Archive for the ‘Covenantal Nomism’ Tag

Devotion for the Sixth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Moses

Image in the Public Domain

Mutuality in God

FEBRUARY 12, 2023

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Deuteronomy 30:15-20

Psalm 119:1-16

1 Corinthians 2:6-13

Matthew 5:20-37

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Lord God, mercifully receive the prayers of your people. 

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

and give us grace and power to do them;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 16

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O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers

of your people who call upon you,

and grant that they may understand the things they ought to do

and also may have grace and strength to accomplish them;

through Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 27

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Culturally-specific examples make timeless principles applicable, in context.  Outside of that context, the culturally-specific examples may seem confusing and may not apply.  Yet the timeless principles remain.  When reading any Biblical text, the question of context(s) is always relevant.  Knowing the difference between a timeless principle and a culturally-specific example thereof is essential.

Consider the reading from Matthew 5, for example, O reader.

  1. “Raca,” or “fool,” was an extremely strong insult.  We have counterparts in our contemporary cultures; these counterparts are unsuitable for quoting in a family-friendly weblog. How we think and speak of others matters.
  2. Divorce and remarriage, in well-to-do families, consolidated landholding, thereby taking advantage of deeply indebted families.  Such practices endangered societal and familial cohesion.  Some divorces are necessary, especially in cases of domestic violence and emotional abuse.  The innocent parties deserve happiness afterward, do they not?  I support them receiving that happiness.  Yet modern practices that endanger societal and familial cohesion exist.

The Gospel of Matthew makes clear that Jesus affirmed the Law of Moses.  He favored Torah piety.  Jesus also opposed those who taught the Torah badly.  Deuteronomy 30 and Psalm 119 taught Torah piety, too.  St. Paul the Apostle admitted that the Law of Moses was good.  His objection after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, was that Judaism was not Christianity, not that it was legalistic.  For St. Paul, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus changed everything.

We have now received not the spirit of the world but the Spirit of God himself, so that we can understand something of God’s generosity towards us.

–1 Corinthians 2:12, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972)

In your context, O reader, what does God’s generosity require you to do?  Returning to Matthew 5 (among other Biblical texts), God orders that we–collectively and individually–treat others properly.  How we think of them influences how we behave toward them, inevitably.

May we–you, O reader, and I–as well as our communities, cultures, societies, et cetera–in the words of Deuteronomy 30:19, choose life.  May we choose proper piety.  May we acknowledge and accept our complete dependence on God.  May we practice mutuality.  May we love one another selflessly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 25, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE CONVERSION OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the First Sunday of Advent, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Isaiah Wall, United Nations, New York, New York

Image in the Public Domain

Eschatological Ethics

NOVEMBER 27, 2022

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 2:1-5

Psalm 122 (LBW) or Psalm 50:1-15 (LW)

Romans 13:11-14

Matthew 24:37-44 or Matthew 21:1-11

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Stir up your power, O Lord, and come.

Protect us by your strength and

save us from the threatening dangers of our sins,

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

now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 13

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Stir up, we implore you, your power, O Lord, 

and come that by your protection

we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins

and be saved by your mighty deliverance;

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

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 10

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When I compose a post based on lectionary readings, I prefer to write about a theme or themes running through the assigned readings.  The readings for this Sunday fall on the axis of divine judgment and mercy, in balance.  Hellfire-and-damnation preachers err in one direction.  Those who focus so much on divine mercy that they downplay judgment err in the polar opposite direction.

Isaiah 2:2-4, nearly identical to Micah 4:1-4 (or the other way around), predicts what, in Christian terms, is the fully-realized Kingdom of God.  The soaring, positive imagery of Isaiah 2:2-4 precedes divine judgment on the impious and impenitent–those who revel in the perils of their sins.  There is no place for such people in the fully-realized Kingdom of God.

Psalm 50 focuses on divine judgment.  YHWH is just, keeping faith with the “devoted ones” who have kept the moral mandates of the Law of Moses.  YHWH is just, prioritizing these moral mandates over ritual practices.  Rituals still matter, of course; they are part of the Law of Moses, too.  Yet these rites are never properly talismans, regardless of what people may imagine vainly.  People will still reap what they have sown.

Psalm 122 is a hymn of a devout pilgrim who had recently returned from Jerusalem.  The text fits neatly with Isaiah 2:1-4.  Psalm 122 acknowledges the faithfulness of God and the reality of “thrones of judgment.”

Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 21:1-11, and Matthew 24:37-44, like Isaiah 2:1-4, exist within the expectation of the establishment or unveiling of the fully-realized Kingdom of God.  We read of Jesus acting out Second Zechariah’s prediction of the Messiah’s arrival at Jerusalem at the fulfillment of time (Zechariah 9:9-10) in Matthew 21:1-11.  Romans 13:1-14 and Matthew 24:37-44 remind us to straighten up and fly right, so to speak.

St. Paul the Apostle identified the resurrection of Jesus as the dawn of a new historical era.  Naturally, therefore, he taught that salvation had come nearer.  St. Paul also expected Jesus to return soon–nearly 2000 years ago from our perspective, O reader.  St. Paul’s inaccurate expectation has done nothing to minimize the importance of his ethical counsel.

Forbidden fruits frequently prove alluring, perhaps because they are forbidden.  Their appeal may wear off, however.  This is my experience.  That which really matters is consistent with mutuality, the Law of Moses, and the Golden Rule.  That which really matters builds up the common good.  This standard is about as tangible as any standard can be.

Let us be careful, O reader, not to read into Romans 13:14 that which is not there.  I recall Babette’s Feast (1987), a delightful movie set in a dour, Pietistic “Sad Dane” Lutheran settlement.  Most of the characters are unwilling even to enjoy their food, literally a “provision for the flesh.”  One can live honorably as in the day while enjoying the pleasures of life.

Advent is a bifurcated season.  It begins with mostly somber readings.  By the end of Advent, however, the readings are more upbeat.  Just as divine judgment and mercy exist in balance, so do the two halves of Advent.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 5, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF ANTONIO LOTTI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF FELIX MANZ, FIRST ANABAPTIST MARTYR, 1527

THE FEAST OF SAINT GENOVEVA TORRES MORALES, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS AND THE HOLY ANGELS

THE FEAST OF JOHN NEPOMUCENE NEUMANN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PHILADELPHIA

THE FEAST OF MARGARET MACKAY, SCOTTISH HYMN WRITER

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the Sixth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year D (Humes)   2 comments

Above:  Nicodemus Coming to Jesus, by Henry Ossawa Turner

Image in the Public Domain

Salvation and Damnation

FEBRUARY 13, 2022

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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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Amos 7:1-17 or Proverbs 8:1-21

Psalm 118:14-29

1 Timothy 5:1-16

John 3:1-21

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Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance in the Old and New Testaments.  They find balance in Jesus in John 3.  Those who reject the light condemn themselves to the darkness.  God sends nobody to Hell.  All who go there send themselves.  We read of the impending doom of the northern Kingdom of Israel in Amos 7.  In that passage, we also read that God is in judgment mode.

Proverbs 8 speaks of divine wisdom.  That is the wisdom, the persistent, collective rejection which led to the pronouncement of divine judgment in Amos 7.  The word of God that Amos proclaimed was treasonous, according to authorities in the Kingdom of Israel.  That word of God condemned the leaders who labeled that truth as treason.  The Assyrians arrived in force, right on schedule, though.  The truth was not treason.

The reading from 1 Timothy 5 speaks to divinely-mandated ethics.  The passage also contains some culturally-specific elements that may be irrelevant to your context, O reader.  May we not become distracted by those culturally-specific details.  The timeless principle is mutuality:  We are res[pmsob;e to and for each other.  In that timeless context, individual and collective responsibility also exist in balance.

I admit without apology that I am pedantic.  My pedantry extends to theology.  In the Gospel of John, eternal life is knowing God via Jesus (John 17:3).  Within the Johannine context, as in John 3:16, therefore, there is no eternity apart from God–Jesus, to be precise.  In other words, eternal life and the afterlife are not synonyms in Johannine theology.  “Eternal” describes the quality of life, not the length thereof.  I am a generally Johannine Christian, so I understand “eternal life” according to the definition in John 17:3.  Nevertheless, outside of the Johannine tradition in the New Testament, the meaning of “eternal” is “everlasting.”

I am not shy about saying and writing openly what I really think:  I remain unconvinced that my Jewish elder brothers and sisters in faith are doomed to go to Hell.  No, I affirm that their covenant remains in effect.  According to Covenantal Nomism, consistently and unrepentantly disregarding the ethical obligations of the Law of Moses causes one to drop out of the covenant.  Salvation comes via grace, but damnation comes via works.

The more I age and move away from reflexively Reformation-influenced theology, the more comfortable I become embracing the relationship among faith, works, salvation, and damnation in both Testaments.  God cares deeply about how people treat each other, the Bible tells us.  We mere mortals may deceive ourselves and each other.  We cannot, however, pull the proverbial wool over God’s equally proverbial eyes.  Our creeds become evident in our deeds.

Nevertheless, may we avoid the trap of thinking that we deserve salvation.  That remains a gift.  All who receive it may experience a degree of shock when they realize who else has received it.  So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 1, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE EIGHTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS

THE WORLD DAY OF PEACE

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https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/01/devotion-for-proper-4-year-d-humes/

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/01/salvation-and-damnation-part-iii/

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Devotion for the Third Sunday After the Epiphany, Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Saint Bartholomew, by Antonio Veneziano

Image in the Public Domain

Salvation and Damnation

JANUARY 23, 2022

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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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Amos 5:6-15 or Proverbs 1:20-33

Psalm 115:12-18

1 Timothy 2:1-15

John 1:43-51

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Without getting lost on a side trip through cultural context in 1 Timothy 2, I focus on the core, unifying theme this week:  We reap what we sow.

Now they must eat the fruit of their own way,

and with their own devices be glutted.

For the self-will of the simple kills them,

the smugness of fools destroys them.

But he who obeys me dwells in security,

in peace, without fear of harm.

–Proverbs 1:33, The New American Bible (1991)

The crucifixion of Jesus, the blood of the martyrs, and the suffering of the righteous contradicts the last two lines.  O, well.  The Book of Proverbs is excessively optimistic sometimes.  The Book of Ecclesiastes corrects that excessive optimism.

Righteousness is no guarantee against suffering in this life.  Nevertheless, we will reap what we sow.  Some of the reaping must wait until the afterlife, though.

The New Testament readings point to Jesus, as they should.  1 Timothy gets into some cultural details that do not reflect the reality of Athens, Georgia, in December 2020.  I denounce the male chauvinism evident in 1 Timothy 1:9-15.  That sexism is of its time and place.  I focus instead on God desiring that people find salvation.  They do not, of course.  Many of them are like the disobedient people in Amos 5 and Proverbs 1.

The divine mandate of economic justice present in Amos 5 remains relevant.  It is a mandate consistent with the teachings of Jesus and the ethos of Second Temple Judaism.  That divine mandate, built into the Law of Moses, is crucial in Covenantal Nomism.  According to Covenantal Nomism, salvation is via grace–birth into the covenant.  One drops out of the covenant by consistently and willfully neglecting the ethical demands of the covenant.

In other words, damnation is via works and salvation is via grace.

The reading from John 1 requires some attempt at an explanation.  The parts of John 1:35-43 that need to be clear are clear.  But, after consulting learned commentaries, I still have no idea what amazed St. Bartholomew/Nathanael the Apostle about Jesus seeing him under a fig tree.  I recall having read very educated guesses, though.  The crucial aspect of that story is the call to follow Jesus.  Also, John 1:43 links Jacob’s Ladder/Staircase/Ramp (Genesis 28:10-17) to the crucifixion (“lifting up”) of Jesus.  The Johannine theme of the exaltation of Christ being his crucifixion occurs in Chapter 1, too.  The crucifixion of Jesus was the gate of Heaven, according to John 1:43.

That gate is sufficiently narrow to exclude those who exclude themselves.  Those who carry with them the luggage of bribery cannot enter.  Those who haul along the bags of exploitation of the poor cannot pass.  No, those who exclude themselves have done injustice to God and Jesus while exploiting “the least of these.”  Those who have excluded themselves must eat the fruit of their own way.

C. S. Lewis wrote that the doors to Hell are locked from the inside.  

Think about that, O reader.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 29, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY INNOCENTS (TRANSFERRED)

THE FEAST OF JOHN BURNETT MORRIS, SR., EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF PHILIPP HEINRICH MOLTHER, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, BISHOP, COMPOSER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT THOMAS BECKET, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY, AND MARTYR, 1170

THE FEAST OF THOMAS COTTERRILL ENGLISH PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2020/12/29/salvation-and-damnation-part-ii/

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