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Devotion for January 4 and 5, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   7 comments

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Above:  William Lloyd Garrison

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-10320

Faith and Grace

JANUARY 4 and 5, 2020

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The Collect:

O God our redeemer, you created light that we might live,

and you illumine our world with your beloved Son.

By your Spirit comfort us in all darkness, and turn us toward the light of Jesus Christ our Savior,

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 21

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 3:1-5 (January 4)

Joshua 1:1-9 (January 5)

Psalm 72 (both days)

Hebrews 11:23-31 (January 4)

Hebrews 11:32-12:2 (January 5)

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Give the king your justice, O God,

and your justice to the king’s son;

that he may rule your people righteously

and the poor with justice;

that the mountains may bring prosperity to the people,

and the little hills bring righteousness.

He shall defend the needy among the people

and shall rescue the poor and crush the oppressor.

–Psalm 72:1-4, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The assigned readings for these days tell us of Biblical heroes of faith, from Moses to Joshua son of Nun to Rahab the prostitute–quite an assortment!  I perceive no need to repeat their stories today, for the Bible does that better than I can.  And I have other matters on my mind.

If I were to amend the hall of fame of faith in the Letter to the Hebrews, part of my addition would read as follows:

By faith abolitionists challenged racial chattel slavery in the United States.  By faith Harriet Tubman risked life and limb to help her people, who called her “Moses.”  By faith Sojourner Truth spoke out for the rights of women and African Americans alike, as did William Lloyd Garrison.  By faith Frederick Douglass challenged racism and slavery with his words, deeds, and very existence.

By faith members of subsequent generations challenged racial segregation.  These great men and women included A. Philip Randolph, Charles Hamilton Houston, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bayard Rustin, Vernon Johns, and Martin Luther King, Jr.  They challenged the United States to confront its hypocrisy, to live up more closely to its stated ideals, and to guarantee civil rights.  By faith Thurgood Marshall fought the good fight in courts for decades.  By faith brave students, supported by their courageous parents and communities, integrated schools with hostile student bodies and administrators.

By faith Nelson Mandela confronted Apartheid and helped to end it.  By faith he encouraged racial and national reconciliation as a man and as a President.

All of these were courageous men and women, boys and girls.  There is no room here to tell their stories adequately.  And the names of many of them will fade into obscurity with the passage of time.  Some of their names have faded from collective memory already.  But they were  righteous people–giants upon whose shoulders we stand.  They were agents of divine grace, which transformed the world, making it a better place.

May the light of God, incarnate in each of us, shine brightly in the darkness and leave the world–if only one “corner” of it at a time–a better place.  May we cooperate with God, for grace is more about what God does than what we do.  We ought to work with God, of course.  Doing so maximizes the effects of grace.  But grace will win in the end.  That is wonderful news!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 24, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS A KEMPIS, SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN BOSTE, GEORGE SWALLOWELL, AND JOHN INGRAM, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/faith-and-grace/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   8 comments

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

An Advent Challenge

DECEMBER 19-21, 2019

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come!

With your abundant grace and might,

free us from the sin that hinders our faith,

that eagerly we may receive your promises,

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

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Samuel 7:1-17 (Thursday)

2 Samuel 7:18-22 (Friday)

2 Samuel 7:23-29 (Saturday)

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19 (all days)

Galatians 3:23-29 (Thursday)

Galatians 4:1-7 (Friday)

John 3:31-36 (Saturday)

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Hear, O Shepherd of Israel,

you that led Joseph like a flock;

Shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the Cherubim,

before Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh.

Stir up your mighty strength

and come to our salvation.

Turn us again, O God;

show the light of your countenance,

and we shall be saved.

–Psalm 80:1-4, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The following content is appropriate all year yet especially in Advent.

We read in 2 Samuel that David, by God’s request, will not build a Temple (house) for God.  No, God will make David the founder of a dynasty (house) instead:

Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.

–Verse 16, The New Revised Standard Version

Such extravagant grace came with a great responsibility, which many members of the dynasty disregarded, unfortunately.

The New Testament readings for these days speak of Jesus of Nazareth, a descendant of David and a very different sort of king.  In Jesus, we read, eternal life–in this life and in the next one–and the gateway to eternal life exist.  In Jesus the Law of Moses is fulfilled and a new covenant of grace and adoption is ours if we accept and follow him.  In Jesus all human categories which divide us from each other cease to exist.

Yet many of us who have called ourselves Christians have maintained many or all of these categories–such as

Jew or Greek…slave or free…male and female

–Galatians 3:28, The New Revised Standard Version

(a partial list, I admit).  Other such divisions include native-born and foreign-born, heterosexual and homosexual, rich and poor, and lighter-skinned and darker-skinned.  In so doing we have sinned–missed the mark.  We have re-erected barriers which God destroyed.  And we feel righteous for all our unrighteousness, oddly enough.  We like barriers and categories, for they help us label others and therefore label ourselves.  In fact, however, if we are in Christ, that is the only label which really matters.  Why have so many of us been so oblivious for so long?  What does God have to do–send us a giant, flashing neon sign, a pillar of fire, a burning bush, or something else?  Why was the Incarnation insufficient to attract our attention to this spiritual truth?

My Advent challenge to all who read this post is the same I pose to myself:  To leave torn down that which our Lord and Savior tore down.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 4, 2013 COMMON ERA

INDEPENDENCE DAY (U.S.A.)

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/an-advent-challenge/

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Week of 5 Epiphany: Thursday, Year 1   11 comments

Above:  Ruins at Tyre, Lebanon

Image Source = Heretiq

Against Prejudices

FEBRUARY 14, 2019

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Genesis 2:18-25 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And YHWH God said,

It’s not good for the human to be by himself.  I’ll make for him a strength corresponding to him.

And YHWH God fashioned from the ground every animal of the field and every bird of the skies and brought it to the human to see what he would call it.  And whatever the human would call call it, each living being, that would be its name.  And the human gave names to every domestic animal and bird of the skies and every animal of the field.  But He did not find for the human a strength corresponding to him.

And YHWH God caused a slumber to descend on the human, and he slept.  And He took one of his ribs and closed flesh in its place.  And YHWH God built the rib that He had taken from the human into a woman and brought her to the human.  And the human said,

This time is it:  bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh.  This will be called ‘woman,’ for this one was taken from ‘man.’

On account of this a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his woman, and they become one flesh.

And the two of them were naked, the human and his woman, and they were not embarrassed.

Psalm 128 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Happy are they all who fear the LORD,

and who follow in his ways!

2 You shall eat the fruit of your labor;

happiness and prosperity shall be yours.

3 Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine from within your house,

your children like olive shoots round about your table.

4 The man who fears the LORD

shall thus indeed be blessed.

5 The LORD bless you out of Zion,

and may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.

6 May you live to see your children’s children;

may peace be upon Israel.

Mark 7:24-30 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then he got up and left that place and went off to the neighbourhood of Tyre.  There we went into a house and wanted no one  to know where he was.  But it proved impossible to remain hidden.  For no sooner had he got there, than a woman who had heard about him, and who had a daughter possessed by an evil spirit, arrived and prostrated herself before him.  She was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she asked him to drive the evil spirit out of her daughter.  Jesus said to her,

You must let the children have all they want first.  It is not right, you know, to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.

But she replied,

Yes, Lord, I know, but even the dogs under the table eat the scraps that the children leave.

Jesus said to her,

If you can answer like that, you can go home!  The evil spirit has left your daughter.

And she went back to her home and found the child lying quietly on her bed, and the evil spirit gone.

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The Collect:

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Tyre was a splendid city in the time of Jesus.  Today the ruins from that time are treasures of archaeology.  The city, located today in southern Lebanon, was also a Gentile domain.  Jesus seems not to have had qualms about being surrounded by Gentiles, who were “the other,” according to many of his co-religionists.  Jews were the Chosen People; Gentiles were not.  There were parts of the Jerusalem Temple complex Jews could enter but Gentiles could not.  And Gentile “God fearers,” who believed in the Jewish deity, were marginal because religious authorities decided they were.

Based on the internal evidence of the story and its placement within the Markan Gospel (immediately after a discourse on ritual cleanliness and uncleanliness), I conclude that the comments about feeding dogs were not sincere.  Rather, they constituted a test; they were a prompt for the Syrophoenecian woman to provide the desired rebuttal.  And Justa (as tradition calls her) secured deliverance for he daughter (known to tradition as Bernice) and became emblematic of the fact that Gentiles, too, may partake of grace.   Grace is inclusive, not exclusive.

Today we read this story and this analysis.  I, as a Gentile, agree that grace extends to me, as well as to the Jews.  But I should not stop there, and neither should you.  Part of the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that it continues to challenge our comfort zones.  Are we listening to these challenges, though?  So I ask you, as I ask myself the same question:  Who are our (my) Gentiles?

The psalm and the reading from Genesis speak of men and women.  The beautiful creation mythology from Genesis (so far) speaks of primordial innocence and gender equality.  This is apparent in the Hebrew, in which “helper” can also mean “strength;” thus the woman is the man’s “corresponding strength.”  And, in the Hebrew, as Richard Elliott Friedman writes in his commentary, Genesis 2:23 can also read in English as, “…This will be called ‘woman,” for this one was taken from ‘her man.”  This is parallel to “his woman” just one verse later.  The possessive pronoun does not indicate domination of one over the other.

Much of the narrative of the Christian Bible consists of the consequences of the end of primordial paradise and the divine efforts to restore humans to that state.  The human story in the Bible begins with paradise and ends with the New Jerusalem.  So we ought not to internalize socially defined concepts of inequality (with regard to race, gender, et cetera) and think that they are God’s will.  We should treasure and delight in each other, for everyone bears the image of God.  This is hard, and all fall short of the mark.

I am a history buff.  As such I recall a speech Sandra Day O’Connor, now retired from the United States Supreme Court, gave years ago.  She was working as an attorney in Arizona in the 1960s.  By state law, her husband received her paycheck.  Many people today like to criticize feminism, but feminists (literally those who believe in the equality of men and women) got such unjust laws overturned.  As a feminist and a heterosexual, I affirm that women are wonderful, many are beautiful, and all are equal to men.  Any individual or institution which does not affirm this equality in practice is in error.  Thus I affirm the ordination of women, for example.

Which prejudices do I affirm, consciously or unconsciously?  I need grace to make these and the error of them obvious to me, as well as to purge them.  Which prejudices do you affirm, consciously or unconsciously?  You, too, need grace to make these and the error of them obvious to you, as well as to purge them.  May the purging commence, or continue.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/against-prejudices/