Archive for the ‘Idolatry’ Tag

Devotion for the Fifth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Job and His Alleged Friends

Image in the Public Domain

The Idol of Certainty

FEBRUARY 9, 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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Job 8:8-22 or Deuteronomy 11:18-28

Psalm 42

James 2:18-26

Mark 2:1-12

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In the perfect moral universe of Bildad the Shuhite and those who think like him, piety is a shield against misfortune.  This is an attitude present in parts of the Book of Psalms.  That book also contradicts the attitude, however, for certain psalms acknowledge that innocent people suffer.

Jesus, without ignoring that the suffering of many resulted partially from their sins, did not state that all human suffering resulted from the sins of the suffering.  His sinless life testified to a different reality, that sometimes we suffer because of the sins of others, and piety sometimes leads to persecution and/or death.

Certainty can become an idol, as in the cases of Bildad (Job 8) and the accusers of Jesus (Mark 2).  Idols abound; certainty is one of the most popular ones.  I refer to false, misplaced certainty, not to confirmed knowledge, such as 2 + 2 = 4.  No, I refer to certainty that fills voids meant for faith in God.  The human psyche craves certainty.  Unfortunately, false certainty leads to conspiracy theories, to other denial of reality, and to idolatry.  In reality, what we do not know outweighs what we do know, and humility is in order; certainty be damned much of the time.

May we walk the path of faith in Christ without ignoring that of which we can objectively be certain.  May God grant us the wisdom to recognize the difference between matters in which we need faith and those in which we can reasonably have certainty.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; SAINT AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND SAINTS DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/06/15/honest-faith-versus-false-certainty-ii/

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Devotion for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:   St. Joseph, by William Dyce

Image in the Public Domain

Proclaiming Jesus the Son of God

DECEMBER 23, 2018

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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 7:10-17

Isaiah 12 (at least verses 2-6)

Romans 1:1-7

Matthew 1:18-24

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Ahaz, King of Judah (reigned 743/735-727/715 B.C.E.) was hardly a pious monotheist.  In fact, he practiced idolatry openly.  2 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 28 gave him scathing reviews.  Ahaz, confronted with an alliance of Israel and Aram against him, chose to rely on Assyria, not God.  That was a really bad decision.  Nevertheless, God sent a sign of deliverance; a young woman of the royal court would have a baby boy.  God would not only protect Judah but judge it also.

Surely God is our salvation, but how often do we take the easy way out and not trust in God?  When God arrives in the form of a helpless infant, as in Matthew 1, one might not recognize the divine presence.  What we expect to see might prevent us from seeing what is in front of us for what it is.  God approaches us in many guises, many of them unexpected.

At first reading Romans 1:4 might seem surprising, perhaps even similar to the Adoptionist heresy.

…and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord….

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

One might think of John 1:1-18, which declares that the Son is co-eternal with the Father.  One might also ponder the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:32-34) as well as the preceding testimony of St. John the Baptist in each Gospel.  One might even recall the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-8; Matthew 17:1-13; Luke 9:28-36).

The proclamation mentioned in Romans 1:4 need not contradict those other proclamations.  No, one should interpret it as a subsequent proclamation that Jesus was the Son of God.  One should notice the theological context in Romans 1:  Easter as the beginning and foretaste of the prophesied age of divine rule on Earth.

“Kingdom of God” has more than one meaning in the New Testament.  Usually, though, it indicates divine rule on Earth.  This kingdom is evident in the ministry of Jesus in the Gospels, written after the death of St. Paul the Apostle.  The Kingdom of God is both present and future; it is here, yet not fully.

As we, being intellectually honest readers of scripture, acknowledge the existence of certain disagreements regarding the dawning of the age of God, according to St. Paul and the authors of the canonical Gospels, may we also never cease to trust in God, regardless of how much evil runs rampant and how much time has elapsed since the times of Jesus and St. Paul.  God keeps a schedule we do not see.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 15, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZACHARY OF ROME, POPE

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JAN ADALBERT BALICKI AND LADISLAUS FINDYSZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS IN POLAND

THE FEAST OF OZORA STEARNS DAVIS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF VETHAPPAN SOLOMON, APOSTLE TO THE NICOBAR ISLANDS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/03/15/proclaiming-jesus-the-son-of-god/

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

Above:   Icon of the Second Coming

Image in the Public Domain

Preparation for the Second Coming

DECEMBER 2, 2018

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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 2:1-5

Psalm 122

Romans 13:11-14

Matthew 24:36-44

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The thematic unity of the pericopes is evident.  One reads mainly of the future, when God will engage in creative destruction then set the world right.  In the meantime, one reads, one has moral imperatives to follow.

The pairing of Isaiah 2:-15 and Psalm 122 works well.  In Isaiah 2, Gentiles make pilgrimage to Jerusalem in the future; they seek instruction.  In that future God also settles disputes nonviolently.  In Psalm 122 Jews make pilgrimage to Jerusalem in what was then their present.  If one continues to read Isaiah 2 after the fifth verse, one finds a text of divine judgment against the proud and the arrogant, against those who commit idolatry, against those who glorify humankind, not God.  It is a message as pertinent in 2018, when I write this post, as it was during the lifetime of First Isaiah.

We read in Matthew that nobody–not even Jesus–knows when the Second Coming will occur, but that one should, for one’s sake, remain alert and be prepared.  It is obvious from Romans 13 that St. Paul the Apostle, in 56-57 C.E., expected that event to occur sooner rather than later relative to his present day.   Not one of we mere mortals knows any more about the actual timing of the Second Coming than St. Paul did, but his advice to live honorably is always germane.

This is a devotion for the First Sunday of Advent, a season with eschatological overtones and concerned with preparation for the coming of Christ.  Given the fact that Advent precedes the season of Christmas, one might expect an emphasis on the First Coming.  There is some of that, yes.  Nevertheless, we ought never to forget the aspect of the preparation for the Second Coming, as is evident in this set of readings.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FANNIE LOU HAMER, PROPHET OF FREEDOM

THE FEAST OF ALFRED LISTER PEACE, ORGANIST IN ENGLAND AND SCOTLAND

THE FEAST OF HARRIET KING OSGOOD MUNGER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF NEHEMIAH GOREH, INDIAN ANGLICAN PRIEST AND THEOLOGIAN

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/03/14/preparation-for-the-second-coming/

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

Above:   A Checklist

Image in the Public Domain

Compassion, Not Checklists

JANUARY 3, 2021

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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 57:14-19

Psalm 106:47-48

1 John 3:11-14a; 4:1-6

Luke 1:1-4

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The assigned readings for this Sunday, taken together, speak of the importance of knowing God.  Those who love God keep divine commandments, or at least attempt to do so.  One can succeed by grace, fortunately.  The faithful who receive the crown of martyrdom are still more fortunate than those who trust in idols.

Discerning divine commandments does seem difficult sometimes.  As I read 1 John 3:14b-24, I find some guidance regarding that topic:

  1. Do not hate.
  2. Love each other so much as to be willing to die for each other.
  3. Help each other in financial and material ways.
  4. Do not mistake lip service for sincerity.

Those instructions are concrete, not abstract.  And, by acting accordingly, we demonstrate the presence of the Holy Spirit within ourselves.

I notice the emphasis on compassion, not checklists.  Legalism is a powerful temptation.  Indeed, many who fall into that trap do so out of the sincere desire to honor God.  Yet they wind up fixating on minor details and forgetting compassion frequently instead of remembering the big picture:  compassion, such as that of the variety that Jesus modeled all the way to the cross.

Living compassionately is far more rigorous a standard than is keeping a moral checklist.

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/compassion-not-checklists/

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Devotion for the First Sunday of Advent (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:  The Dream of Nebuchadnezzar

Image in the Public Domain

Acknowledging One’s Complete Dependence on God

NOVEMBER 29, 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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Daniel 2:24, 31-49

Psalm 38:15-22

Revelation 3:14-22

Mark 11:12-14, 20-25

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For in you, O LORD, have I fixed my hope;

you will answer me, O Lord my God.

For I said, “Do not let them rejoice at my expense,

those who gloat over me when my foot slips.

Truly, I am on the verge of falling,

and my pain is always with me.

I will confess my iniquity

and be sorry for my sin.

Those who are my enemies without cause are mighty,

and many in number are those who wrongfully hate me.

Those who repay evil for good slander me,

because I follow the course that is right.

O LORD, do not forsake me;

be not far from me, O my God.

Make haste to help me,

O Lord of my salvation.

–Psalm 38:15-22, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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At first glance the readings David Ackerman has appointed for the First Sunday of Advent do not fit well together.  However, upon further reflection, one might realize that they do.  The message is that we–individuals, institutions, societies–ought to rely on God, not on our own devices.

In David 2 we have an interpretation of a dream.  There are four successive empires–traditionally Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian, Median, Persian, and Macedonian–of declining value.  The fifth in the sequence is the divided empire of the late Alexander the Great.  At the end of that sequence, according to Daniel 2, God’s reign on earth will commence.

O, if only it had!

The Roman Empire is the power in Mark 11.  Jesus curses a fig tree for producing no figs.  The text notes that this happened outside of fig season.  The story, however, is symbolic.  It follows directly from the Triumphal Entry of Jesus and wraps around the cleansing of the Temple.  The fig tree relates to the Temple.  Just as the fig tree is producing just leaves and not small green figs (as it ought to do), the Temple is barren of anything of spiritual worth.  The fig tree is also a recurring Biblical symbol of Israel itself, as in Jeremiah 8:13, Hosea 9:10, Joel 1:7, and Micah 7:1.  One can therefore reasonably read the cursing of the fig tree as a scathing critique of the religious life of Israel.

When we turn to the Church at Laodicea in Revelation 3 we find another scathing critique.  The congregation relies on its wealth, not on God, who literally vomits (although many translations render the verb “spits”) that church out.  The church has succumbed to the temptation to convert material wealth into an idol.

The text from Psalm 38 explains itself.

In Beyond the Lectionary (2013) Ackerman emphasizes

the importance of awakening the insights that God provides

(page 8).

Those insights tell us both individually and collectively not to trust in military forces, in governments, in wealth, or in imagined righteousness when we ought to acknowledge our complete dependence on God.  To do anything other than to rely completely on God is to commit idolatry.  That is a difficult and strong statement, I know.  I also acknowledge that I have long been guilty of this idolatry and continue to be so.  I confess this sin here, in this post, readily.  Fortunately, grace abounds, so all of us have hope.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 28, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CHANEL, PROTOMARTYR OF OCEANIA

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/04/28/acknowledging-ones-complete-dependence-on-god/

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Devotion for Saturday Before the Sixth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Baal

Above:  Baal

Image in the Public Domain

Idols and Icons

FEBRUARY 16, 2019

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The Collect:

Living God, in Christ you make all things new.

Transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace,

and in the renewal of our lives make known your glory,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 17:1-4

Psalm 1

Luke 11

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Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked,

nor lingered in the way of sinners,

nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

Their delight is in the law of the LORD,

and they meditate on his law day and night.

They are like trees planted by streams of water,

bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither;

everything they do shall prosper.

It is not so with the wicked;

they are like chaff which the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked shall not stand when judgment comes,

nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.

For the LORD knows the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked is doomed.

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

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The theme of idolatry unites the main two pericopes.  It occupies the core of the reading from Jeremiah 17, where idolatry will lead to destruction.  The lesson from Luke 11 concludes a narrative in which some critics have accused Jesus of being in league with Satan, prompting our Lord and Savior to respond with his “house divided” discourse.  Christ’s critics in that account could not recognize God incarnate in their presence.

An idol is anything–a thought, a practice, an object–which prevents one from recognizing God where God is present.  One person’s idol might be another person’s icon–through which one sees God.  The difference between an idol and an icon is how one uses it.  Among my favorite words is bibliolatry, which means treating the Bible as an idol.  That is an unfortunate reality for many who seek God.  Their desire for something concrete leads them astray as they seek the invisible God.

May we, as we seek God, avoid all idols, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 14, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN MISSIONARIES

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL ISAAC JOSEPH SCHERESCHEWSKY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF SHANGHAI

THE FEAST OF THOMAS HANSEN KINGO, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND “POET OF EASTERTIDE”

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/idols-and-icons-2/

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Devotion for Saturday Before the Fifth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Othniel

Above:  Othniel

Image in the Public Domain

Turning Toward God

FEBRUARY 9, 2019

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The Collect:

Most Holy God, the earth is filled with your glory,

and before you angels and saints stand in awe.

Enlarge our vision to see your power at work in the world,

and by your grace make us heralds of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24

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The Assigned Readings:

Judges 3:7-11

Psalm 138

Luke 4:42-44

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Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you keep me safe;

you stretch forth your hand against the fury of my enemies;

your right hand shall save me.

–Psalm 138:8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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That verse from Psalm 138 works well in a lectionary with his pericope from Judges 3, the story of chieftain Othniel of Kerizzite.  Living among and intermarrying with polytheistic Gentiles had led to idolatry and other offenses, the text tells us, and King Cushan-rishathaim (literally “Dark double-wickedness”) of Aram-naharaim (in upper Mesopotamia) oppressed the Israelites.  The people cried out to God, who selected Othniel to liberate them, and peace and holiness reigned for a few decades, until people repeated the cycle.

Repentance is turning around spiritually–something which proved to be a temporary turn for many people in the Book of Judges.  Is that not an accurate description for many of we mere mortals?  We turn away from sin and toward God then turn away from God again.  Repentance was among the components of our Lord and Savior’s teaching.  Repentance remains a germane topic, for human nature, with all of its virtues and vices, is constant over time.

May we, by grace, turn 180 degrees toward God and remain there, not turn 180 degrees again, thereby returning to where we had been before we repented.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 9, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DENIS, BISHOP OF PARIS, AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUIS BERTRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GROSSETESTE, SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF WILHELM WEXELS, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; HIS NIECE, MARIE WEXELSEN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER; LUDWIG LINDEMAN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN ORGANIST AND MUSICOLOGIST; AND MAGNUS LANDSTAD, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, FOLKLORIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/turning-toward-god/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Second Sunday After the Epiphany, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Death of Simon Magus

Above:  The Death of Simon Magus

Image in the Public Domain

Grace, Demanding Faithful Responses, Part I

JANUARY 17, 18, and 19, 2019

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The Collect:

Lord God, source of every blessing,

you showed forth your glory and led many to faith by the works of your Son,

who brought gladness and salvation to his people.

Transform us by the Spirit of his love,

that we may find our life together in him,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 3:1-5 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 3:19-25 (Friday)

Jeremiah 4:1-4 (Saturday)

Psalm 36:5-10 (All Days)

Acts 8:18-24 (Thursday)

1 Corinthians 7:1-7 (Friday)

Luke 11:14-23 (Saturday)

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Like a generous host you give them their fill of good food from your larder.

From your lovely streams which bring such pleasure you give them water to drink.

–Psalm 36:9, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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That is true, of course, so idolatry is especially galling.  Marriage, a literal matter in 1 Corinthians 7, is a metaphor in Jeremiah 3 and 4, where whoring becomes a metaphor for idolatry.  A relationship with God is intimate, this language tells us.

One of the themes in the Gospel of Mark, no part of which we read today, is that those who think they are insiders might actually be outsiders.  That theme applies to our Lord and Savior’s accusers in Luke 11; he was never in league with evil.  The fact that a person who knew Jesus could not recognize that reality speaks badly of that individual.  Jesus was no more in league with evil than Simon Magus could purchase the Holy Spirit, the offer to do which led to a quotable rebuke:

May your silver be lost for ever, and you with it, for you think that money could buy what God has given for nothing!  You have no share, no part, in this:  God can see how your heart is warped.  Repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the LORD that this scheme of yours may be forgiven; it is plain to me that you are held in the bitterness of gall and the chains of sin.

–Acts 8:20b-23, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

From that incident came the word “simony.”

Grace is free yet not cheap.  We can never purchase or earn it, but we can respond favorably to it.  Grace demands concrete evidence of its presence, as measured in deeds, which flow from attitudes.  Do we love our neighbors as we love ourselves?  I prefer that standard to any Pietistic list of legalistic requirements.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 27, 2015 COMMON ERA

PROPER 21:  THE EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEOBA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE CHURCH OF SOUTH INDIA, 1947

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/09/27/grace-demanding-faithful-responses-part-i/

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

Ruins of the Temple of Apollo, Corinth

Above:  Ruins of the Temple of Apollo, Corinth

Image in the Public Domain

Judgment, Mercy, and Ethical Living, Part II

NOT OBSERVED IN 2015

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The Collect:

Loving God, by tender words and covenant promise you have joined us to yourself forever,

and you invite us to respond to your love with faithfulness.

By your Spirit may we live with you and with one another in justice, mercy, and joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 25

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The Assigned Readings:

Hosea 3:1-5 (Monday)

Hosea 14:1-9 (Tuesday)

Isaiah 62:1-5 (Wednesday)

Psalm 45:6-17 (All Days)

2 Corinthians 1:23-2:11 (Monday)

2 Corinthians 11:1-15 (Tuesday)

John 3:22-36 (Wednesday)

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Your throne is God’s throne, for ever;

the sceptre of your kingdom is the sceptre of righteousness.

You love righteousness and hate iniquity;

therefore God, your God, has anointed you

with the oil of gladness above your fellows.

–Psalm 45:6-7, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The readings for these three days, taken together, use marriage metaphors for the relationship between God and Israel and the relationship between God and an individual.  Idolatry is akin to sexual promiscuity, for example.  That metaphor works well, for there were pagan temple prostitutes.

Idolatry and social injustice are a pair in many Old Testament writings, for the Bible has much to say about how we ought to treat others, especially those who have less power or money than we do.  Thus Psalm 45, a royal wedding song, becomes, in part, a meditation on justice.  Also, as St. Paul the Apostle reminds us by words and example, nobody has the right to place an undue burden upon anyone or cause another person grief improperly.

May we recall and act upon Hosea 14:1-9, which states that, although God judges and disciplines, God also shows extravagant mercy.  May we forgive ourselves for our faults.  May we forgive others for their failings.  And may we, by grace, do all the above and recall that there is hope for us all in divine mercy.  Such grace calls for a positive response, does it not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 4, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH MOHR, AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARBARA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF DAMASCUS, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CALABRIA, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE POOR SERVANTS AND THE POOR WOMEN SERVANTS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/06/judgment-mercy-and-ethical-living-part-ii/

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