Archive for the ‘Forgiveness’ Tag

Devotion for the Third Sunday of Advent, Year B (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Negev Desert

Image in the Public Domain

Judgment and Mercy

DECEMBER 15, 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 61:1-11

Psalm 126

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

John 1:1-18

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Advent, in most lectionaries, begins with the Second Coming of Jesus and ends in a way that leads into the First Coming.  The Humes four-year lectionary follows that pattern.

The balance of divine judgment and mercy in these four readings is obvious.  In them judgment and mercy are like sides of a coin; one cannot have one without the other being present.  For example, in Isaiah 61, in the voice of Third Isaiah, divine mercy for exiles entails judgment of their oppressors.  The reading from 1 Thessalonians omits 5:15, unfortunately.

Make sure that people do not try to repay evil for evil; always aim at what is best for each other and for everyone.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

God reserves the right to repay evil with judgment.  Far be it from me to tell God when to judge and when to show mercy.

The lectionary’s turn toward the First Coming is especially obvious in John 1:1-18, the magnificent prologue to the Fourth Gospel.  According to this pericope, which emphasizes mercy (as the Johannine Gospel does), judgment is still present.  It is human judgment, though; those who reject the light of God condemn themselves.

That which we call divine wrath, judgment, and punishment is simply the consequences of our actions blowing back on us much of the time.  These can be occasions for repentance, followed by forgiveness and restoration.  Hellfire-and-damnation theology is at least as wrong as universalism; both are extreme positions.

As we prepare to celebrate the Incarnation, may we, trusting in God and walking with Jesus, recall these words (in the context of the Second Coming) from 1 Thessalonians 5:23:

…and may your spirit, life and body be kept blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 7, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VENERABLE MATTHEW TALBOT, RECOVERING ALCOHOLIC IN DUBLIN, IRELAND

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY GIANELLI, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARIES OF SAINT ALPHONSUS LIGUORI AND THE SISTERS OF MARY DELL’ORTO

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK LUCIAN HOSMER, U.S. UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SEATTLE, FIRST NATIONS CHIEF, WAR LEADER, AND DIPLOMAT

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/06/07/judgment-and-mercy-part-xii/

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

Above:  Jethro and Moses, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

A New Year Resolution

DECEMBER 29, 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 18:13-24

Psalm 69:30-36

1 Timothy 3:1-13

Matthew 1:1-17

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The Gospel of Jesus Christ is one of inclusion–inclusion of all the faithful regardless of gender, ethnicity, national origin, et cetera.  In Matthew 1, for example, the author mentions four women (although we know there were more females than that involved in all that begetting), one of whom was a foreigner and three of whom had dubious sexual reputations.  Even the aliens and the objects of gossip have vital roles to play in the unfolding of divine purposes.  Furthermore, nobody can do everything (as Moses learned), but the division of labor and the faithful attendance to duty can enable the faith community to function as well as possible.

The author of Psalm 69 hates his enemies (who hate him) and asks God to smite them.  We tend to omit such angry portions of the Psalms, do we not?  They frequently make us squirm in our seats as we identify with those passages and feel less than holy as a result.  We prefer to read the other passages–such as the assigned portion of Psalm 69–as we ignore the anger and frustration elsewhere in the same poem.

We cannot become the new creations in Christ we ought to be and fulfill our divine vocations as long as we embrace the desire for revenge.  I write from experience.  We need to acknowledge that anger and vengeance then give it over to God.  We must detach from them if we are to grow fully in Christ, who prayed for the forgiveness of those who crucified him and consented to that execution.

This Sunday falls in the vicinity of New Year’s Day.  Therefore I offer a proposed resolution: may we abandon revenge and the desire for it in the new year.

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/a-new-year-resolution/

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Devotion for Wednesday After the Seventh Sunday After the Epiphany, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

The Sacrifice of the Old Covenant

Above:  The Sacrifice of the Old Covenant, by Peter Paul Rubens

Image in the Public Domain

Forgiveness

FEBRUARY 27, 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:

Leviticus 5:1-13

Psalm 38

Luke 17:1-4

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O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger;

do not punish me in your wrath.

–Psalm 38:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Few details make this goy‘s eyes glaze over faster than particulars of Hebrew purification offerings from Leviticus.  Professor Luke Timothy Johnson, in his Great Courses DVD series Jesus and the Gospels (2004), states plainly that the Book of Leviticus is not among the reasons that the Bible is a bestseller.  Besides, the Law of Moses does not apply to me.  Nevertheless, I, after having read Leviticus 5:1-13 and Luke 17:1-4 together, along with Psalm 38, detect a timeless, common theme, which is forgiveness.  The author of Psalm 38 asks God for forgiveness.  Leviticus 5:1-13 prescribes culturally specific rituals for atonement and forgiveness.  And Jesus commands in Luke 17:1-4 that a person forgive someone who repents.

Forgiving might not help the forgiven party (or it might do so), but it certainly benefits the one who forgives.  Anger is a strangely appealing burden to carry around in life.  It might cause no harm to its target (or it might do so), but it definitely damages the one who nurses it.  One should forgive even if the other person does not repent, apologize, or request forgiveness, for selfish reasons alone make forgiving sensible.  Nevertheless, as I know well, letting go of resentment is frequently difficult.  That reality, I think, has more to do with one’s self-image than with anything else.

I am righteous.  I am the injured party.  That S.O.B. owes me something.

It is little or no consolation, is it?

None of us can become the person God wants us to become by holding on to grudges.  Also, forgiving feels better than the alternative.

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/forgiveness-2/

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Devotion for December 26, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Murder of Zechariah

Above:  The Murder of Zechariah, by William Brassey Hole

Image in the Public Domain

Two Stonings

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 26, 2018

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you gave us your only Son

to take on our human nature and to illumine the world with your light.

By your grace adopt us as your children and enlighten us with your Spirit,

through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 4:17-24

Psalm 148

Acts 6:1-7; 7:51-60

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Psalm 148 is a song of praise to God, especially in nature.  The text begins with references to the created order then moves along to people in social and political contexts.  Finally we read:

[The LORD] has exalted his people in the pride of power

and crowned with praise his loyal servants,

Israel, a people close to him.

Praise the LORD.

–Verse 15, The Revised English Bible (1989)

In the context of this day’s pericopes Psalm 148 functions as a counterpoint to the other readings.  In them holy men of God died for the sake of righteousness.  Zechariah, a priest and the son of Jehoida, also a priest, died because of his condemnation of idolatry.  Zechariah said:

Thus God said:  Why do you transgress the commandments of the LORD when you cannot succeed?  Since you have forsaken the LORD, He has forsaken you.

–2 Chronicles 24:20b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

His punishment was execution by stoning at the Temple in Jerusalem.

Similar in tone and content is the story of St. Stephen, one of the first seven Christian deacons and the first Christian martyr.  The diaconate came to exist because it was necessary.  Apostles perceived the need to divide labor:

It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables.

–Acts 6:2b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

So the deacons fed the hungry widows.  St. Stephen died by stoning not because of his participation in an ancient Means on Wheels program but because of his preaching.  He, like Zechariah son of Jehoida, accused his audience of having abandoned God.

These two stories end differently, though.  The dying words of Zechariah son of Jehoida were:

May the LORD see this and exact the penalty.

–2 Chronicles 24:22b, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The interpretation of subsequent events in that book is that God avenged the priest (24:24).  King Jehoash/Joash of Israel (reigned 836-798 B.C.E.) died after becoming wounded in a devastating Aramean invasion.  His servants murdered him on his bed.

In contrast, St. Stephen prayed for his killers:

Lord, do not hold this sin against them.

–Acts 7:60b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The text does not indicate what effects, if any, that had on any of his executioners.  We do know, however, that Saul of Tarsus, who approved of the execution, went on to become St. Paul the Apostle.  One need not stray from the proverbial path of reasonableness to say that St. Paul, pondering his past and God’s grace, to say that he regretted having ever approved of St. Stephen’s death.

The use of violence to rid oneself of an inconvenient person is sinful.  To commit violence for this purpose in the name of God, presumably to affirm one’s righteousness in the process, is ironic, for that violence belies the claim of righteousness.  Furthermore, there are only victims in violent acts.  The person who commits violence harms himself or herself, at least spiritually, if in no other way.  Violence might be necessary or preferable to any alternative sometimes, but nobody should ever celebrate it or turn to it as a first resort.

Whatever we do to others, we do to ourselves.  May we pursue peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation, not revenge.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 22, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN DRYDEN, ENGLISH PURITAN THEN ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND TRANSLATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/two-stonings/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Fourth Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   7 comments

Millet_Gleaners

Above:  The Gleaners, by Jean-Francois Millet

Image in the Public Domain

Caring for Others

JANUARY 30 and 31, 2020

FEBRUARY 1, 2020

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The Collect:

Holy God, you confound the world’s wisdom in giving your kingdom to the lowly and the pure in heart.

Give us such a hunger and thirst for justice, and perseverance in striving for peace,

that in our words and deeds we may see the life of your Son, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 16:18-20 (Thursday)

Deuteronomy 24:17-25:4 (Friday)

Micah 3:1-4 (Saturday)

Psalm 15 (all days)

1 Peter 3:8-12 (Thursday)

1 Timothy 5:17-24 (Friday)

John 13:31-35 (Saturday)

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Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle?

Who may abide upon your holy hill?

Those who lead a blameless life and do what is right,

who speak the truth from their heart;

they do not slander with the tongue,

they do no evil to their friends;

they do not cast discredit upon a neighbor.

In their sight the wicked are rejected,

but they honor those who fear the LORD.

They have sworn upon their health

and do not take back their word.

They do not give their money in hope of gain,

nor do they take bribes against the innocent.

Those who do these things shall never be overthrown.

–Psalm 15, Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006)

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The Law of Moses and other segments of the Bible speak of the responsibilities we humans have toward each other.  Authors thunder condemnations of judicial corruption and economic exploitation from the pages of the Bible.  And the Law of Moses provides culturally-specific applications of the universal, timeless standard to care for the less fortunate.  The texts for today offer examples of these generalizations.

Furthermore, those in authority are supposed to look out for the best interests of their people.  Often, however, many of them do not even try to do this.  Too often I read news stories of the vulnerable members of society suffering from cuts in government social programs as either

  1. no private sector agents step up to do the work as well or better,
  2. no private sector agents can do the work as well or better, or
  3. no private sector agents do the work, but not as effectively.

Something is terribly wrong and socially sinful when one or more of these scenarios is part of reality.  That which is most effective is the strategy I favor in any given case.  This is about ideology, not “please do not confuse me with the facts” ideology.

Perhaps the most difficult advice from the readings for these days is this:

Never repay one wrong with another, or one abusive word with another; instead, repay with a blessing.  That is what you are called to do, so that you inherit a blessing.

–1 Peter 3:9-10, The New Jerusalem Bible

We have all violated that rule, have we not?  The desire for revenge is natural yet wrong.  And the goal of having the last word might satisfy one in the short term yet does not help matters.  And, when forgiveness comes slowly, the desire to forgive might precede it.  Giving up one’s anger (even gradually) and the target(s) of it to God and moving on with life is a positive thing to do.  And praying for–not about–people can change the one who prays.  That is also good.

There is also the question of violence, which can prove to be complicated.  Sometimes, when the oppressors insist on continuing to oppress, the best way to deliver their victims is devastating to the perpetrators.  Yet, on other occasions, violence does not resolve the issue at hand and creates new problems instead.  It is often easier to make such distinctions with the benefit of hindsight, which, of course, does not exist in the heat of the moment of decision.  So I offer no easy one-size-fits-all formulas here, for none exist.  The best I can do is pray that those in authority will decide and behave wisely.

Yes, sometimes life offers a choice between just the bad and the worse.  In such cases I favor choosing the bad, for at least it is not worse.  The best we can do is all that anyone ought to expect of us.  And, if we strive to love one another as actively and effectively as possible, we are at least on the right track.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 7, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF THE PACIFIC

THE FEAST OF ELIE NAUD, HUGUENOT WITNESS TO THE FAITH

THE FEAST OF JANE LAURIE BORTHWICK, TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER, POET

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/caring-for-others/

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Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C   5 comments

Above:  Moravian Logo in Stained Glass

Image Source = JJackman

Mercy, Judgment, and Grace

FEBRUARY 24, 2019

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Genesis 45:1-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out,

Send everyone away from me.

So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. Joseph said to his brothers,

I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?

But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.

Then Joseph said to his brothers,

Come closer to me.

And they came closer. He said,

I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, “Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. I will provide for you there– since there are five more years of famine to come– so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.” And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father how greatly I am honored in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.

Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.

Psalm 37:1-12 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Do not fret yourself because of evildoers;

do not be jealous of those who do no wrong.

2 For they shall soon whither like the grass,

and like the green grass they fade away.

3 Put your trust in the LORD and do good,

dwell in the land and feed on its riches.

Take delight in the LORD,

and he shall give you your heart’s desire.

Commit your way to the LORD and put your trust in him,

and he will bring it to pass.

He will make your righteousness as clear as the light

and your just dealing as the noonday.

Be still and wait for the LORD

and wait patiently for him.

8  Do not fret yourselves over the one who prospers,

the one who succeeds in evil schemes.

9  Refrain from anger, leave rage alone;

do not fret yourself; it leads only to evil.

10 For evildoers shall be cut off,

but those who wait upon the LORD shall possess the land.

11  In a little while the wicked shall be no more;

you shall search out their place, but they will not be there.

12  But the lowly shall possess the land;

they will delight in abundance of peace.

41 But the deliverance of the righteous comes from the LORD;

he is their stronghold in time of trouble.

42 The LORD will help them and rescue them;

he will rescue them from the wicked and deliver them,

because they seek refuge in him.

1 Corinthians 15:35-49 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Someone may ask,

How are dead people raised, and what sort of body do they have when they come back?

These are stupid questions.  Whatever you sow in the ground has to die before it is given new life and the thing that you sow is not what is going to come; you sow  a bare grain, say of wheat or something like that, and then God gives it the sort of body that he has chosen:  each sort of seed gets its own sort of body.

Everything that is flesh is not the same flesh:  there is human flesh, animals’ flesh, the flesh of birds and the flesh of fish.  Then there are heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the heavenly bodies have a beauty of their own and the earthly bodies a different one.  The sun has its brightness, the moon a different brightness, and the stars a different brightness, and the stars differ from each other in brightness.  It is the same with the resurrection of the dead:  the thing that is sown is perishable but what is raised is imperishable; the thing that is sown is contemptible but what is raised is glorious; the thing that is sown is weak but what is raised is powerful; when it is sown it embodies the soul, when it is raised it embodies the spirit.

If the soul has its own embodiment, so dies the spirit have its own embodiment.  The first man, Adam, as scripture says, became a living soul; but the last Adam has become a life-giving spirit.  That is, first the one with the soul, not the spirit, and after that, the one with the spirit.  The first man, being from the earth, is earthly by nature; the second man is from heaven.  As this earthly man was, so are we on earth; and as the heavenly man is, so are we in heaven.  And we, who have been modelled on the earthly man, will be modelled on the heavenly man.

Luke 6:27-38 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

But I say this to you who are listening:  Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly.  To the man who slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek too; to the man who takes your cloak from you, do not refuse your tunic.  Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your property back from the man who robs you.  Treat others as you would like them to treat you.  If you love those who love you, what thanks can you expect?  Even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what thanks can you expect?  For even sinners do that much.  And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what thanks can you expect?  Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount.  Instead, love your enemies and do good, and lend without any hope of return.  You will have a great reward, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.  Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned.  Give, and there will be gifts for you:  a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.

The Collect:

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/07/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-seventh-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/07/prayer-of-confession-for-the-seventh-sunday-after-epiphany/

 Prayer of Dedication:

 http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/07/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-seventh-sunday-after-epiphany/

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 Rise, heart, thy Lord is risen.  Sing his praise

Without delays,

Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise

With him may’st rise;

That, as his death calcined thee to dust,

His life may make thee gold, and much more just….

–George Herbert

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Joseph forgave his brothers who sold him into slavery.  God, he said, used that dastardly deed to help many others years after the fact.  Nevertheless, forgiving those who had sold him into slavery seems like a spiritual feat under my circumstance.  It is possible only by grace.  Being better than others might expect–doing more than one must–being as merciful as possible by grace–is the unifying core of this Sunday’s readings.  Dong this consists of nothing less than applying to others the same love one has received from God.  Thus grace is supposed to beget more grace.

We have a model–Jesus–to follow.  We have his ethical teachings and his life.  And he have his resurrection.  People murdered him.  He forgave them.  He even interceded for them.  Peter denied Jesus, who forgave him.  Jesus is the “man of heaven” whose image each of us can bear.  Bearing our Lord’s image, forgiving our enemies, refraining from baseless judgments–these are possible by grace and free will, the latter of which exists because of grace.  So these are possible ultimately by grace.  These can be very difficult tasks, and I have not mastered them.  But I have learned them better than before.  And I look forward to becoming more proficient at them.  Moral perfectionism is quite unrealistic, for flawed beings can never achieve that goal.  But we can do better.  And God–in Christ–offers to help us do so.

I have known this help many times.  During one particular season of my life I detected much sudden grace.  It was an extremely difficult time, so the grace was that much more obvious.  My spiritual life improved greatly without much effort on my part.  I found that my internal reality had changed for the better overnight.  I did not object; I cooperated instead.  And my willingness to extend mercy to my enemies came in time–not immediately, to be sure; it is still coming.  God, I perceive, meets us where we are and carries us as far as we need to go.  Our task is to cooperate.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 14, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FULBERT OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EDWARD THOMAS DEMBY, EPISCOPAL SUFFRAGAN BISHOP OF ARKANSAS, AND HENRY BEARD DELANY, EPISCOPAL SUFFRAGAN BISHOP OF NORTH CAROLINA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FREDERICK HANDEL, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT WANDREGISILUS OF NORMANDY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT, AND SAINT LAMBERT OF LYONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/mercy-judgment-and-grace/

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Week of 8 Epiphany: Friday, Year 2   9 comments

Above:  A Depiction of an Agape Feast from the Roman Catacombs

“Agape cancels a host of sins….”

NOT OBSERVED THIS YEAR

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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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1 Peter 4:7-13 (Revised English Bible):

The end of all things is upon us; therefore to help you pray you must lead self-controlled and sober lives.  Above all, maintain the fervour of your love for one another, because love cancels a host of sins.  Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.  As good stewards of the varied gifts given you by God, let each use the gift he has received in service to others.  Are you a speaker?  Speak as one who utters God’s oracles.  Do you give service?  Give it in the strength which God supplies.  In all things let God be glorified through Jesus Christ; to him belong glory and power for ever and ever.

Dear friends, do not be taken aback by the fiery ordeal which has come to test you, as though it were something extraordinary.  On the contrary, in so far as it gives you a share in Christ’s sufferings, you should rejoice; and then when his glory is revealed, your joy will be unbounded.

Psalm 96:7-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7 Ascribe to the LORD, you families of the peoples;

ascribe to the LORD honor and power.

Ascribe to the LORD the honor due his Name;

bring offerings and come into his courts.

Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness;

let the whole earth tremble before him.

10 Tell it out among the nations:  ”The LORD is King!

he has made the world so firm that it cannot be moved;

he will judge the peoples with equity.”

11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;

let the sea thunder and all that is in it;

let the field be joyful and all that is therein.

12 Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joy

before the LORD when he comes,

when he comes to judge the earth.

13 He will judge the world with righteousness

and the peoples with his truth.

Mark 11:11-26 (Revised English Bible):

(Note:  Mark 11:1-10 tells of Jesus borrowing a colt and entering Jerusalem.)

He entered Jerusalem and went into the temple.  He looked round at everything; then, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

On the following day, as they left Bethany, he felt hungry, and, noticing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it.  But when he reached it he found nothing but leaves; for it was not the season for figs.  He said to the tree,

May no one ever again eat fruit from you!

And his disciples were listening.

So they came to Jerusalem, and he went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold there.  He upset the tables of the money-changers and the seats of the dealers in pigeons; and he would not allow anyone to carry goods through the temple court.  Then he began to teach them, and said,

Does not scripture say, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations”?

The chief priests and the scribes heard of this and looked for a way to bring about his death; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching.  And when evening came they went out of the city.

Early next morning, as they passed by, they saw that the fig tree had withered from the roots up; and Peter, recalling what had happened, said to him,

Rabbi, look, the fig tree which you cursed has withered.

Jesus answered them,

Have faith in God.  Truly I tell you:  if anyone says to this mountain, “Be lifted from your place and hurled into the sea,” and has no inward doubts, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.  I tell you, then, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours.

And when you stand praying, if you have a grievance against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive the wrongs you have done.

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The Collect:

Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son 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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Some Related Posts:

Week of 8 Epiphany:  Friday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/week-of-8-epiphany-friday-year-1/

Lord, Help Us Walk Your Servant Way:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/lord-help-us-walk-your-servant-way/

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The reading from 1 Peter occurs in the context of the expectation that Jesus would return very soon.  That nearly two thousand years ago.  Nevertheless, the relevance of what follows the failed prediction remains current.

More than one verse from the Bible teaches that there is a relationship between how we treat others and how God treats us.  Consider the end of the Gospel lection:  We must forgive others if we are to have a reasonable expectation that God will forgive us.   And God will extend to us the same standard we apply to others (Matthew 7:1-5).  The Greek word for “love” in 1 Peter 4:8 is agape.  This is selfless, self-sacrificing, unconditional love, the kind we see Jesus just a few days from demonstrating on the cross in the reading from Mark 11.  Jesus is our model, of course, but we must not lose sight of the fact that 1 Peter 4:7-13 uses agape to refer to how we ought to treat our fellow human beings.

Agape cancels a host of sins,

we read, followed by exhortations to act hospitably and use spiritual gifts for the common good, what Paul called the building up of the body of Christ.  More of this ought to happen among the churched population.  Often branches of the Church hinder their divine mandate by engaging in backstabbing, frontstabbing, bickering, gossiping, fighting needlessly over minor doctrinal disputes, and mistaking orthodoxy for the mere recitation and affirmation of a written confession of faith.  Indeed, much of Protestantism contains an unfortunate and reflexive reaction against anything resembling works-based righteousness.  But then there are books such as James and 1 Peter.

I am sufficiently close to Roman Catholicism to lack an anti-works-based righteousness reflexive kick.  Besides, as I ponder texts and interpretations of them over time, I conclude that there is validity to some degree of works-based righteousness within the context of grace, by which God empowers us to live  faithfully.  A positive response to God does require free will if it is to have any meaning.  Any such response is a work, is it not?  And this free will comes from God.  So everything leads back to God.

Within this context we have the teaching that we, by our actions, can contribute to our own forgiveness by God.  Dare we hear and accept this?  And how much better off would our families, friends and acquaintances networks, neighborhoods, communities, nations, world, congregations, and denominations be if more of us focused on extending agape toward each other instead of pointing fingers and trying to win arguments about theology and social issues?  Such arguments feed the heresy of Donatism, which is destructive.  But agape builds up.

May agape mark our individual and common lives.

KRT