Archive for the ‘1 John 2’ Tag

Devotion for the Epiphany (Year D)   1 comment

Votive Candles

Above:  Statue of Jesus with Votice Candles Baltimore Basilica, Baltimore, Maryland, by Carol Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-16721

The Light of Christ

JANUARY 6, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Deuteronomy 4:(9) 10-24 (25-31) 32-40

Psalm 75 or 76

John 5:31-47

1 John 2:3-29

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We give thanks to you, O God;

we give thanks; your name is near.

People tell of your wondrous deeds.

–Psalm 75:1, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Glorious are you, more majestic than the everlasting mountains.

–Psalm 76:4, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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One should read Deuteronomy 4 in the knowledge that someone wrote it long after the time of Moses then placed it in the great man’s mouth.  Thus one will read that text while knowing what the real audience is a later generation of Hebrews.  “Learn from the past and refrain from repeating those mistakes,” the text really says.  Unfortunately, as we know, that message fell mostly on deaf ears, and the negative consequences of actions ensued.

Rejection of Jesus occupies the readings from John and 1 John.  In John 5 Jesus was speaking to a hostile Jewish audience.  Nevertheless, as in Deuteronomy 4, the text came from a later time and the actual audience was contemporary to the time of composition.  The text still challenges audiences.  Do we rest on our spiritual laurels while lacking the love of God in ourselves?  If we have the love of God in ourselves, we will act on it with regard to others.  We will seek their best and have compassion for them.  We will, to cite 1 John 2, keep the commandments of Jesus.  If they seem new, we have not been paying (sufficient) attention, for they are old.

Whoever claims to be in light

but hates his brother

is still in darkness.

Anyone who loves his brother remains in light

and there is in him nothing to make him fall away.

But whoever hates his brother is in darkness

and is walking about in darkness

not knowing where he is going,

because darkness has blinded him.

–1 John 2:9-11, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

The Feast of the Epiphany is about the light of Christ shining among Gentiles.  May we who bear that light do so as effectively as possible, by grace.  May we glorify and enjoy God forever, and thereby inspire others to do the same.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 2, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM OF ROSKILDE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF NEW GUINEA

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/09/02/the-light-of-christ-2/

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

Finding of the Silver Cup

Above:  Finding of the Silver Cup

Image in the Public Domain

Free to Serve God, Part I

FEBRUARY 21, 22, and 23, 2019

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The Collect:

O Lord Jesus, make us instruments of your peace,

that where there is hatred, we may sow love,

where there is injury, pardon,

where there is despair, hope.

Grant, O divine master, that we may seek

to console, to understand, and to love in your name,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 25

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 43:16-34 (Thursday)

Genesis 44:1-17 (Friday)

Genesis 44:18-34 (Saturday)

Psalm 37:1-11, 39-40 (All Days)

Romans 8:1-11 (Thursday)

1 John 2:12-17 (Friday)

Luke 12:57-59 (Saturday)

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If anyone had a legitimate reason to harbor resentment, Joseph son of Jacob did.  Siblings had, out of jealousy of him and annoyance with him (he was an insufferable brat for a while), faked his death and sold him into slavery.  Joseph had also spent years in prison for a crime he had not committed.  Decades later, when he had a position in the Egyptian government, Joseph had an opportunity to take revenge.  As one reads in Genesis 45, he chose to do otherwise.

One theme in the pericope from Romans 8 is liberation by God from the power of sin (yet not the struggle with sin) to serve and obey God, to pursue spiritual purposes.  The reading from 1 John, with its warning against loving the world, fits well with that passage.  That caution is not a call for serial Christian contrariness.  No, St. Augustine of Hippo understood the passage well.  He asked,

Why should I not love what God has made?

The great theologian answered his own question this way:

God does not forbid one to love these things but to love them to the point of finding one’s beatitude in them.

–Quoted in Raymond E. Brown, The Epistles of John (1982), pages 324-325

The quest for selfish gain, a theme extant in more than one of the readings for these days, is a journey toward harm of others and of oneself.  That which we do to others, we do also to ourselves.  There might be a delayed delivery of “what comes around, goes around,” but the proverbial cows will come home.  It is better to seek the common god and to forgo vengeance, to retire grudges and to build up one’s society, community, and congregation.  One can do that while loving the world, but not to the point of, in the words of St. Augustine of Hippo, finding one’s benediction in it.  No, we should find one’s benediction in God alone.  As we read in Psalm 27:7-9 (The Book of Common Prayer, 1979):

Be still before the LORD

and wait patiently for him.

Do not fret yourself over the one who prospers,

the one who succeeds in evil schemes.

Refrain from anger, leave rage alone;

do not fret yourself; it leads only to evil.

Here ends the lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CAMPBELL AINGER, ENGLISH EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT AEDESIUS, PRIEST AND MISSIONARY; AND SAINT FRUDENTIUS, FIRST BISHOP OF AXUM AND ABUNA OF THE ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHEDO CHURCH

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH GRIGG, ENGLISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/10/27/free-to-serve-god-part-i/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Sixth Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

11786v

Above:  Herod’s Temple

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-11786

Active and Effective Love for Each Other

FEBRUARY 13-15, 2020

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The Collect:

O God, the strength of all who hope in you,

because we are weak mortals we accomplish nothing without you.

Help us to see and understand the things we ought to do,

and give us grace and power to do them,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 26:1-15 (Thursday)

Leviticus 26:34-46 (Friday)

Deuteronomy 30:1-91 (Saturday)

Psalm 119:1-8 (all days)

James 1:12-16 (Thursday)

1 John 2:7-17 (Friday)

Matthew 15:1-9 (Saturday)

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You laid down your commandments,

that we should fully keep them.

–Psalm 119:4, Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006)

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These readings contain much sage advice:

  1. Obey God’s laws, whether or not one lives among foreigners with different religions and customs.
  2. Love one’s fellow human beings actively and effectively, trusting in the power of God to enable one to do this.
  3. Do not use God and/or religion to to cover up or to attempt to cover up one’s own perfidy.

The latter point requires some explanation.  Korban was a custom by which one gave money to the religious establishment for the support of the professional religious people there.  Many people used this practice to deprive their relatives of necesssary funds while looking pious.  And many Temple officials knew it.  Thus religion became a means of circumventing a basic ethic of the Law of Moses:

Honor your father and your mother.

In other words, motives mattered.  They still do.

Ethics are concrete, not abstract.  Since we human beings live in communities, our actions and inactions affect each other.  Our actions and inactions flow from our attitudes.  Thus how we think of each other matters greatly.  Do we value each other or do we seek ways to exploit and/or deprive each other?  Which people do we think of as our neighbors?

May we not use the letter of the law to the cover up or to attempt to cover up violations of its spirit.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 18, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUKE THE EVANGELIST, PHYSICIAN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/10/18/active-and-effective-love-for-each-other/

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Devotion for December 8 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   8 comments

Above:  Second Coming Icon

Good News for the Righteous

DECEMBER 8, 2020

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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:

Isaiah 24:14-25:12

Psalm 90 (Morning)

Psalms 80 and 72 (Evening)

1 John 2:15-29

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The future judgment continues in Isaiah 24:14-25:12.  Not only will the wicked face destruction, but the righteous will survive and God will destroy death itself.  Amid judgement for some, one who is righteous will find good news.

1 John exists in the context of the expectation of the imminent return of Christ.  Most of this day’s reading from 1 John 2 consists of a warning not to follow Antichrists.  It is appropriate to read such texts during Advent, the time of preparation for Christmas.  ‘Tis the season for apocalyptic lections.

The righteous, both lessons tell us, must remain so.  And they who obey God will find God faithful to them.  These are words of comfort for the upright.  May you, O reader, and I be among their number until our ends.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 10, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN ROBERTS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF THOMAS MERTON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MONK

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/08/05/good-news-for-the-righteous/

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Devotion for December 7 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

Above:  Christ Pantocrator, Looking Unhappy

The Imperative of Acting Compassionately

DECEMBER 7, 2020

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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:

Isaiah 24:1-13

Psalm 102 (Morning)

Psalms 130 and 16 (Evening)

1 John 1:-2:14

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A Related Post:

A Prayer for Compassion:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/a-prayer-for-compassion/

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In this way we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.

–1 John 2:3, The New Jerusalem Bible

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What is the test of holiness?

Isaiah 24 speaks of an undated, future doom people will bring upon themselves by violating the Law of Moses.  1 John places obedience and disobedience in the context of Jesus, who has fulfilled the Law.  If we love Jesus, we will keep his commandments.  The summary of his teachings and lived example is compassion.  We must identify with others as best we can and seek their good.  Any economic or legal system which bases one person’s improvement upon the detriment of another or others is inherently sinful.  And such systems thrive today.

I know what Jesus would say about them.

Any religious system which teaches hatred instead of compassion as a virtue in inherently sinful.  One need not restrict the list of examples to jihads, Crusades, and excuses for racism.  Such religious systems thrive today.

I know what Jesus would say about them.

For that matter, I know what St. John the Baptist would say about them:

You brood of vipers!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 10, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN ROBERTS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF THOMAS MERTON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MONK

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/08/05/the-imperative-of-acting-compassionately/

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Ninth Day of Christmas   8 comments

Above:  River Jordan Postcard

The Humility of John the Baptist

JANUARY 2, 2021

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1 John 2:22-29 (New Jerusalem Bible):

Who is the liar,

if not one who claims that Jesus is not the Christ?

This is the Antichrist,

who denies both the Father and the Son.

Whoever denies the Son cannot have the Father either;

whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father, too.

Let what you heard in the beginning remain in you;

as long as what you heard in the beginning remains in you,

you will remain in the Son

and in the Father.

And the promise he made you himself

is eternal life.

So much have I written to you

about those who are trying to lead you astray.

But as for you, the anointing you received from him

remains in you,

and you do not need anyone to teach you;

since the anointing he gave you teaches you everything,

and since it is true, not false,

remain in him just as he has taught you.

Therefore remain in him now, children,

so that when he appears we may be fearless,

and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.

If you know that he is upright

you must recognize that everyone whose life is upright

is a child of his.

Psalm 98:1-4 (New Jerusalem Bible):

Sing a new song to Yahweh,

for he has performed wonders,

his saving power is in his right hand and his holy arm.

Yahweh has made known his saving power,

revealed his saving justice for the nations to see,

mindful of his faithful love and his constancy to the House of Israel.

The whole wide world has seen

the saving power of our God.

Acclaim Yahweh, all the earth,

burst into shouts of joy!

John 1:19-28 (New Jerusalem Bible):

This was the witness of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him,

Who are you?

He declared, he did not deny, but declared,

I am not the Christ.

So they asked him,

Then are you Elijah?

He replied,

I am not.

They asked him,

Are you the Prophet?

He answered,

No.

So they said to him,

Who are you? We must take back the answer to those who sent us.  What have you to say about yourself?”

So he said,

I am, as Isaiah prophesied:

“A voice of one that cries in the desert;

Prepare a way for the Lord.

Make his paths straight!”

Now those who had been sent were Pharisees, and they put this question to him,

Why are you baptizing if you are not the Christ, and not Elijah, and not the Prophet?

John answered them,

I baptize with water; but standing among you–unknown to you–is the one who is coming after me; and I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandal.

This happened at Bethany, where John was baptizing.

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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John the Baptist was a great prophet and servant of God.  Jesus, his cousin, said so.  Certainly, John’s lifestyle and fiery rhetoric attracted much attention.  I suspect that he could have given any answer to the questions in the reading from the Fourth Gospel and some people would have believed him.  John the Baptist could have built himself up, and those who listened to him would not have known that he would have been lying.

Yet John the Baptist told the truth, which was that he was the forerunner of the Messiah.  John pointed to another, Jesus.  So should we.  John lived according to humility, or knowing who he was in relation to God.  So should we.

KRT

Written on June 7, 2010

Seventh Day of Christmas   8 comments

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Jesus is the Truth

DECEMBER 31, 2020

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1 John 2:18-21 (New Jerusalem Bible):

Children, this is the final hour;

you have heard that the Antichrist is coming,

and now many Antichrists have already come;

from this we know that it is the final hour.

They have gone from among us,

but they never really belonged to us;

if they had belonged to us, they would have stayed with us.

But this was to prove

that not one of them belonged to us.

But you have been anointed by the Holy One,

and have all received knowledge.

I have written to you

not because you are ignorant of the truth,

but because you are well aware of it,

and because no lie can come from the truth.

Psalm 96:1-3, 11-13 (New Jerusalem Bible):

Sing a new song to Yahweh!

Sing to Yahweh, all the earth!

Sing to Yahweh, bless his name!

Proclaim his salvation day after day,

declare his glory among the nations,

his marvels to every people!

Let the heavens rejoice and earth be glad!

Let the sea thunder, and all it holds!

Let the countryside exult, and all that is in it,

and all the trees of the forest cry out for joy,

at Yahweh’s approach, for he is coming,

coming to judge the earth;

he will judge the world with saving justice,

and the nations with constancy.

John 1:1-18 (New Jerusalem Bible):

In the beginning was the Word:

the Word was with God

and the Word was God.

He was with God in the beginning.

Through him all things came into being,

not one thing came into being except through him.

What has come into being in him was life,

life that was the light of men;

and light shines in the darkness,

and darkness could not overpower it.

A man came, sent by God.

His name was John.

He came as a witness,

to bear witness to the light,

so that everyone might believe through him.

He was not the light,

he was to bear witness to the light.

The Word was the real light

that gives light to everyone;

he was coming into the world.

He was in the world

that had come into being through him,

and the world did not recognize him.

He came into his own

and his own people did not accept him.

But to those who did accept him

he gave power to become children of God,

to those who believed in his name

who were born not from human stock

or human desire

or human will

but from God himself.

The Word became flesh,

he lived among us,

and we saw his glory,

the glory that he has from the Father as only Son of the Father,

full of grace and truth.

John witnesses to him.  He proclaims:

This is the one of whom I said:

He who comes after me

has passed ahead of me

because he existed before me.

Indeed, from his fullness we have, all of us, received–

one gift replacing another,

for the Law was given through Moses,

grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ.

No one has seen God;

it is 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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In the middle 1990s, when preparing a homily on the line, “What is truth?” (The Gospel of John quoting Pontius Pilate), I consulted a scholarly, multi-volume Bible dictionary in the library at Valdosta State University.  The Greek word translated as “truth” indicated reliability, as distinct from accuracy, I learned.  (Indeed, a technically accurate statement can be misleading, so reliability is the greater goal.  And a myth, although not historically or scientifically accurate, can teach profound truth.  Witness the opening of Genesis, which contains great truths about human nature and divine nature, but is neither history nor science.)

So hopefully my meaning will be clear when I state plainly that Jesus is the truth.  This is a devotion for the heart of the Season after Christmas, a time rooted in the incarnation of God in the form of Jesus, fully human and fully divine.  The teachings of Jesus are reliable and his life backs them up.  Attempts (often in the name of organized religion) to domesticate Jesus have not obscured completely his essence.  He was a challenging person.  Indeed, someone with his CV would have great difficulty become the pastor of certain congregations.  Yet he was–and is–the Master.

By human standards Jesus was a failure.  He was often at odds with the religious establishment.  The secular authorities executed him as a bandit–a threat to national security, if you will.  (The quest to maintain national security entails a variety of sins when it involves stomping on people unjustly.)  Yet Jesus was not a failure, obviously.  So what does this say about human standards of success?

KRT

Written on June 6, 2010

Sixth Day of Christmas   9 comments

Jesus Mosaic, Ravenna, Italy

Unity Through Jesus

DECEMBER 30, 2020

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1 John 2:12-17 (New Jerusalem Bible):

I am writing to you, children,

because your sins have been forgiven through his name.

I am writing to you, fathers,

because you have come to know the One who has existed since the beginning.

I am writing to you, young people,

because you have overcome the Evil One.

I have written to you, children,

because you have come to know the Father.

I have written to you, parents,

because you have come to know the One who has existed since the beginning.

I have written to you, young people,

because you are strong,

and God’s word remains in you,

and you have overcome the Evil One.

Do not love the world

or what is in the world.

If anyone does love the world,

the love of the Father finds no peace in him,

because everything there is in the world–

disordered bodily desires,

disordered desires of the eyes,

pride in possession–

is not from the Father

but is from the world.

And the world, with all its disordered desires,

is passing away.

But whoever does the will of God

remains for ever.

Psalm 96:10-13 (New Jerusalem Bible):

Say among the nations,

Yahweh is king.

The world is set firm, it cannot be moved.

He will judge the nations with justice.

Let the heavens rejoice and earth be glad!

Let the sea thunder, and all it holds!

Let the countryside exult, and all that is in it,

and all the trees of the forest cry out for joy,

at Yahweh’s approach, for he is coming,

coming to judge the earth;

he will judge the world with saving justice,

and the nations with constancy.

Luke 2:36-40 (New Jerusalem Bible):

There was a prophetess, too, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.  She was well on in years.  Her days of girlhood over, she had been married seven years before becoming a widow.  She was now eighty-four years old and never left the Temple, serving God day and night with fasting and prayer.  She came up just at the moment and began to praise God; and she spoke of the child [Jesus] to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.

When they [Mary and Joseph] had done everything the Law of the Lord required, they went back to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.  And as the child grew to maturity, he was filled with wisdom; and God’s favour was with him.

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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John wrote to a congregation split by theological arguments, almost certainly involving proto-Gnosticism, which is inherently not Christian.  He encouraged the faithful Church members, making the connection between their struggles and cosmic spiritual strife.

I have grown up in a series of congregations, for I am a recovering “Preacher’s Kid.”  Life has taught me that congregations attract dysfunctional personalities with egos either too small or too large.  (One needs to look out for and avoid these control freaks who weaken churches!)  And I have learned that others (the sincerely wrong) want to maintain their congregation and/or denomination as a kind of memorial society and theological/liturgical museum.  So, in the case of my adopted Episcopal Church, Prayer Book revision can lead to great strife because it involves change.  The type of change does not matter to some; the fact of change itself is enough to set them off.

Perhaps the most frequent idol is false certainty, whether to the Left or to the Right.  Jesus of Nazareth (the historical person) was profoundly disturbing–sufficiently so that he scandalized respectable religious people and attracted the unwelcome attention of the Roman imperial leadership.  As I read the Gospels, taking them seriously, I detect teachings of Jesus which unsettle me (a self-respecting liberal) and contradict what I hear from many self-professed Conservative Christians.  My spiritual discipline involves humility, especially in the face of the teachings of my Lord and Savior.  Jesus was he was and is who he is, not who I want him to have been and to be.  If I cannot deal with that, I have a grave spiritual problem.

And I admit that those who disagree with me might be correct, at least partially.  I have, in fact, changed my mind more than once.  So I have not always agreed with myself.  When I attend Church I do so in the presence of people to my Left and to my Right theologically and politically, and I know that they are good Christians, too.  We have unity through Jesus.

So, despite my willingness (even eagerness) to defend what I believe, I know the difference between a major disagreement and a minor one.  And I prefer not to argue about minor points.  I want to focus on unity through Jesus.

KRT

Written on June 6, 2010

Fifth Day of Christmas   10 comments

Above:  Johann Sebastian Bach

Foreboding Foreshadowing

DECEMBER 29, 2020

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1 John 2:7-11 (New Jerusalem Bible):

My dear friends,

this is not a new commandment I am writing to you,

but an old commandment

that you have had from the beginning;

the old commandment is the message you have heard.

Yet in another way, I am writing a new commandment for you

–and this is true for you, just as much for him–

for darkness is passing away

and the true light is already shining.

Whoever claims to be in light

but hates his brother

is still in darkness.

Anyone who loves his brother remains in light

and there is in him nothing to make him fall away.

But whoever hates his brother is in darkness

and is walking about in darkness

not knowing where he is going,

because darkness has blinded him.

Psalm 96:1-9 (New Jerusalem Bible):

Sing a new song to Yahweh!

Sing to Yahweh, all the earth!

Sing to Yahweh, bless his name!

Proclaim his salvation day after day,

declare his glory among the nations,

his marvels to every people!

Great is Yahweh, worthy of all praise,

more awesome than any of the gods.

All the gods of the nations are idols!

It was Yahweh, who made the heavens;

in his presence are splendour and majesty,

in his sanctuary power and beauty.

Give to Yahweh, families of nations,

give to Yahweh glory and power,

give to Yahweh the glory due to his name!

Bring an offering and enter his courts,

adore Yahweh in the splendour of his holiness.

Tremble before him, all the nations.

Luke 2:22-35 (New Jerusalem Bible):

And when the day came for them [Mary and Joseph] to be purified in keeping with the Law of Moses, they took him [Jesus] up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord–observing what is written in the Law of the Lord:

Every first-born male must be consecrated to the Lord

–and also to offer in sacrifice, in accordance with what is prescribed in the Law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.  Now in Jerusalem there was a man named Simeon.  He was an upright and devout man; he looked forward to the restoration of Israel and the Holy Spirit rested on him.  It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death until he had set eyes on the Christ of the Lord.  Prompted by the Spirit he came to the Temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do what the Law required,he took him into his arms and blessed God; and he said:

Now, Master, you are letting your servant go in peace

as you promised;

for my eyes have seen the salvation

which you have made ready in the sight of the nations;

a light of revelation for the gentiles

and glory for your people Israel.

As the child’s father and mother were wondering at the things that were being said about him, Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,

Look, he is destined for the fall and for the rise of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is opposed–and a sword will pierce your soul too–so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.

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 readings for December 25, the First Day of Christmas, were joyous.  The lectionary took a turn to include the major feasts of Saint Stephen (December 26) and St. John the Apostle (December 27) before coming to major feast of the Holy Innocents (December 28).  There the dark foreshadowing of the death of Jesus began with the deaths of innocent children whose sole offense was to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The Episcopal lectionary readings for December 29, the Fifth Day of Christmas, extend that foreshadowing to Jesus himself.  The elderly priest Simeon tells Mary that a sword will pierce her heart.  Jesus will die because of who he is.  Yet he will be innocent of any offense.  That is disturbing news indeed, especially so close to birth.

Yet there is good news:  resurrection followed death.

The authors of the canonical Gospels knew how the story ended before they began writing.  And each of them wrote with a specific thesis in mind.  Thus they selected the details which supported each thesis, thereby focusing each Gospel nicely.  This was just good composition.  So it is that early in Luke’s Gospel we read foreshadowing of the death of Jesus.

David Emory Stooksbury, a faithful Episcopalian and the State Climatologist of Georgia, grew up (United) Methodist, as I did.  He brought to my attention the fact the 1965 Methodist Hymnal provides the option of singing “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” and “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” to the same tune:  Easter Hymn, from Lyra Davidica (1708).  The Christmas-Easter link becomes explicit if one sings the two hymns back-to-back, as if they are one hymn.

And Johann Sebastian Bach incorporated the Passion Chorale (“O Sacred Head, Sore Wounded”) into his Christmas Oratorio.  The great Lutheran composer understood the link between the birth of Jesus and the death of Jesus.   This is why he was born, Bach was saying.

This is why Jesus was born.  Let us remember that, then proceed to the Resurrection.

KRT

Written on June 5, 2010