Archive for the ‘Fundamentalism’ Tag

Devotion for the Third Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Ruins of Nineveh

Image Source = Google Earth

Repentance

JANUARY 21, 2024

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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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Jonah 3:1-5, 10

Psalm 62:6-14 (LBW) or Psalm 62:5-12 (LW)

1 Corinthians 7:39-31

Mark 1:14-20

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Almighty God, you sent your Son to proclaim your kingdom

and to teach with authority. 

Anoint us with the power of your Spirit, that we, too,

may bring good news to the afflicted,

bind up the brokenhearted,

and proclaim liberty to the captive;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 15

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O Lord God Almighty, because you have always supplied your servants

with the special gifts which come from your Holy Spirit alone,

leave also us not destitute of your manifold gifts nor of grace

to use them always to your honor and glory and the good of others;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Lutheran Worship (1982), 24

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For the world in its present form is passing away.

–1 Corinthians 7:31b, The New American Bible–Revised Edition

Yet here I am in March 2023, typing words (in English translation) dictated in Greek in the fifties C.E.  So, we may consider the marital advice in the verses before and after 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 in the context of an inaccurate prediction of the Second Coming of Jesus.

We read in Mark 1 that “the Kingdom of God has drawn near.”  In the canonical Gospels, the Kingdom of God is simultaneously present and future.  The Kingdom of God, partially realized, is present.  The fully-realized Kingdom of God awaits.  Nevertheless, I harbor much sympathy for Alfred Loisy’s lament:

Jesus foretold the kingdom, and what came was the Church.

Now we return to the Gospel of Mark:

The time has arrived; the kingdom of God is upon you. Repent, and believe the gospel.

–Mark 1:15, The Revised English Bible

David Bentley Hart translates a particular Greek verb not as “repent” but as “change your hearts.”  Although “repent” is familiar, many people misunderstand it.  Many think, for example, that repentance is remorse for sins.  No, remorse precedes repentance.

In much of the Bible, repentance can prevent divine judgment.  That is the sense in Mark 1:15.

Yet, in the brilliant and profound work of fiction called the Book of Jonah, the reluctant prophet does not offer repentance to his enemies.  No, he predicts their destruction in the near future.  Jonah seeks his foes’ annihilation.  In the story, however, the population of Nineveh overturns it ways; it repents.  God does not overthrow the city, much to Jonah’s distress.

I have read the Hebrew prophetic genre closely enough to understand that the genre is inconsistent regarding whether collective repentance will suffice to prevent destruction.  Any given Hebrew prophetic book may contain several strata.  So, for example, a layer from before the Babylonian Exile may state that the time for repentance has passed and that God will no longer forgive.  Yet a stratum from during or following the Babylonian Exile may hold that repentance remains possible.  This contradiction would bother me if I were an Evangelical or a fundamentalist.  I have no such problem, fortunately.

I argue that repentance may remain a feasible option longer than many people may think.  When repentance ceases to be a feasible option is for God to decree.  I am not God.

But why wait to repent?  Why wait to respond favorably and faithfully to God?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 10, 2023 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTEENTH DAY OF LENT

THE FEAST OF MARIE-JOSEPH LAGRANGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT AGRIPINNUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT GERMANUS OF PARIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT DROCTOVEUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF ALEXANDER CLARK, U.S. METHODIST PROTESTANT MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

THE FEAST OF FOLLIOT SANDFORD PIERPOINT, ANGLICAN EDUCATOR, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN OGLIVIE, SCOTTISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1615

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACARIUS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the Second Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Archaia Korinthos, Greece

Image Source = Google Earth

Embodied Justice

JANUARY 14, 2024

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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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1 Samuel 3:1-10

Psalm 67

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

John 1:43-51

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Lord God, you showed your glory and

led many to faith by the works of your Son. 

As he brought gladness and healing to his people,

grant us these same gifts and lead us also to perfect faith in him,

Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 15

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Almighty and eternal God,

Governor of all things in heaven and on earth,

mercifully hear the prayers of your people,

and grant us your peace in our days;

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 22

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Nathanael said to [Jesus], “How do you know me?”  Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”

–John 1:48, The New American Bible–Revised Edition

I begin with the proverbial low-hanging fruit: What was amazing about Jesus seeing St. Nathanael sitting under a fig tree?  Father Raymond E. Brown, in the first volume of his two-volume commentary on the Gospel of John, lists one interpretation after another in a long endnote.  Then he concludes:

We are far from exhausting the suggestions, all of which are pure speculation.

I do not presume to know more about the Gospel of John than Father Raymond E. Brown did.

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We all belong to God.  We all need to serve God.  Some of us may be so fortunate as (a) to know how to do that in circumstances, and (b) to be able to do that.  If one continues to read after 1 Samuel 3:10, one finds that God sometimes tells us uncomfortable truths.  Speaking these truths–even in love and tact–may be awkward.

The reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians requires context.  Pagan temple prostitution did occur in ancient Corinth.  And, given Platonic philosophy regarding the body and the soul, some Corinthian Christians may have excused sexual immorality (as with pagan temple prostitutes) as being justifiable.  If the body was only a hindrance to the soul, why not?

Yet what if the body is not a hindrance to the soul?  In Hebrew thought, continued in Pauline epistles, the Greek philosophical separation of body and soul does not exist.  Rather, “soul” means “essential self,” one with the body.  Furthermore, in Pauline theology, the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).  The body, then, deserves great respect.

Without falling into the trap of fun-damn-mentalism and the excesses of Pietism and Puritanism, I affirm this timeless principle.  We, who are in the flesh, serve God with our bodies and how we use them properly.  How we treat others, in the flesh, is of great spiritual and moral importance.  Whatever good we do to others in the flesh, we do to Jesus.  Whatever good we do not to others in the flesh, we do not do to Jesus.  Whatever evil we commit to others in the flesh, we do to Jesus.

I do not understand John 1:48, but I grasp this point well.  It troubles me, for sins of omission are as real as sins of commission.  Pray we me:

God of all mercy,

we confess that we have sinned against you,

opposing your will in our lives.

We have opposed your goodness in each other,

in ourselves, and in the world you have created.

We repent of the evil that enslaves us,

the evil we have done,

and the evil done on our behalf.

Forgive, restore, and strengthen us 

through our Savior Jesus Christ;

that we may abide in your love

and serve only your will.  Amen.

Enriching Our Worship (1998), 19

The line about “the evil done on our behalf” indicts me every time.  What response does that line elicit from you, O reader?

John 1:51 echoes Genesis 28:12 and reminds us that a better world is possible.  Heaven and Earth can be one by divine action.  In the meantime, may we, by grace, act both collectively and individually to leave the Earth better and made more just than we found it.  The Golden Rule requires that of us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 9, 2023 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTEENTH DAY OF LENT

THE FEAST OF HARRIET TUBMAN, U.S. ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF EMANUEL CRONENWETT, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCES OF ROME, FOUNDER OF THE COLLATINES

THE FEAST OF JOHANN PACHELBEL, GERMAN LUTHERN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PACIAN OF BARCELONA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF BARCELONA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SOPHRONIUS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the Fifth Sunday After the Epiphany (Year D)   1 comment

the-wrath-of-elihu-william-blake

Above:  The Wrath of Elihu, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

The Oratory and Theology of Elihu, Part III

FEBRUARY 4, 2024

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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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Job 34:1-20

Psalm 28

Matthew 6:7-15

Hebrews 13:9-14 (15-16) 17-25

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Elihu seems like a rather annoying person.  He is eager to defend God against Job’s complaints and to offer a more vigorous theodicy than that of Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite.  Elihu argues, in part:

So far is God removed from wickedness,

and Shaddai from injustice,

that he requites a man for what he does,

treating each one as his way of life deserves.

God is never wrong, do not doubt that!

Shaddai does not deflect the course of right.

–Job 34:10b-12, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Translation:  Job sinned, and these sufferings of his are divine punishment for those sins.  If he repents, God will forgive Job and end his sufferings.  This conclusion contradicts Job 1 and 2, which offer a truly disturbing answer:  God has permitted an innocent man to suffer as part of a wager.

This seems like an excellent place at which to add the analysis of John Job, author of Job Speaks to Us Today (Atlanta, GA:  John Knox Press, 1977), pages 102-103.  The author asks, “Why are Job’s friends not truly wise?”  He concludes, in part:

The friends, first of all, are shameless utilitarians.  Repentance, in the estimation of Eliphaz, is a kind of insurance policy.  Making petition to God is advocated, not for the intrinsic value of a relationship with him, but simply for the pay-off in material terms–as when he says, “Come to terms with God and you will prosper; that is the way to mend your fortune” (22:21).  The interesting point here is that the friends adopt precisely the position which Satan regards as universally occupied by those who make a show of being god-fearing.  “Does Job fear God for nothing?” he had asked.  Eliphaz makes no secret of the grounds on which he is advising Job to fear God.  It is all too shallow.  Faith is depersonalized:  it becomes self-centered instead of God-centered.  Its character as faith is destroyed.  Fear of God is simply not the right way to describe it.

If one replaces “Eliphaz” with “Elihu” and changes the citation from Job 22 to one from Chapter 34, this analysis remains valid.

The Book of Job defies the desire for easy answers that fundamentalism typifies.  God is just, correct?  Then how does one explain the wager in Job 1 and 2?  And does not Job deserve better than the “I am God and you are not” speeches in Job 38-41?  In Job 42, however, God expresses his displeasure with Eliphaz and company for speaking falsely about him and praises Job for speaking honestly about him (God).  Those two responses seem incompatible, do they not?  Of course, one came from one source and the other came from another.  Elihu, who states correctly that God does not meet human measures (Job 33:12b), also spouts foolishness.  The Book of Job provides no easy answers and offers a false, Hollywood ending, at least in its final, composite form.  The original version ends with Job’s repentance for overreaching a few verses into Chapter 42.

Job needed good friends, not Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu.  He needed people who came to comfort him, to listen to him, and to let him cry on their shoulders.  He needed friends who followed advice from Hebrews 13:16:

Never neglect to show kindness and to share what you have with others; for such are the sacrifices which God approves.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

The standard we apply to others will be the standard God applies to us; we read this in Matthew 7:1-5.  Forgiveness is something we are to extend to others, and divine forgiveness of our sins depends on our forgiveness of the sins of others.  This is a lesson the author of Psalm 28 had not yet learned.  This is a lesson with which I have struggled mightily and with which I continue to struggle.  Success in the struggle does not depend on my own power, fortunately; grace is abundant.  The desire to do something one knows one ought to do is something with which God can work.  It is, metaphorically, a few loaves and fishes, which God can multiply.

In Job 42 God burned with anger toward Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar.  (The text does not mention Elihu, most likely because the text of the Book of Job did not yet contain the Elihu cycle.)  The alleged friends had not spoken truthfully of God, but Job had.  Job interceded on their behalf, however, and God excused their folly and forgave their sins.  Job, who had complained bitterly to his alleged friends, who had taunted him and sometimes even enjoyed his sufferings, all while imagining that they were pious and that he had done something to deserve his plight, prayed for their forgiveness.

That is a fine lesson to draw from the Book of Job.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 9, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CONSTANCE AND HER COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF ANNE HOULDITCH SHEPHERD, ANGLICAN NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ISAAC THE GREAT, PATRIARCH OF ARMENIA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CHATTERTON DIX, HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/09/09/the-oratory-and-theology-of-elihu-part-iii/

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