Archive for the ‘1 John 4’ Tag

Devotion for the Second Sunday After Christmas (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:   A Checklist

Image in the Public Domain

Compassion, Not Checklists

JANUARY 5, 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 life,

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Isaiah 57:14-19

Psalm 106:47-48

1 John 3:11-14a; 4:1-6

Luke 1:1-4

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The assigned readings for this Sunday, taken together, speak of the importance of knowing God.  Those who love God keep divine commandments, or at least attempt to do so.  One can succeed by grace, fortunately.  The faithful who receive the crown of martyrdom are still more fortunate than those who trust in idols.

Discerning divine commandments does seem difficult sometimes.  As I read 1 John 3:14b-24, I find some guidance regarding that topic:

  1. Do not hate.
  2. Love each other so much as to be willing to die for each other.
  3. Help each other in financial and material ways.
  4. Do not mistake lip service for sincerity.

Those instructions are concrete, not abstract.  And, by acting accordingly, we demonstrate the presence of the Holy Spirit within ourselves.

I notice the emphasis on compassion, not checklists.  Legalism is a powerful temptation.  Indeed, many who fall into that trap do so out of the sincere desire to honor God.  Yet they wind up fixating on minor details and forgetting compassion frequently instead of remembering the big picture:  compassion, such as that of the variety that Jesus modeled all the way to the cross.

Living compassionately is far more rigorous a standard than is keeping a moral checklist.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 30, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF JAMES MONTGOMERY, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN ROSS MACDUFF AND GEORGE MATHESON, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTERS AND AUTHORS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/04/30/compassion-not-checklists/

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Devotion for December 10 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  A U-Turn

Image Source = Smurrayinchester

Judgment and Repentance

DECEMBER 10, 2019

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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 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 26:20-27:13

Psalm 122 (Morning)

Psalms 40 and 67 (Evening)

1 John 4:1-21

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Assuredly, by this alone

Shall Jacob’s sin be purged away;

This is the only price

For removing his guilt:

That he make all the altar-stones

Like shattered blocks of chalk–

With no sacred post left standing,

Nor any incense altar.

–Isaiah 27:9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Love comes to its perfection in us

when we can face the Day of Judgement fearlessly,

because even in this world

we have become as he is.

–1 John 4:17, The New Jerusalem Bible

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Someday, a long time in the future, on the Day of Judgment, Isaiah wrote, the meaning of divine punishment of the chosen people would become clear.  Those who repented–turned around and changed their minds–would not face destruction.  The Day of Judgment figures prominently in 1 Peter 4.

God is love,

we read in verse 8.  God loved us first, expiating our sins, and we ought to love one another.  Loving each other indicates that we are of God, and so we will face the Day of Judgment without fear if we love God and each other.

Too much of practical Christianity focuses on hellfire and damnation.  Yes, judgment is real, but so are love, grace, and forgiveness.  If one’s goal is to encourage others to have a healthy relationship with God via Jesus, one ought to focus on the positive.  A healthy relationship is one based on love and respect, not terror.  Trying to draw people to God by scaring the Hell (literally) out of them is far from the best way to build and encourage healthy faith.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 11, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF OCTAVIUS HADFIELD, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WELLINGTON

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/08/05/judgment-and-repentance/

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Fifth Day of Epiphany   20 comments

Above:  Colored Waiting Room Sign, Georgia, 1943

Whom Should I Love?  Everybody!

JANUARY 10, 2020

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1 John 4:19-5:4 (New Jerusalem Bible):

Let us love, then,

because he first loved us.

Anyone who says

I love God

and hates his brother,

is a liar,

since no one who fails to love the brother whom he can see

can love God whom he has not seen.

Indeed this is the commandment we have received from him,

that whoever loves God, must also love his brother.

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ

is a child of God,

and whoever loves the father

loves the son.

In this way we know that we love God’s children,

when we love God and keep his commandments.

This is what the love of God is:

keeping his commandments.

Neither are his commandments burdensome,

because every child of God

overcomes the world.

And this is the victory that has overcome the world–

our faith.

Psalm 72:1-2, 14-19 (New Jerusalem Bible):

God, endow the king with your own fair judgment,

the son of the king with your own saving justice,

that he may rule your people with justice,

and your poor with fair judgment.

From oppression and violence he redeems our lives,

their blood is precious in his sight.

(Long may he live; may the gold of Sheba be given him!)

Prayer will be offered for him constantly,

and blessings invoked on him all day.

May wheat abound in the land,

waving on the heights of the hills,

like Lebanon with its fruits and flowers at their best,

like the grasses of the earth.

May his name be blessed for ever,

and endure in the sight of the sun.

In him shall be blessed every race in the world,

and all nations call him blessed.

Blessed be Yahweh, the God of Israel,

who alone works wonders;

blessed for ever his gracious name.

May the whole world be filled with his glory!

Amen! Amen!

Luke 4:14-22 (New Jerusalem Bible):

Jesus, with the power of the Spirit in him, returned to Galilee; and his reputation spread throughout the countryside.  He taught in their synagogues and everyone glorified him.

He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day as he usually did.  He stood up to read, and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.  Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:

The spirit of the Lord is upon me,

for he has anointed me

to bring the good news to the afflicted.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives,

sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free,

to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord.

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down.  And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him.  Then he began to speak to them,

The text is being fulfilled today even while you are listening.

And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips.

The Collect:

O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The reading from 1 John reminds us of a great spiritual truth:  we cannot love God and hate each other.  It is easy to give lip service to this statement, but acting on it can entail controversy and social transformation, which make many people very uncomfortable and sometimes violent.

The excerpt from Luke seems to have a happy ending, but reading for a few more verses reveals that Jesus’ former neighbors turned on him, becoming enraged and hustling him out of Nazareth, intending to throw him off a cliff.  These were people who, very shortly before, had been in synagogue!  This incident reminds me of a true story from a Methodist revival meeting in a Virginia barn in the late 1700s.  Thomas Coke, one of the original bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church (1784-1939; now The United Methodist Church) was preaching.  He turned to the topic of slavery, the abolition of which he supported.  On the spot a woman in the congregation offered to hire someone to murder Coke.  The bishop fled the barn, and the revival ended.  Bishop Coke lived for years, fortunately.

I write this post in June 2010.  One hundred years ago de jure segregation was the law of the land in the United States.  In 1896 the Supreme Court had held in Plessy v. Ferguson that racial segregation was constitutional so long as the separate facilities were equal.  Yet these facilities were not equal.  So the Court reversed itself in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), with Chief Justice Earl Warren (one of my heroes, and my favorite Chief Justice) writing that separate is inherently unequal.  In 2010 it is difficult to find a person in the political mainstream who will question the major civil rights milestones–Supreme Court rulings and acts of Congress–although one can locate a few now and again.  Theoretical arguments about the nature of Federalism might seem respectable and concerned with Constitutional imperatives, but they cannot mask racism, insensitivity to injustice, or the errors of hyper-Libertarianism, which opposes federal actions to correct injustices, such as de jure segregation.

We have received a command to love each other actively.  Thus we need to ask some hard questions and perhaps to jettison some assumptions.  No political -ism is immune from error in matters of loving others, hating others, or loving others insufficiently.  I propose, for example, that this command requires not to think of abortion as a casual matter or to excuse bombing civilian populations during wartime.  (During World War II the Allies bombed cities in Axis nations.)  I own a shirt which asks

Who Would Jesus Bomb?

I know that the first word should be “whom,” but question remains a good one.  Gospel imperatives can be challenging, indeed.

KRT

Written on June 9, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/whom-should-i-love-everybody/

Fourth Day of Epiphany   9 comments

Fear

Image Source = D. Sharon Pruitt

No Fear

JANUARY 9, 2020

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1 John 4:11-19 (New Jerusalem Bible):

My dear friends,

if God loved us so much,

we too should love one another.

No one has ever seen God,

but as long as we love another

God remains in us

and his love comes to its perfection in us.

This is the proof that we remain in him

and he in us,

that he has given us a share in his Spirit.

We ourselves have seen and testify

that the Father sent his Son

as Saviour of the world.

Anyone who acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God,

God remains in him and he is God.

We have recognized for ourselves,

and put our faith in, the love God has for us.

God is love,

and whoever remains in love remains in God

and God in him.

Love comes to its perfection in us

when we can face the Day of Judgment fearlessly,

because even in this world

we have become as he is.

In love there is no room for fear,

but perfect love casts out fear,

because fear implies punishment

and no one who is afraid has come to perfection in love.

Let us love, then,

because he first loved us.

Psalm 72:1-2, 10b-13 (New Jerusalem Bible):

God, endow the king with your own fair judgment,

the son of the king with your own saving justice,

so that he may rule your people with justice,

and your poor with fair judgment.

The kings of Sheba and Saba will offer gifts;

all kings will do him homage,

all nations become his servants.

For he rescues the needy who calls to him,

and the poor who has no one to help.

He has pity on the weak and the needy,

and saves the needy from death.

Mark 6:45-52 (New Jerusalem Bible):

And at once he [Jesus] made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side near Bethsaida, while he himself sent the crowd away.  After saying goodbye to them he went off into the hills to pray.  When evening came, the boat was far out on the sea, and he was alone on the land.  He could see that they were hard pressed in their rowing, for the wind was against them; and about the fourth watch of the night he came towards them, walking on the sea.  He was going to pass them by, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost and cried out; for they had all seen him and were terrified.  But at once he spoke to them and said,

Courage!  It’s me!  Don’t be afraid.

Then he got into the boat with them and the wind dropped.  They were utterly and completely dumbfounded, because they had not seen what the miracle of the loaves meant; their minds were closed.

The Collect:

O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Fear can have certain advantages.  For example, I fear the negative consequences of touching hot objects.  So fear protects me in such cases.  Yet fear, when turned against self and others, can cause great harm to self and others.

When I grew up my father imparted pearls of wisdom.  Among them was this:  We fear what we do not understand, and we hate what we fear.  History confirms this.  I point, for example, to interreligious strife rooted in misconceptions, as well as to how many parents and students mistreated Ryan White in the 1980s, the early years of AIDS as a major news story.  The scientists had determined how one does and does not contract AIDS by then, but this fact did not prevent people from acting cruelly toward a hemophiliac teenager and gentle soul.

Out of fear agents of my nation have tortured people, an immoral act which endangers the United States further.  Out of fear people have overgeneralized and blamed innocent people for the crimes of others.  On September 11, 2001, I was a graduate student at Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, Georgia.  Campus police officers had to protect exchange students from certain nations, for these pupils were potential targets of revenge attacks.  They had done nothing!

But love casts out fear.  God casts out fear.  Let us follow the path of love and God.

KRT

Written on June 8, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/no-fear/

Third Day of Epiphany   14 comments

Above:  Head of the Statue of Christ the Redeemer, South America

Love in God

JANUARY 8, 2020

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1 John 4:7-12 (New Jerusalem Bible):

My dear friends,

let us love one another,

since love is from God

and everyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.

Whoever fails to love does not know God,

because God is love.

This is the revelation of God’s love for us,

that God sent his only Son into the world

that we might have life through him.

Love consists in this:

it is not we who loved God,

but God loved us and sent his Son

to expiate our sins.

My dear friends,

if God loved us so much,

we too should love one another.

No one has ever seen God,

but as long as we love one another

God remains in us

and his love comes to its perfection in us.

Psalm 72:1-8 (New Jerusalem Bible):

God, endow the king with your own fair judgment,

the son of the king with your own saving justice,

that he may rule your people with justice,

and your poor with fair judgment.

Mountains and hills,

bring peace to the people!

With justice he will judge the poor of the people,

he will save the children of the needy

and crush their oppressors.

In the sight of the sun and the moon he will endure,

age after age.

Hew ill come down like rain on mown grass,

like showers moistening the land.

In his days uprightness shall flourish,

and peace is plenty till the moon is no more.

His empire shall stretch from sea to sea,

from the river to the limits of the earth.

Mark 6:30-44 (New Jerusalem Bible):

The apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught.  And he said to them,

Come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while;

for there were so many coming and going that there was no time for them even to eat.  So they went off in the boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves.  But people saw them going, and many recognized them; and from every town they all hurried to the place on foot and reached it before them.  So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.  By now it was getting very late, and his disciples came up to him and said,

This is a lonely place and it is getting very late, so sent them away, and they can go to buy themselves something to eat.

He replied,

Give them something to eat yourselves.

They answered,

Are we to go and spend two hundred denarii on bread for them to eat?

He asked,

How many loaves have you?  Go and see.

And when they had found out they said,

Five, and two fish.

Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass, and they sat down on the ground in squares of hundreds and fifties.  Then he took the five loaves and the two fish, raised his eyes to heaven and said the blessing; then he broke the loaves and began handling them to the disciples to distribute among the people.  He also shared out the two fish among them all.  They all ate as much as they wanted.  They collected twelve basketfuls of scraps of bread and pieces of fish.  Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.

The Collect:

O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The love of God exceeds the bounds of human imagination and definition.  It knows no limits and the full reach of grace, part of the love, can be scandalous.  This love entails self-sacrifice (witness Jesus), and we Christians have the vocation to reflect the love of God to others.

Yet sometimes, in the name of God (and Jesus), we hurt each other emotionally, without any redeeming purpose.  As I write these words I know that I am (and have been) on the receiving end of such attitudes born of a spiritual conversion (in another person) gone horribly wrong.  The other person, although sincere, has engaged in actions which have prompted emotional pain.  So a relationship has ended.  I have determined that no relationship is better than a dysfunctional one, but that a functional one remains a possibility and a favored goal.  The relationship in question can find restoration through the mutual and demonstrated love which comes from God alone.

May it do so.

KRT

Written on June 8, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/love-in-god/

Second Day of Epiphany   13 comments

Above:  A Mosaic of Jesus from the Former Church of Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

Resisting the Kingdom of God

JANUARY 7, 2020

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1 John 3:18-4:6 (New Jerusalem Bible):

Children,

our love must not be just words or mere talk,

but something active and genuine.

This is the proof that we belong to the truth,

and it will convince us in his presence,

even if our own feelings condemn us,

that God is greater than our feelings and knows all things.

My dear friends,

if our own feelings do not condemn us,

we can be fearless before God,

and whatever we ask

we shall receive from him,

because we keep his commandments

and do what is acceptable to him.

His commandment is this,

that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ

and that we should love one another

as he commanded us.

Whoever keeps his commandments

remains in God, and God in him.

And this is the proof that he remains in us:

the Spirit that he has given us.

My dear friends,

not every spirit is to be trusted,

but test the spirits to see whether they are from God,

for many false prophets are at large in the world.

This is the proof of the spirit of God;

any spirit which acknowledges Jesus Christ, come in human nature,

is from God,

and no spirit which fails to acknowledge Jesus

is from God;

it is the spirit of Antichrist,

whose coming you have heard of;

he is already at large in the world.

They are from the world,

and therefore the world inspires what they say,

and listens to them.

We are from God;

whoever recognizes God listens to us;

anyone who is not from God refuses to listen to us.

This is how we can distinguish

the spirit of truth from the the spirit of falsehood.

Psalm 2 (New Jerusalem Bible):

Why this uproar among the nations,

the impotent muttering of the peoples?

Kings of the earth take up their position,

princes plot together

against Yahweh and his anointed,

Now let us break their fetters!

Now let us throw off their bonds!

He who is enthroned in the heavens laughs,

Yahweh makes a mockery of them,

then in his anger rebukes them,

in his rage he strikes them with terror.

I myself have anointed my king

on Zion my holy mountain.

I will proclaim the decree of Yahweh:

He said to me,

You are my son,

today I have fathered you.

Ask of me, and I shall give you the nations as your birthright,

the whole wide world as your possession.

With an iron sceptre you will break them,

shatter them like so many pots.

So now, you kings, come to your senses,

you earthly rulers, learn your lesson!

In fear be submissive to Yahweh;

with trembling kiss his feet,

lest he be angry and your way come to nothing,

for his fury flares up in a moment.

How blessed are all who take refuge in him!

Matthew 4:12-17, 23-25 (New Jerusalem Bible):

Hearing that John had been arrested he [Jesus] withdrew to Galilee, and leaving Nazareth he went and settled in Capernaum, beside the lake, on the borders of Zebulon and Naphtali.  This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:

Land of Zebulon!  Land of Naphtali!

Way of the sea beyond Jordan.

Galilee of the nations!

The people that lived in darkness

have seen a great light;

on those who lived in a country of shadow dark as death

a light has dawned.

From then onwards Jesus began his proclamation with the message,

Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is close at hand.

He went round the whole of Galilee teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing all kinds of disease and illness among the people.  His fame spread throughout Syria, and those who were suffering from diseases and painful complaints of one kind or another, the possessed, epileptics, the paralyzed, were all brought to him, and he cured them.  Large crowds followed him coming from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judaea, and Transjordan.

The Collect:

O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Jesus, fully human and fully divine, ushered in the Kingdom of God, which is around us and inside of us.  Yet many of us do not see it.  The Kingdom of God was an apocalyptic vision of God’s rule on earth, as opposed to the Roman Empire.  Thus talk of the Kingdom of God was subversive until the early Church redefined the Kingdom as a spiritual reality.  But I prefer the subversive nature of the earlier understanding.

Authority figures resisted the Kingdom of God, crucifying Jesus and martyring many Christians.  They had great power, but God’s might was stronger and more impressive. Today the efforts continue, but God’s might remains stronger and more impressive.

Thomas Tallis, the great Sixteenth-Century English composer, wrote tunes for the church psalter of his time.  The Third Psalm Tune, which Ralph Vaughan Williams slowed down and transformed into a happier piece centuries later in the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, fit these words, which I prefer to the familiar version (“Why do the nations so furiously rage together”) from the Authorized (King James) Version:

Why fum’th in sight the Gentiles spite, in fury raging stout?

Why tak’th in hand the people fond, vain things to bring about?

The kings arise, the Lords devise in counsels met thereto,

Against the Lord with false accord, against his Christ they go.

Let us, they say, break their ray of all their bonds and cords:

We will renounce that they pronounce their lores as stately lords.

But God of might in heav’n so bright shall laugh them all to scorn:

The Lord on high shall them defy, they shall be once forlorn.

With iron rod as might God all rebels shalt thou bruise,

And break them all in pieces small, as sherds the potters use.

Be wise therefore ye kings the more, receive ye wisdom’s lore;

Ye judges strong of right and wrong, advise you now before.

The Lord in fear your service bear, with dread to him rejoice;

Let rages be, resist not ye, him serve with joyful voice.

The sun kiss ye, lest wroth he be, lose not the way of rest;

For when his ire is set on fire, who trust in him be blest.

In the 500s Justinian the Great, the Byzantine Emperor, ordered the construction of the beautiful Church of Hagia Sophia, or Holy Wisdom, at Constantinople.  Almost a thousand years later the conquering Ottoman Turks converted the building into a mosque.  And today it is a museum.  But it should be a church.

Despite all appearances to the contrary, God will win, in time.  We need to be patient.

KRT

Written on June 8, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/resisting-the-kingdom-of-god/