Archive for the ‘Cheap Grace’ Tag

Devotion for Transfiguration Sunday, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Transfiguration, by Raphael

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-90565

Divine Glory and Sacrificial Love

MARCH 3, 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 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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Exodus 24:12-18

Psalm 2

2 Peter 1:16-21

Matthew 17:1-9 (or 1-13)

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Interestingly, the Transfiguration account in Matthew follows on the heels of Jesus saying,

Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.

–16:28, The New American Bible (1991)

In that scene, Jesus, looking very much like Moses (and standing with Moses and Elijah) on a mountaintop, stands in divine glory.  We can read another version of the Transfiguration in Luke 9:28-36, shortly before Jesus sets his face literally and figuratively toward Jerusalem–to die.

It is appropriate that we read of the Transfiguration on the Sunday immediately preceding Lent, at the end of which are Good Friday and Holy Saturday.  We are supposed to recall the supreme divine love behind the Incarnation and the Atonement, as well as to remember that God calls us to love like Jesus, who loved all the way to a cross.

That is a variety of love that carries a high price tag.  The grace, although free, is certainly not cheap.  It is, however, the path to life at its fullest and most abundant.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 23, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY THE ILLUMINATOR AND ISAAC THE GREAT, PATRIARCHS OF ARMENIA

THE FEAST OF MEISTER ECKHART, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN AND MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF SAINT METODEJ DOMINIK TRCKA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICTORIAN OF HADRUMETUM, MARTYR AT CARTHAGE, 484

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/03/23/divine-glory-and-sacrificial-love/

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Devotion for the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, Years A, B, C, and D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Life of Christ

Image in the Public Domain

The Universal Offer of Salvation

TUESDAY, JANUARY 1, 2020

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In Numbers 6:22-27 the Aaronic Benediction was for Israelites only.  In Galatians 3 and 4, St. Paul the Apostle, writing in large letters, with his own hand (6:11-12), argued that, by faith, in Christ, the Son of God, anyone, even if not male, free, or Jewish, became a son of God, an adopted member of the household of God, and therefore an heir.  (Only sons inherited in St. Paul’s time and place.)  The blessing was as close to universal as possible, St. Paul argued, given that many rejected the offer.

The love of God is universal; salvation is not.  Grace, although free to us, is certainly not cheap, for it demands much of us.  The family of Jesus provides a good example; Sts. Joseph and Mary, we read, were observant Jews.  On the eighth day, in accordance with Leviticus 12:3, they took Jesus for his bris, we read.  (Interestingly, Leviticus 12:3 mandates the circumcision of a boy on the eighth day, with no exception for the Sabbath, although Leviticus 16:31 and 23:3 state that the Sabbath should be a day of complete rest.  Sometimes the language in the Law of Moses states principles and not the exceptions as plainly as some readers might wish.)

The Holy Name of Our Lord and Savior means

YHWH saves

or

YHWH is salvation.

Philippians 2 reminds us that the price of that salvation was the self-sacrifice of Jesus–death on a cross–followed by resurrection, of course.  The cross is the background of much of the content of the canonical Gospels until it moves into the foreground.  Christ crucified, at the center of St. Paul’s theology, is essential to Christianity.  If the message of Christ crucified depresses us or otherwise makes us uncomfortable, that is a matter we should take to God in prayer.

The Holy Name of Jesus calls us to each of us to take up a cross and follow him, if we dare.  Do we dare?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

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Eternal 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.

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 151

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Numbers 6:22-27

Psalm 147 (at least verses 13-21)

Galatians 3:23-25; 4:4-7 or Philippians 2:5-11

Luke 2:15-21

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/the-universal-offer-of-salvation/

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Devotion for the Third Sunday After the Epiphany (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:   The Prophet Balaam and the Angel, by John Linnell

Image in the Public Domain

Grace:  Free, Not Cheap

JANUARY 26, 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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Numbers 22:22-35; 23:7-12

Psalm 56:10-13

Acts 8:9-13, 18–25

Mark 4:21-23

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In God the LORD, whose word I praise,

in God I trust and will not be afraid,

for what can mortals do to me?

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

I will present to you thank-offerings;

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

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

–Psalm 56:10-13, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Grace is free yet certainly not cheap.  Also, most, if not all people might have their price, but God has none.  We find this theme in Numbers 22 and 23, in which Balaam, despite having his price, obeys God.  We also find this theme in Acts 8, in which Simon Magus offers to purchase the Holy Spirit, succeeding in giving us the word “simony.”

The attitude in Psalm 56:10-13 is preferable:  Be loyal to God.  And, as we read in Mark 4, what we put in determines what we get out.  Grace is free yet not cheap; it requires much of us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGISMUND OF BURGUNDY, KING; SAINT CLOTILDA, FRANKISH QUEEN; AND SAINT CLODOALD, FRANKISH PRINCE AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JAMES LEWIS MILLIGAN, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCULF OF NANTEUIL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/05/02/grace-free-not-cheap/

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Devotion for Christmas Day (Year D)   1 comment

Adoration of the Shepherds, by Mikael Toppelius

Above:  The Adoration of the Shepherds, by Mikael Toppelius

Image in the Public Domain

Deciding or Refusing to Repent

DECEMBER 25, 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 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 6:(8) 9-13 or Jeremiah 10:1-16 (17-25)

Psalm 35 or 94

John 12:17-19, 37-50

Romans 11:2b-28 (29-32) 33-36

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You have seen, O LORD, do not be silent!

O Lord, do not be far from me!

–Psalm 35:22, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Happy are those whom you discipline, O LORD,

and whom you touch out of your law,

giving them respite from days of trouble,

until a pit is dug for the wicked.

For the Lord will not forsake his people;

he will not abandon his heritage;

for justice will return to the righteous,

and all the upright in heart will follow it.

–Psalm 94:12-15, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Some of the readings for this occasion seem to indicate that God has, at various times, designated entire populations and refused to permit them to repent of their sins.  This reading is at odds with the theology of unlimited atonement (by Jesus, via his death and resurrection), which ends a process begun by the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth.  My understanding is that (A) all of us are sinners, (B) God desires all sinners to repent, and (C) many sinners simply refuse to repent.  In Judaism one can find an interpretation of the lection from Isaiah that insists that God predicted that many people would not understand and did not desire them to fail to understand.  In this reading First Isaiah’s mission was to help people to repent, not to prevent it.  This makes sense to me.

Why might one not repent?  One might identify a set of reasons, but perhaps the most basic reason is that one must recognize something as an error before one seeks to correct it.  Spiritual blindness is a major problem from which all people suffer.  We can, by grace, see what occupies our blind spots.  Assuming that we do this, do we want to change?  Maybe we think that necessary change is pointless or too difficult.  Or perhaps we are simply afraid to take action by trusting in God and venturing into unknown (to us) spiritual territory.  Either way, one does not repent.

Whoever loves himself or herself more than God is lost, we read in John 12.  To be a Christian is to follow Jesus, who went to a cross then a tomb, which he occupied only briefly.

To think this much about Good Friday and Easter Sunday on Christmas Day might seem odd, but it is theologically correct.  The recognition of this reality is hardly new.  Indeed, Johann Sebastian Bach incorporated the Passion Chorale tune into his Christmas Oratorio.

Grace is free to all, fortunately.  Yet many will not accept it and the demands accompanying it.  Each of us has a responsibility to say “yes” to God, whose grace is always free and never cheap.  Each of us has a responsibility to love his or her neighbors as he or she loves himself or herself.  Doing so will, for different people, lead to different ends in this life, and translate into action in a variety of ways, depending on circumstances.  The principle is constant, however.  Jesus, who came to us first as a baby, demands nothing less than taking up one’s cross and following him.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 30, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRIETTE LUISE VON HAYN, GERMAN MORAVIAN HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/08/30/deciding-or-refusing-to-repent/

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Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before the Third Sunday of Advent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

St. Titus

Above:  St. Titus

Image in the Public Domain

The Faithfulness and Generosity of God, Part IV

DECEMBER 13 and 14, 2018

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The Collect:

Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God,

and open our ears to the preaching of John, that

rejoicing in your salvation, we may bring forth the fruits of repentance;

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 6:1-8 (Thursday)

Amos 8:4-12 (Friday)

Isaiah 12:2-6 (Both Days)

2 Corinthians 8:1-15 (Thursday)

2 Corinthians 9:1-15 (Friday)

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In that day, you shall say:

“I give thanks to You, O LORD!

Although You were wroth with me,

Your wrath has turned back and You comfort me,

Behold the God who gives me triumph!

I am confident, unafraid;

For Yah the LORD is my strength and might,

And He has been my deliverance.”

Joyfully shall you draw water

From the fountains of triumph,

And you shall say on that day:

“Praise the LORD, proclaim His name.

Make His deeds known among the peoples;

Declare that His name is exalted.

Hymn the LORD,

For He has done gloriously;

Let this be made known

In all the world!

Oh, shout for joy,

You who dwell in Zion!

For great is your midst

Is the Holy One of Israel.”

–Isaiah 12:1-6, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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“That day” in Isaiah 12:1 is when God will begin to send Hebrew exiles to their ancestral homeland, a place they have never known.  They have firsthand and secondhand accounts of it, but they have always lived in a foreign country.

The prophet Amos anticipated that exile and condemned the hubris and complacency of many in the population as the kingdom approached its end.  He also criticized those who maintained sacred rituals outwardly while exploiting and cheating people.  Holy rituals are serious matters, not talismans which protect those who sin without repenting, Amos wrote.

God is generous and grace is free.  That free grace can prove to be most inconvenient, for it is costly, not cheap.  Accepting grace imposes great responsibilities upon the recipient.  This was on the mind of St. Paul the Apostle in 2 Corinthians.  St. Titus was collecting funds for the benefit of the Christians at Jerusalem.  Some of the most generous donors were those who had known great hardship and deprivation.  God had guided them through those perilous times and provided for them.  Now they were sharing enthusiastically.  2 Corinthians 8:15, quoting Exodus 16:18, which referred to manna in the Sinai Desert, established a fine standard:

The one who had much did not have too much,

and the one who had little did not have too little.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Everyone has enough in divine economics.  Artificial scarcity, which is sinful, is a human creation.

Giving in thankful response to divine faithfulness and generosity can entail donating many things, including money.  Focusing exclusively or primarily on money, however, is in error, for doing so ignores or gives short shrift to other forms of giving.  One might have little money but plenty of time to share a necessary skill or talent, for example.  Money pays bills and wages, so nobody should ignore its necessity, but sometimes giving only money is the easy way out of exercising one’s full responsibility.  Whatever one has to give, may one donate it for the glory of God and the benefit of others.  May one give cheerfully and out of gratitude for divine faithfulness and generosity.  It will never be enough to compare to what God has done, is doing, and will do, but that is not the point.  I think of a witty Billy Collins poem about a child giving a lanyard to his or her mother.  No gift to God or one’s mother can match what God or one’s mother has done for one, but the thought is what counts.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 13, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH PAYSON PRENTISS, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/08/13/the-faithfulness-and-generosity-of-god-part-iv/

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Devotion for Wednesday After the First Sunday of Advent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Destruction of the First Temple

Above:  The Destruction of the First Temple

Image in the Public Domain

Repentance and Community

DECEMBER 5, 2018

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

By your merciful protection alert us to the threatening dangers of our sins,

and redeem us for your life of justice,

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

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 18

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 1:24-31

Psalm 90

Luke 11:29-32

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So teach us to number our days

that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

–Psalm 90:12, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The readings for this day invite us to repent.  Despite the clear testimony of scripture to the definition of repentance–changing one’s mind, turning around–the misconception that repentance is synonymous with apologizing continues.  No, apologizing is much easier than repenting.

The text from Isaiah 1 is somewhat ambiguous.  In verses 27 and 28 we read:

Zion shall be saved in the judgment;

Her repentant ones, in the retribution.

But rebels and sinners shall all be crushed,

And those who forsake the LORD shall perish.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

(That passage fits well with texts for the previous two posts–1 and 2— in this series.)

The stern tone in verses 29-31 raises some questions.  Verse 29 begins:

Truly you shall be shamed…

Who is “you”?  Does “you” include the repentant ones?  A note in The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) proposes an answer:

The prophet leaves the answer unclear, perhaps intentionally; it will be given by the inhabitants of Jerusalem themselves through their behavior, and they will lead God to decide whom to punish.

–Pages 769-770

One will know a tree by its fruits.  What kind of tree are you, O reader?  Do you seek to love your neighbor as you love yourself?  We all stumble, for that is the human condition.  Moral perfectionism is unrealistic, but the expectation that one will trust God and strive to improve on one’s performance for the glory of God and the benefit of one’s family, friends, community, and society  is realistic.  Grace is free yet not cheap.  We cannot purchase or earn it, but accepting it imposes certain responsibilities upon us.  The details will vary from person to person, but the principles to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself, to respect the dignity of others (as bearers of the image of God), and to avoid the error that Christianity is a solely individualistic matter are constants.  We human beings, depend entirely upon God and partially upon each other.  We are responsible to and for each other and to God.  We live in community, not to ourselves.  None of us is an island.  Will we be responsible members of our communities, for the glory of God and for the common good?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 10, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WALSHAM HOW, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WAKEFIELD AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS SISTER, FRANCES JANE DOUGLAS(S), HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EUNICE SHRIVER KENNEDY, FOUNDER OF THE SPECIAL OLYMPICS

THE FEAST OF SAINT LAURENCE OF ROME, ROMAN CATHOLIC DEACON AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SHERMAN BOOTH, ABOLITIONIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/08/12/repentance-and-community/

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

Fall of Jerusalem and Zion March

Above:  The Cover of the Sheet Music to The Fall of Jerusalem and Zion March, 1900

Image Source = Library of Congress

Judgment, Mercy, and Ethical Living, Part I

NOT OBSERVED IN 2015

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The Collect:

Loving God, by tender words and covenant promise you have joined us to yourself forever,

and you invite us to respond to your love with faithfulness.

By your Spirit may we live with you and with one another in justice, mercy, and joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 25

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 16:1-14 (Thursday)

Ezekiel 16:44-52 (Friday)

Ezekiel 16:53-63 (Saturday)

Psalm 103 (All Days)

Romans 3:1-8 (Thursday)

2 Peter 1:1-11 (Friday)

John 7:53-8:11 (Saturday)

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The LORD is compassionate and gracious,

slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love.

He will not contend forever,

or nurse His anger for all time.

–Psalm 103:8-9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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As the readings for these three days remind us, God both judges and shows mercy.  Often mercy follows judgment, in fact.  We have received ample grace from God.  Such generosity warrants a response of gratitude and ethical living from us.  (Grace is free, but not cheap.)  One aspect of that ethical living (as in 2 Peter 1:7) is brotherly affection, one of the four loves in the New Testament.

We read also of ways in which God’s glory becomes evident because of or despite human actions.  If you, O reader, ever wondered if God will receive glory, the answer is “yes.”  Nevertheless, it is better to be a vehicle of divine glorification than an obstacle to it.

John 7:53-8:11, the pericope regarding the woman caught in adultery, is a floating story actually of Synoptic origin.  One can read the Gospel of John without it, moving from 7:52 to 8:12 without missing a beat.  Usually I like to read an excerpt from the canonical Gospels in the immediate context of what happens before and after it, but today I will not follow that practice with regard to this pericope.

This is a story about a trap.  Those religious authorities who sought to ensnare Jesus cared nothing about the location of the man with whom the woman had committed adultery.  Jesus probably reminded them of the fact that the punishment for them under the Law of Moses was stoning also.  Then our Lord and Savior forgave the woman, who had been a pawn just a few minutes prior.

May our thankfulness to God lead us to treat our fellow human beings ethically.  And may we understand that, when we accuse others, we might open ourselves up to charges (even if not legal ones) also.

Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.  For with the judgment you make, you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.

–Jesus in Matthew 7:1-2, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Also, forgiving each other goes a long way toward building better families, communities, cultures, and societies.  So does minding one’s own business.  Understanding the scope of one’s own business leads one to recognize the difference between doing what is necessary and proper to build up one’s neighbors and making matters worse.  When we love one another properly, as God commanded, we glorify the deity by acting correctly toward others.  We cannot love God, whom we cannot see, if we do not love human beings, whom we can see.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 4, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH MOHR, AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARBARA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF DAMASCUS, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CALABRIA, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE POOR SERVANTS AND THE POOR WOMEN SERVANTS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/06/judgment-mercy-and-ethical-living-part-i/

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