hidden your saving help within my heart,

I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;

I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness

from the great congregation.

Do not, O LORD, withhold

your mercy from me;

let your steadfast love and your faithfulness

keep me safe forever.

For evils have encompassed me without number;

my iniquities have overtaken me,

until I cannot see;

they are more than the hairs of my head,

and my heart fails me.

1 Corinthians 1:1-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind– just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you– so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

John 1:29-42 (New Revised Standard Version):

John saw Jesus coming toward him and declared,

Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, “After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.

And John testified,

I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed,

Look, here is the Lamb of God!

The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them,

What are you looking for?

They said to him,

Rabbi

(which translated means Teacher),

where are you staying?

He said to them,

Come and see.

They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him,

We have found the Messiah

(which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said,

You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas

(which is translated Peter).

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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The reading from Deutero-Isaiah is the Second Servant Song.  Here the servant is the Jewish nation, still in exile, yet about to go home, albeit as part of the Persian Empire.  The soon-to-return Jews’ mission was to be a spiritual light to the nations.  Religious history records that Jewish monotheism (practiced, not merely preached) did not flower fully until after the return from Babylonian Exile, and that this flowering did not occur immediately.  But it did happen.  Monotheism is a great advance in religious thought.  (I make this statement while taking the risk of seeming like a theological chauvinist to some, but so be it.)

Just as God delivered a seemingly insignificant population and bestowed upon them the great responsibility of being a light to the nations, Jesus recognized much potential in an impetuous fisherman we know as St. Peter, or literally “rock.”  The Bible is honest about the heroes within its pages, portraying these individuals as flawed human beings.  So it is with St. Peter, who misunderstood and misspoke often, and even denied Jesus three times shortly before our Lord’s crucifixion.  Yet St. Peter became the leader of  the Apostles.  Through efforts such as those of this transformed fisherman the Christian message, which began with a few people, has become the largest faith system on the planet.

I remember the pianist at a church my father pastored when I was in high school.  Angela (not her real name) was deeply insecure, partially due to guilt over an indiscretion of a few years past.  I have no doubt that God had forgiven her, but she had not forgiven herself for her own weakness.  Angela said to me one Sunday morning that she had nothing to offer.  She was wrong, of course; she had much to offer that was beautiful and necessary.  She was no more or less flawed than any of us, than St. Peter or any of the exiled Jews awaiting return to a homeland in which they had never lived.

Maybe you, O reader, are not called to be a light to the nations.  Perhaps God has called you to be a light merely to your community.  But God has given you the great responsibility of being a positive influence and a light.  Do not hide it under a bushel.

KRT

Written on June 15, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/12/31/that-salvation-may-reach-to-the-ends-of-the-earth/

First Sunday after the Epiphany: The Baptism of Our Lord, Year A   26 comments

Above:  Bathabra, Israel:  Traditional Site of the Baptism of Jesus

Image Source = Producer

Jesus:  God Incarnate, Identifying with Us

JANUARY 12, 2020

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Isaiah 42:1-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

Here is my servant, whom I uphold,

my chosen, in whom my soul delights;

I have put my spirit upon him;

he will bring forth justice to the nations.

He will not cry or lift up his voice,

or make it heard in the street;

a bruised reed he will not break,

and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;

he will faithfully bring forth justice.

He will not grow faint or be crushed

until he has established justice in the earth;

and the coastlands wait for his teaching.

Thus says God, the LORD,

who created the heavens and stretched them out,

who spread out the earth and what comes from it,

who gives breath to the people upon it

and spirit to those who walk in it.

I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness,

I have taken you by the hand and kept you;

I have given you as a covenant to the people,

a light to the nations,

to open the eyes that are blind,

to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,

from the prison those who sit in darkness.

I am the LORD, that is my name;

my glory I give to no other,

nor my praise to idols.

See, the former things have come to pass,

and new things I now declare;

before they spring forth,

I tell you of them.

Psalm 29 (New Revised Standard Version):

Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings,

ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.

Ascribe to the LORD the glory of his name;

worship the LORD in holy splendor.

The voice of the LORD is over the waters;

the God of glory thunders,

the LORD, over mighty waters.

The voice of the LORD is powerful;

the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.

The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;

the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon.

He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,

and Sirion like a young wild ox.

The voice of the LORD flashes both flames of fire.

The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness;

the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

The voice of the LORD causes the oaks to whirl,

and strips the forest bare;

and in his temple all say, “Glory!”

The LORD sits enthroned over the flood;

the LORD sits enthroned as king forever.

May the LORD give strength to his people!

May the LORD bless his people with peace!

Acts 10:34-43 (New Revised Standard Version):

Then Peter began to speak to them:

I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ–he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.

Matthew 3:13-17 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying,

I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?

But Jesus answered him,

Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.

Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said,

This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom 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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Christian theology holds that Jesus was sinless.  (I accept this proposition as an article of faith.)  Considering that the baptism John the Baptist offered was an outward sign of repentance, and that sinless Jesus had no reason to repent, why did he insist on baptism?

Jesus identified with mere mortals.

The Incarnation signaled this, and Jesus’ baptism continued the theme.  Jesus, who had no sin, came to take all sin onto himself–to become sin near the end of the narrative of his earthly life.  But first he had identify with us in repentance.  There is a certain parallelism at work here.  And sinlessness did not lead to aloofness from sinful human beings.

This is the person we Christians understand to be the Son of God, our Lord and Savior.  He is worthy, indeed.

KRT

Written on June 8, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/jesus-god-incarnate-identifying-with-us/

Second Sunday after Christmas, Years A, B, and C   15 comments

Above:  Diocesan Confirmation, Cathedral of St. Philip, Atlanta, Georgia, December 13, 2009

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

A Glorious Inheritance

JANUARY 5, 2020

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Jeremiah 31:7-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

For thus says the LORD:

Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob,

and raise shouts for the chief of the nations;

proclaim, give praise, and say,

Save, O LORD, your people,

the remnant of Israel.

See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north,

and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,

among them the blind and the lame,

those with child and those in labor, together;

a great company, they shall return here.

With weeping they shall come,

and with consolations I shall lead them back.

I will let them walk by brooks of water,

in a straight path in which they shall not stumble;

I have become a father to Israel,

and Ephraim is my firstborn.

Hear the word of the LORD, O nations,

and declare it in the coastlands far away;

say,

He who scattered Israel will gather him,

and will keep him as a shepherd a flock.

For the LORD has ransomed Jacob,

and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.

They shall come and sing aloud on the heights of Zion,

and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the LORD,

over the grain, the wine, and the oil,

and over the young of the flock and the herd;

their life shall become like a watered garden,

and they shall never languish again.

Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,

and the young men and the old shall be merry.

I will turn their mourning into joy,

I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.

I will give the priests their fill of fatness,

and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty, says the LORD.

Psalm 84 (New Revised Standard Version):

How lovely is your dwelling place,

O LORD of hosts!

My soul longs, indeed it faints

for the courts of the LORD;

my heart and my flesh sing for joy

to the living God.

Even the sparrow finds a home,

and the swallow a nest for herself,

where she may lay her young,

at your altars, O LORD of hosts,

my King and my God.

Happy are those who live in your house,

ever singing your praise.

Happy are those whose strength is in you,

in whose heart are the highways to Zion.

As they go through the valley of Baca

they make it a place of springs;

the early rain also covers it with pools.

They go from strength to strength;

the God of gods will be seen in Zion.

O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;

give ear, O God of Jacob!

Behold our shield, O God;

look on the face of your anointed.

For a day in your courts is better

than a thousand elsewhere.

I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God

than live in the tents of wickedness.

For the LORD God is a sun and shield;

he bestows favor and honor.

No good thing does the LORD withhold

from those who walk uprightly.

O LORD of hosts,

happy is everyone who trusts in you.

Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-19a (New Revised Standard Version):

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe.

Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now after the wise men had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,

Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.

Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet,

Out of Egypt I have called my son.

When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said,

Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.

Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled,

He will be called a Nazorean.

OR

Luke 2:41-52 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now the parents of Jesus went to Jerusalem every year for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him,

Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.

He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.

OR

Matthew 2:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking,

Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.

When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him,

In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

“And you, Bethlehem, in the Land of Judah,

are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for from you shall come a ruler

who is to shepherd my people Israel.”

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying,

Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.

When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

The Collect:

O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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“What is your favorite psalm?”  Someone might have asked you this question.  Among the usual suspects are 23, 100, and 150, which excessive repetition have rendered cliche in my mind.  So, when I began to ponder the question of my favorite psalm, I considered other parts of that book of poetry.  Once Psalm 121 was my favorite, but 84 has taken that place.

Psalm 84 is a hymn of adoration to God which expresses a desire to become closer to God.  This is the one God who allowed the Babylonian Exile to occur, engineered the return of exiles, and arranged for the Incarnation, by which we have access to adoption into the family of God.  This grace is staggering, and worthy of praise in words and deeds.

The details of the Christian vocation vary from person to person, according to a variety of circumstances.  Yet the guiding principle is constant across the board:  we are called to enjoy and glorify God, to follow Jesus.  Following is active, not merely intellectual or emotional.  Jesus loved us with everything he was and had; we have a mandate to follow that example.  Too often certain people (from Crusaders to Ku Klux Klan members) have used the cross as a symbol of hate, but divine actions have transformed the cross into a symbol of ultimate love.  And what shows love more than self-sacrifice?

The beauty of holiness is both aesthetic and intangible.  May we seek and find both.

KRT

Written on June 7, 2010

Eighth Day of Christmas: The Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus (January 1)   11 comments

Above:  Variations of the Name Yeshua in Hebrew

At the Name of Jesus….

JANUARY 1, 2020

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Numbers 6:22-27 (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:  Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying,

Thus you shall bless the Israelites.  You shall say to them,

“The LORD bless you and keep you;

the LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;

the LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

So they shall put my name on the Israelites, I will bless them.”

Psalm 8 (New Revised Standard Version):

O LORD, our Sovereign,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.

Out of the mouths of babes and infants

you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,

to silence the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars that you have established;

what are human beings that you are mindful of them,

mortals that you care for them?

Yet you have made them a little lower than God,

and crowned them with glory and honor.

You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;

you have put all things under their feet,

all sheep and oxen,

and also the beasts of the field,

the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,

whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O LORD, our Sovereign,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Galatians 4:4-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying,

Abba! Father!

So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.

OR

Philippians 2:5-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,

did not regard equality with God

as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself,

taking the form of a slave,

being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,

he humbled himself

and became obedient to the point of death–

even death on the cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him

and gave him the name

that is above every name,

so that at the name of Jesus

every knee should bend,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue should confess

that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.

THEN

Luke 2:15-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another,

Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.

So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

The Collect:

Father, you gave to your incarnate Son the holy name of Jesus to be the sign of our salvation: Plant in every heart, we pray, the love of him who is the Savior of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

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The Law of Moses required the circumcision of a male child eight days after his birth.  This event became a happy occasion, a time for friends and family members of the parents to gather and for the naming of the child.  Joseph and Mary obeyed this commandment.  And so it is no accident that the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus falls on the Eighth Day of Christmas.

In Western Christianity the observation of the Circumcision/Holy Name of Jesus dates to the early centuries of the faith, when Christianity competed with pagan festivities around New Year.  In 567 the Council of Tours established this feast for that purpose.

The Hebrew name “Yeshua,” which comes into English indirectly as Jesus, is literally Joshua, or “Yahweh is salvation.”  This confession lies at the heart of Christian faith, in which my parents raised me and in which I have chosen to remain.  I have made this confession at baptism, confirmation, and two reaffirmations, not to mention numerous baptismal liturgies for others.  And I repeat it here.

KRT

Written on June 6, 2010

First Sunday after Christmas, Years A, B, and C   23 comments

Above:  Christ the Sun Mosaic, the Vatican

The Logos of God

DECEMBER 29, 2019

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Isaiah 61:10-62:3 (New Revised Standard Version):

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD,

my whole being shall exult in my God;

for he has clothed me with the garment of salvation,

has covered me with the robe of righteousness,

as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,

and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

For as the earth brings forth its shoots,

and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,

so the LORD God will cause righteousness and praise

to spring up before all nations.

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,

and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest,

until her vindication shines out like the dawn,

and her salvation like a burning torch.

The nations shall see your vindication,

and all the kings your glory;

and you shall be called by a new name

that the mouth of the LORD will give.

You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD,

and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

Psalm 147:12-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem!

Praise your God, O Zion!

For he strengthens the bars of your gates;

he blesses your children within you.

He grants peace within your borders;

he fills you with the finest of wheat.

He sends out his command to the earth;

his word runs swiftly.

He gives snow like wool;

he scatters frost like ashes.

He hurls down hail like crumbs–

who can stand before his cold?

He sends out his word, and melts them;

he makes his wind blow, and the waters flow.

He declares his word to Jacob,

his statutes and ordinances to Israel.

He has not dealt thus with any other nation;

they do not know his ordinances.

Praise the LORD!

Galatians 3:23-25; 4:4-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian.

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying,

Abba! Father!

So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.

John 1:1-18 (New Revised Standard Version):

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out,

This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.”)

From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

The Collect:

Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The prologue to the Gospel of John speaks (in Greek) of Jesus as the Logos (Word, in English) of God.  Embedded within this idea is that grace and nature are not separate.  Nature owes its existence to grace, and nature can be a means of grace.  Furthermore, nature is a form of grace.

The Enlightenment was a wonderful corrective to abuses and excesses of the ages preceding it.  So let nobody give short shrift to the Enlightenment.  Yet this era, like all epochs, contained certain excesses and errors of its own.  Among these was Deism, the idea that God is like a watchmaker.  The watchmaker puts the watch together and winds it up, then leaves it alone.  In contrast, the doctrine of the Logos indicates a God active in nature and our lives up to the present, and presumably well into the future.  These dealings are for purpose of helping us find our proper equilibrium relative to God, and therefore to enjoy and glorify God.  The love in this relationship should be mutual.  That, at least, is the ideal.  We, abusing or misusing our free will, however, make decisions which sabotage this plan.

So may we reciprocate the love God extends to us.

KRT

Written on June 5, 2010

First Day of Christmas: Christmas Day   27 comments

Above:  The Traditional Site of the Birth of Jesus, at the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, Israel

Love Descended

DECEMBER 25, 2019

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The Collect:

O God, you make us glad by the yearly festival of the birth of your only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that we, who joyfully receive him as our Redeemer, may with sure confidence behold him when he comes to be our Judge; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The Revised Common Lectionary lists three sets of readings for Christmas Day.

Set One:

Isaiah 9:2-7

Psalm 96

Titus 2:11-14

Luke 2:1-14, (15-20)

Set Two:

Isaiah 62:6-12

Psalm 97

Titus 3:4-7

Luke 2:(1-7), 8-20

Set Three:

Isaiah 52:7-10

Psalm 98

Hebrews 1:1-4, (5-12)

John 1:1-14

I choose to list the scriptural citations for Christmas Day and proceed to my thoughts.

Part One:

December 25 is the first day of Christmas; January 5 is the last.  There are twelve days of Christmas.  So I encourage everyone to think in terms of this sacred time, not commercial time.  I live in North America, where many retailers put out their Christmas displays before Halloween.  History tells me that many Evangelicals over time have either ignored Christmas (as too Roman Catholic) or preferred it as a secular, commercial celebration of the family, or complained about excessive commercialization.  (They have correct in this matter only in the last example.  For more details, follow this link.

So I hope you, O reader, will keep a sacred Christmas season without falling into crankiness about crass commercialism.  Life is too short to be habitually irritated.  Let us enjoy God instead.

I refer you also to this post.

Part Two:

We bore the image of God yet disregarded God, gave God inadequate attention, mistreated each other, institutionalized injustice, and misunderstood divine demands.

So God spoke through the Prophets.

Yet we persisted in our misguided ways.

So Love descended, became one of us (yet much more), and demonstrated righteousness.

We murdered Love.

Yet God raised Love from the dead.

We persist in our misguided ways.

And God is still speaking.

Are we listening?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 4, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN XXIII, BISHOP OF ROME

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/11/26/love-descended/

Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year A   35 comments

Above:  King Ahaz

Emmanuel:  God is With Us, and We Need to Be With God

DECEMBER 22, 2019

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Isaiah 7:10-16 (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying,

Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.

But Ahaz said,

I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.

Then Isaiah said:

Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19 (New Revised Standard Version):

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,

you who lead Joseph like a flock!

You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth

before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.

Stir up your might,

and come to save us!

Restore us, O God;

let your face shine, that we may be saved.

O LORD God of hosts,

how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?

You have fed them with the bread of tears,

and given them tears to drink in full measure.

You make us the scorn of our neighbors;

our enemies laugh among themselves.

Restore us, O God of hosts;

let your face sine, that we may be saved.

But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand,

the one whom you made strong for yourself.

Then we will never turn back from you;

give us life, and we will call on your name.

Restore us, O LORD God of hosts;

let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Romans 1:1-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Matthew 1:18-25 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,

Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,

and they shall name him Emmanuel,”

which means,

“God is with us.”

When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

The Collect:

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Here is the historical background of the reading from Isaiah:

The Kings of Aram (or Syria) and Israel (the northern Hebrew kingdom) planned to create an alliance of states to oppose the Assyrian Empire, a major power in 735 B.C.E.  When King Ahaz of Judah did not join this effort the forces of Aram and Israel attempted to overthrow him and to place a more compliant monarch on the throne.  This situation concerned Ahaz (understandably so), and he turned to Assyria, not God, for protection.  Ahaz put on airs of righteousness, making a show of not asking God for a sign.  Yet, as Isaiah stated, God would send a sign anyway.  An almah, or young woman of marriageable age (married or not, virgin or not left undefined) would give birth to a healthy baby boy, and the kingdom would be out of immediate danger by the time the child could able to “reject the bad and choose the good.”

Thus the birth of a child became a sign of deliverance from certain death.

Confronting and dealing with Assyria was foolish.  The Assyrian Empire conquered Aram, deprived Israel of much territory, and made Judah a dependency.  Trusting in God would have been a better choice.

That is a timeless lesson.

KRT
Written on June 2, 2010.

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/emmanuel-god-is-with-us-and-we-need-to-be-with-god/