Archive for the ‘Hebrews 10’ Tag

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

Rode

Above:  Christ Heals a Man Paralyzed by the Gout, by Bernhard Rode

Image in the Public Domain

Building Communities of Shalom

JANUARY 19, 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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Isaiah 26:7-27:1

Psalm 109

Matthew 8:1-4; 9:1-8 or Luke 5:12-26

Hebrews 10:1-4 (10-14) 26-39

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May my accusers be clothed with dishonor;

may they be wrapped in their own shame as in a mantle.

–Psalm 109:29, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Justice, according to Psalm 109 and Isaiah 26, is for God to deliver the faithful and to smite the evildoers.  I understand the sentiment well, just as I also grasp the reality that prolonged anger can easily become a spiritual toxin.  In small doses and for brief periods of time it might help one make the proper decisions, but its toxicity becomes apparent quickly.  One does better to pray for one’s persecutors, that they may repent, and leave the rest to God.  Not all will repent, unfortunately, and those who persist in perfidy will bring their fates upon themselves.

Lo, I have it all put away,

Sealed up in My storehouses,

To be My vengeance and recompense,

At the time that their foot falters.

Yea, their day of disaster is near,

And destiny rushes upon them.

For the LORD will vindicate His people

And take revenge for His servants,

When He sees that their might is gone,

And neither bond nor free is left….

O nations, acclaim His people!

For He’ll avenge the blood of His servants,

Wreak vengeance on His foes,

And cleanse the land of His people.

–Deuteronomy 32:34-36, 43, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

In the Lukan account of the healing of the paralyzed man he glorifies God immediately, and witnesses become filled with amazement because of the miracle.  It is easy to maintain faith in God during good times, but a different matter during difficult times.  That is part of the reason for the existence of the Letter to the Hebrews, with its encouragement of perseverance and warning against committing apostasy, of falling away from God.

I have learned via living that faith in God is essential to getting through dark chapters in life as well as possible.  I have also learned that the light of God seems to burn brightest in the darkness and that grace seems most evident during times of distress.  The faithful do not walk exclusively in paths of pleasantness.  Neither do they walk alone.  They trusting in God, can focus on the positive and seek to build communities of shalom.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2016 COMMON ERA

PROPER 18:  THE SIXTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN PEACEMAKERS AND PEACE ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF PAUL JONES, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF UTAH AND PEACE ACTIVIST; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, JOHN NEVIN SAYRE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND PEACE ACTIVIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/09/04/building-communities-of-shalom/

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

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

Apostasy and Fidelity

DECEMBER 20 and 21, 2018

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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 binds us,

that we may receive you in joy and serve you always,

for you live and reign with the Father and

the Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 31:31-34 (Thursday)

Isaiah 42:10-18 (Friday)

Psalm 80:1-7 (Both Days)

Hebrews 10:10-18 (Thursday)

Hebrews 10:32-39 (Friday)

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Restore us, O God of hosts;

show us the light of your countenance,

and we shall be saved.

–Psalm 80:7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The motif of divine judgment and mercy continues in the readings for these days.  Exile will come to pass.  According to the theology of the Old Testament, the main cause was disobedience to the Law of Moses.  After the exile, however, divine mercy will shower upon the Hebrews.  The new covenant will be one written on human hearts, not scrolls or stone tablets.

Divine forgiveness for human sins is a blessing and an expression of grace.  It also creates an obligation to respond favorably to God, out of awe and gratitude.  Such a favorable response will affect those around the one responding accordingly.  How can it not?  Consider, O reader, the commandment to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself.  That one has societal implications.

The Letter to the Hebrews warns against committing apostasy, or falling away from God.  That emphasis is evident in 10:32-39.  One cannot fall away from God unless one has followed God.  As I wrote in the previous post,

Salvation…is a matter of God’s grace and human obedience.

Divine love for human beings is wonderful.  It does not, however, negate free will.  I recognize a role for predestination also, for I have come to accept the doctrine of Single Predestination, which is consistent with Lutheranism and Anglicanism, as well as moderate Calvinism.  For those not predestined to Heaven the witness of the Holy Spirit is available.  By free will (itself a gift of God) one can accept or reject that witness.  The correct choice is acceptance, but many opt to reject the offer.  Some of them had accepted it.

The responsibility to make the correct choice remains constant.  The necessity of choosing to persist in the faith is a constant once one has embraced wondrous grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 20, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN BAJUS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/08/20/apostasy-and-fidelity/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After the Eighth Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Common Raven

Above:  A Common Raven, March 2004

Photographer = Dave Menke

Image Source = U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Endurance

NOT OBSERVED IN 2017

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The Collect:

God of tender care, like a mother, like a father,

you never forget your children, and you know already what we need.

In our anxiety give us trusting and faithful hearts,

that in confidence we may embody the peace and justice

of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 25

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 32:1-14 (Monday)

1 Kings 17:1-16 (Tuesday)

Isaiah 66:7-13 (Wednesday)

Psalm 104 (All Days)

Hebrews 10:32-39 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 4:6-21 (Tuesday)

Luke 12:22-31 (Wednesday)

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All of these look to you to give them their food in due season.

When you give it to them, they gather it;

you open your hand and they are filled with good.

When you hide your face they are troubled,

when you take away their breath,

they die and return again to the dust.

When you send forth your spirit, they are created,

and you renew the face of the earth.

–Psalm 104:29-32, Common Worship (2000)

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The Book of Job is allegedly about why people suffer.  I have read that book closely several times recently and concluded that the book is about a different topic–how many pious people misunderstand God and presume to spread their confusion.  As for the cause of suffering in the Book of Job, the text makes clear that, in the titular character’s case, God permitted it.

There is no single cause of suffering.  Possible causes include one’s own sin, another person’s sin, and the fact of being alive.  The main topic of these days’ readings, however, is endurance, not suffering.  While we endure, do we welcome those agents of grace God sends to us?  Do we cease to endure, abandoning faith in God?  Or do we mature spiritually?  And do we anticipate the blessings which follow after suffering ends?

J. B. Phillips, in his classic book, Your God is Too Small (1961), posited that many people have spiritual deficiencies flowing from inadequate God concepts.  I find this conclusion persuasive.  It applies to the human characters in the Book of Job, for example.  And it applies to many, if not most of us who describe ourselves as religious.

A woefully inadequate God concept can contribute to buckling under pressure and not trusting in God, therefore in not enduring then maturing spiritually.  This is not a condemnation of anyone, for I know firsthand about struggling spiritually when one’s world collapses.  I also know what grace feels like in those dark days, weeks, and months.  And I know that it is to emerge–singed, to be sure–from the metaphorical fire.

So from experience I write the following:  No matter how bad the situation is now and how dire it seems to be, there is no shortage of grace.  Thanks be to God!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

PROPER 24–THE TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

THE FEAST OF MARY A. LATHBURY, U.S. METHODIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERTILLA BOSCARDIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND NURSE

THE FEAST OF JOHN HARRIS BURT, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF TARORE OF WAHOARA, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/endurance-2/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After the Second Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   7 comments

The baptism of the Eunuch *oil on panel *64 x 47.5 cm *signed b.r.: RH 1626

Above:  The Baptism of the Eunuch, by Rembrandt Van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Divine Grace and Mutual Responsibility

JANUARY 20 and 21, 2020

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The Collect:

Holy God, our strength and our redeemer,

by your Spirit hold us forever, that through your grace we may

worship you and faithfully serve you,

follow you and joyfully find you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 12:1-13, 21-28 (Monday)

Isaiah 53:1-12 (Tuesday)

Psalm 40:6-17 (both days)

Acts 8:26-40 (Monday)

Hebrews 10:1-4 (Tuesday)

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O Lord my God,

great are the wonderful things you have done,

and the things you have in mind for us:

there is none to be compared with you.

I would proclaim them and speak of them:

but they are more than can be numbered.

–Psalm 40:6-7, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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The laws of God which are written on hearts and minds are laws of grace, love, and responsibility for and to each other.  They are laws of love for and responsibility to God.  The essence of them is to love God fully and others as ourselves.  The rest is commentary–mostly culturally-specific commentary–examples (bound by time, space and circumstances) of universal principles.  Therefore to become so fixated on examples as to ignore or minimize the universal principles is to miss the point and fall into legalism.

This internalized covenant is for all people, not that everyone embraces it or will do so.  It is for Hebrews and Gentiles alike.  It is for those like us and those quite different from us.  It is as much as for Hebrews as it was for a confused Ethiopian eunuch who needed a good catechist.  Fortunately, God sent him one.

The reading from Exodus speaks of the Passover meal instructions and of the importance of blood in deliverance–the latter being a theme in other readings for these days.  In the case of the Passover, the blood protected the Hebrews not from their own sins, but those of Egyptians.  This is a point which one might overlook out of imagined familiarity with the text.  Anyhow, the metaphor of the Passover as applied to Jesus (perhaps most explicitly applied to Jesus in the Gospel of John, where he dies on Passover itself–is the sacrificial lamb) carries meaning beyond just saving us from ourselves–from our sins.

A traditional American hymn speaks of

What wondrous love

that

caused the Lord of bliss

to

lay aside his crown for my soul.

May we–you, O reader, and I–respond favorably to that grace with heart and mind engaged fully, giving neither short shrift.  May we understand correctly and act accordingly, helping others to whom God sends us and others whom God sends to us, to do likewise.  For we are all responsible to and for each other.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 5, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MOTHER TERESA OF CALCUTTA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF GREGORIO AGLIPAY, PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENT BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/divine-grace-and-mutual-responsibility/

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Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year C   3 comments

Above:  The Visitation and Magnificat

Violence, Grace, and Scandal

DECEMBER 23, 2018

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THE FIRST READING

Micah 5:2-5 (New Revised Standard Version):

But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,

who are one of the little clans of Judah,

from you shall come forth for me

one who is to rule Israel,

whose origin is from of old,

from ancient days.

Therefore he shall give them up until the time

when she who is in labor has brought forth;

then the rest of his kindred shall return

to the people of Israel.

And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the LORD,

in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.

And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth;

and he shall be the one of peace.

THE RESPONSE:  OPTIONS

Canticle 15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

(The Magnificat plus the Trinitarian formula)

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;

for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:

the Almighty has done great things for me,

and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him

in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,

he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,

and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel,

for he has remembered his promise of mercy,

The promise he made to our fathers,

to Abraham and his children for ever.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

as it was in the beginning is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

Psalm 80:1-7 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock;

shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim.

2  In the presence of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh,

stir up your strength and come to help us.

3  Restore us, O God of hosts;

show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

4  O LORD God of hosts,

how long will you be angered

despite the prayers of your people?

5  You have fed them with the bread of tears;

you have given them bowls of tears to drink.

6 You have made us the derision of our neighbors,

and our enemies laugh us to scorn.

7  Restore us, O God of hosts;

show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

THE SECOND READING

Hebrews 10:5-10 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,

but a body have you prepared for me;

in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.

Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,’

as it is written of me in the roll of the book.

When he said above,

You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings

(those are offered according to the law), then he added,

Behold, I have come to do your will.

He abolishes the first in order to establish the second.  And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

THE GOSPEL READING

Luke 1:39-45 (46-55) (Revised English Bible):

Soon afterwards Mary set out and hurried away to a town in the uplands of Judah.  She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth.  And when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby stirred in her womb.  Then Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed in a loud voice,

God’s blessing is on you above all women, and his blessing is on the fruit of your womb.  Who am I, that the mother of my Lord should visit me?  I tell you, when your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby in my womb leapt for joy.  Happy is she who has faith that the Lord’s promise to her would be fulfilled!

And Mary said:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour;

for he has looked with favour on his servant,

lowly as she is.

From this day forward

all generations will count me blessed,

for the Mighty God has done great things for me.

His name is holy,

his mercy sure from generation to generation

toward those who fear him.

He has shown the might of his arm,

he has routed the proud and all their schemes;

he has brought down monarchs and their thrones,

and raised on high the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and sent the rich away empty.

He has come to the help of Israel his servant,

as he promised to our forefathers;

he has not forgotten to show mercy

to Abraham and his children’s children for ever.

Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then returned home.

The Collect:

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; 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:

Advent Prayers of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/10/advent-prayers-of-dedication/

Advent Prayers of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/10/advent-prayers-of-praise-and-adoration/

The Hail Mary:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/25/the-hail-mary/

An Advent Prayer:  Expectant God:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/an-advent-prayer-expectant-god/

An Advent Prayer:  Divine Light:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/an-advent-prayer-divine-light/

An Advent Prayer:  The Word of God is Near:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/an-advent-prayer-the-word-of-god-is-near/

An Advent Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/an-advent-prayer-of-confession/

Advent Prayers of Thanksgiving:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/advent-prayers-of-thanksgiving/

An Advent Blessing:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/an-advent-blessing/

An Advent Prayer:  Expectant Hearts:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/an-advent-prayer-expectant-hearts/

O Blessed Mother:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/o-blessed-mother/

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The world has long been violent.  Such violence is evident in some of the readings for this Sunday.  Read the rest of Micah 5, which refers to a possible invasion by Assyrian forces.  Enemies laugh the people of God to scorn in Psalm 80.  Hebrews 10 reminds us that the birth of Jesus was an early chapter in a story which went on to include the crucifixion.  And the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, the setting for the glorious Magnificat, occurred in occupied Judea.  The Pax Romana came at a high price for the vanquished and occupied.

Empires rise and fall, but violence persists.  Nations still occupy other peoples, who engage in acts of violent resistance.  And invasions occur from time to time.  Grudges ancient and modern ferment in the minds of many people, whether they are occupied or the occupiers.  Out of mutual fear, hostility, and misunderstanding we humans attack each other and justify injustice.

We have done this to ourselves and each other.  We continue to do so, for we might not know how to act differently.  We need to hear and heed the message of the Magnificat.  The fruit of a scandalous conception brought about an abundance of grace, but that fruit needed good nurturing.  May we, when we have opportunities to do so, nurture the bearers of grace around us.  Scandals are less important (if at all) than are love and compassion.  Who knows how far the impact of our nurturing will reach?  What would Jesus have been without the parenting skills of Mary and Joseph?  If we take our creedal statements regarding our Lord’s full humanity and divinity seriously, we must give Mary and Joseph much credit.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 3, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE TENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF EDWARD CASWALL, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD PERRONET, BRITISH METHODIST PREACHER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GENEVIEVE, PROPHET

THE FEAST OF GLADYS AYLWARD, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY TO CHINA

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/08/09/violence-grace-and-scandal/

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Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle and Martyr (December 21)   7 comments

Above:  St. Thomas Episcopal Church, New Windsor, New York

Image Source = Daniel Case

My Favorite Biblical Character

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Habakkuk 2:1-4 (The Jerusalem Bible):

I will stand on my watchtower,

and take up my post on my battlements,

watching to see what he will say to me,

what answer he will make to my complaints.

Then Yahweh answered and said,

Write the vision down,

inscribe it on tablets

to be easily read,

since this vision is for its own time only:

eager for its own fulfillment, it does not deceive;

it comes slowly, wait,

for it will come, without fail.

See how he flags, he whose soul is not at rights,

but the upright man will live by his faithfulness.

Psalm 126 (The Jerusalem Bible):

When Yahweh brought Zion’s captives home,

at first it seemed like a dream;

then our mouths filled with laughter

and our lips with song.

Even the pagan started talking

about the marvels Yahweh had done for us!

What marvels indeed he did for us,

and how over joyed we were!

Yahweh, bring all our captives back again

like torrents in the Negeb!

Those who went sowing in tears

now sing as they reap.

They went away, went away weeping,

carrying the seed;

they come back, come back singing,

carrying their sheaves.

Hebrews 10:35-11:1 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Be as confident now, then, since the reward is so great.  You will need endurance to do God’s will and gain what he has promised.

Only a little while now, a very little while,

and the one that is coming will have come; he will not delay.

The righteous man will live by faith,

but if he draws back, my soul will take no pleasure in him.

You and I are not the sort of people who draw back, and are lost by it; we are the sort who keep faithful until our souls are saved.

Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of the realities that at present remain unseen.

John 20:24-29 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.  When the disciples said,

We have seen the Lord,

he answered,

Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger in the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.

Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and among them.

Peace be with you,

he said.  Then he spoke to Thomas,

Put your finger here; look, here are my hands.  Give me your hand; put it into my side.  Doubt no longer but believe.

Thomas replied,

My Lord and my God!

Jesus said to him:

You believe because you can see me.

Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.

The Collect:

Everliving God, who strengthened your apostle Thomas with firm and certain faith in your Son’s resurrection: Grant us so perfectly and without doubt to believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, that our faith may never be found wanting in your sight; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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My father served as pastor of Cooks Union United Methodist Church, about eight miles outside Colquitt, Georgia, in Miller County, from June 1985 to June 1986.  One Sunday morning during that year, a laywoman whose name I forget delivered a children’s sermon about St. Thomas.  She held a small book about the Apostles.  You, O reader, might have seen this book or even own a copy.  It features color paintings of each of the main Apostles with a brief profile on the facing page.  The book is thin, with a two-tone hard cover.  The church member explained that Thomas had doubted the resurrection of Jesus and that he had later taken the Gospel to India, where he died for the Christian faith.  So, she said, Thomas was not all bad.

But Thomas not all bad, anyway.  The presumption behind her concluding statement was that the Apostle’s doubt constituted a great stain on his character.  This was a great misunderstanding.

Let us back up for a few moments, though.

St. Thomas was a twin, hence the Greek designation Didymus, which means “twin.”  The canonical Gospels contain few details about him, and he did not write the Gnostic, non-canonical Gospel of Thomas.  (I have read the Gospel of Thomas in three translations, and think that its non-canonical status is proper.)  St. Thomas traveled through Persia all the way to India, where he introduced Christianity to the subcontinent by the 50s C.E.  The modern-day Mar Thoma Church is the heir of this efforts.  In India the Apostle met his martyrdom by spearing at Madras; Mylapore is his burial site.  Today one can visit his tomb at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Thomas at Mylapore.

St. Thomas was a healthy skeptic.  The resurrection was hardly a frequent event, so doubting it was natural.  The Apostle was not the only follower of Jesus at the time to harbor doubts.  The canonical Gospels indicate that St. Peter was initially skeptical, too.  Yet I hear about Doubting Thomases, not Doubting Peters.  Anyway, St. Thomas, the healthy skeptic, believed the evidence when he saw it, and dedicated the rest of his life to telling people about Jesus.

I am sufficiently a product of the Enlightenment to accept the premise that doubt is a legitimate path to knowledge.  I ask questions when I harbor doubts, and I seek answers when I ask questions.  Thus I increase the probability of finding answers when I experience and embrace doubt.  Thomas admitted his doubt, received his answer, accepted it, and lived accordingly.

So, let us treat the label “Doubting Thomas” as a great compliment.

Finally, a personal note:  St. Thomas is my favorite Biblical figure.  He was an honest doubter and seeker, a good skeptic.  So am I.  If I were a Biblical character, I would be St. Thomas the Apostle.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 10, 2010

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (U.S.A.), 1983

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA, 1925

THE FEAST OF SAINT EPHREM OF EDESSA, ROMAN CATHOLIC DEACON AND HYMN WRITER

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Published previously at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR:

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/10/feast-of-st-thomas-apostle-and-martyr-december-21/

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Week of 3 Epiphany: Friday, Year 1   16 comments

Above:  Mustard Plant

Diversity Within the Kingdom of God

FEBRUARY 1, 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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Hebrews 10:32-39 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated.  For you had compassion on the the prisoners, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.  Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.  For you have need of endurance, so that you may do the will of God and receive what is promised.

For yet a little while,

and the coming one shall come and shall not tarry;

but my righteous one shall live by faith,

and if he shrinks back,

my soul has no pleasure in him.

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and keep their souls.

Psalm 37:1-7, 24-25, 41-42 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 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.

4 Take delight in the LORD,

and he shall give you your heart’s desire.

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

and he will bring it to pass.

6 He will make your righteousness as clear as the light

and your just dealing as the noonday.

7 Be still and wait for the LORD

and wait patiently for him.

24 Our steps are directed by the LORD;

he strengthens those in whose way he delights.

25 If they stumble, they shall not fall headlong,

for the LORD holds them by the hand.

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.

Mark 4:26-34 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And he said,

The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed upon the ground, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how.  The earth produces of itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.  But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.

And he said,

With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it?  It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The mustard bush is not an especially handsome plant, although it can be a large one–as tall as ten feet.  If Jesus had wanted to speak of the kingdom of God–and by extension the body of followers–we call it the Church–in handsome and impressive terms, he could have used the image of a mighty cedar of Lebanon.  But no, he used the analogy of a plant many considered to be huge weed.

This topic requires further investigation.

I write this devotional from northeastern Georgia, U.S.A.  Just a few miles away from where I sit one can see kudzu.  The plant grows and grows then grows some more.  It takes over.  The mustard bush is similar in that, once it starts growing, it continues.

And a variety of creatures take shelter within a mustard bush.  The heterogeneous nature of the denizens is important within this parable.  So, if we accept the mustard plant as an analogy of the Christian Church, we need to leave purity tests behind and remember that we ought not greet just people like ourselves.  This can be truly difficult, for even those of us who think ourselves fairly broad-minded like those similar to ourselves.

So God plants seed and the Church takes root.  Then the Church spreads, and people cannot prevent this.  God is in control, and the Church is home to varied population.  Within that diversity, however, is the commonality of faith tested by endurance.  The Wisdom of Solomon 3:6 reminds us that gold is tested in the fire.  The context for this statement is a section about how the “souls of the righteous are in the hands of God.”

So, my fellow birds, would you rather take shelter in a mighty cedar of Lebanon or in a pesky mustard bush?

KRT