Archive for the ‘Ishmael’ Tag

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

Above:  Annunciation of the Angel to Saint Zechariah, by Domenico Ghirlandaio

Image in the Public Domain

Trust in 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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Jeremiah 33:14-16

Psalm 25

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

Luke 1:1-25

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As Karl Barth pointed out, God, not human beings, properly occupies the center of Christian theology.  The overabundance of human-centered language in hymnals and in lyrics to music in church is never a good sign.

God is at the center in the readings for this Sunday.  God occupies the center of Jeremiah 33, with its prophecy of a restored Davidic monarchy and levitical priesthood.  God occupies the center in the prediction of redemption while all around looks dire.  God guides people spiritually and forgives sins.  God helps us empathize and rejoice with each other as we serve God.  God offers good news that seems unbelievable.

A Southern Baptist collegiate ministry sends people to stand in the quadrangle at the Oconee Campus of the University of North Georgia a few times each semester.  Sometimes someone stops me to ask me a few questions.  One of those questions is,

Do you believe in God?

My answer is always the same:

What do you mean?

I ask because my answer depends on the intent of the questioner.  A common understanding of belief in God is intellectual acceptance of the existence of God.  In the creeds and in many Biblical passages, though, belief in God indicates trust in God.  I always affirm the existence of God, whom I usually trust.

Trust is of the essence of in Luke 1:1-25.  In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, the lack of trust is a problem for Zechariah.  I do not condemn, though, for my response would also be in so many words,

Yeah, right.

We readers, if we know the Bible well, should think immediately of Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah (Genesis 15:1-20 and 17:1f).  We ought also to remember Genesis 16, the beginning of the story of Hagar and Ishmael, as well as the faithlessness of Abram and Sarai.

Returning to Luke 1:1-25, if we continue reading that chapter, we find next week’s Gospel reading, which I mention here only in passing.  The contrast between Zechariah and Mary is multifaceted.  Trust (or lack thereof) in God is one of those facets.

I do not condemn Zechariah caution and skepticism.  I also rejoice that God does not asks us to cease to transform into gullible people.  Furthermore, divine grace continues to shower upon those who respond to seemingly unbelievable truths with

Yeah, right.

My favorite Biblical character is St. Thomas the Apostle; I affirm honest doubt.  It keeps one from falling for scams and joining cults.

Yeah, right

is frequently the correct reply.

When, however, the seemingly unbelievable is true and of God, we can turn to God and admit that our initial skepticism was wrong, even if it was understandable.  Sometimes we need hindsight to see more clearly.  And grace continues to abound.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF EDWARD KING, BISHOP OF LINCOLN

THE FEAST OF FRED B. CRADDOCK, U.S. DISCIPLES OF CHRIST MINISTER, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, AND RENOWNED PREACHER

THE FEAST OF GEOFFREY STUDDERT KENNEDY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN HAMPDEN GURNEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF GOD, FOUNDER OF THE BROTHERS HOSPITALLERS OF SAINT JOHN OF GOD

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2020/03/08/trust-in-god-part-iii/

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

Jesus Blessing Children

Above:  Jesus Blessing Children

Image Source = Father Lawrence G. Lovasik, S.V.D., New Catholic Picture Bible:  Popular Stories from the Old and New Testaments (New York:  Catholic Book Publishing Company, 1955, 1960)

Image Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Children and the Kingdom of God

JANUARY 20, 2021

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The Collect:

Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ, most merciful redeemer,

for the countless blessings and benefits you give.

May we know you more clearly,

love you more dearly,

and follow you more nearly,

day by day praising you, with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 16:1-14

Psalm 86

Luke 18:15-17

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Turn to me and have mercy upon me;

give your strength to your servant

and save the child of your handmaid.

–Psalm 86:16, Common Worship (2000)

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Abram had received a promise from God that he would become the father of nations.  There was just one problem:  he had no children.  Abram and Sarai took matters into their own hands, thereby creating a mess and causing injury immediately to Hagar and later compounding it and extending it to Ishmael.  The boy, whose existence was due to faithlessness, became a pawn.

Children were people without social standing in our Lord and Savior’s cultural context.  Sometimes parents even sold them into slavery to pay off debts.  One function of the Kingdom of God in the Gospels was to point out the ways in which the dominant society fell short of the divine mark.  Hence the Beatitudes (and, in the Gospel of Luke, the corresponding Woes) were counter-cultural.  Blessed are poor?  Woe to the rich?  Blessed are the peacemakers?  In the Kingdom of God, yes!  The description of the way things ought to be condemned the way they were.

That description continues to condemn societies.  For example, the exploitation of children–from child labor to sexual slavery to conscription as soldiers–constitutes current events.  Some patterns never change, although the places, dates, and certain other minor details regarding them do.  I live just outside the Atlanta Metropolitan Area.  Atlanta is a hub of human trafficking, unfortunately.

In the Gospel of Luke the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (18:9-14) and the conversation between Jesus and the rich ruler attached to his wealth (18:18-30) bookend the pericope about receiving the Kingdom of God as a little child does.  The cumulative message, therefore, is that social standing counts for nothing in the eyes of God and that wealth is irrelevant in the same context.  No, pride must go away and we must approach God humbly, aware of our powerlessness and limitations.

The exhortation in Luke 18:15-17 also points to inherent human dignity and links well with the plights of Hagar and Ishmael.  May we never use people as pawns, for that is unfair to them.  It also violates the commandments to care for one another and to be responsible to each other–orders which undergird much of the Law of Moses and are consistent with our Lord and Savior’s ethical teachings and lived example.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 20, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD WATSON GILDER, U.S. POET, JOURNALIST, AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF HENRY FRANCIS LYTE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LEO TOLSTOY, NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT MECHTILD OF MAGDEBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/11/21/children-and-the-kingdom-of-god/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

CMNG_8361_2

Above:  Church of the Common Ground, Woodruff Park, Atlanta, Georgia, June 30, 2013

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Serving God and Each Other

DECEMBER 23 and 24, 2019

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come!

With your abundant grace and might,

free us from the sin that hinders our faith,

that eagerly we may receive your promises,

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

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 17:15-22 (Monday)

Genesis 21:1-21 (Tuesday)

1 Samuel 2:1-10 (both days)

Galatians 4:8-20 (Monday)

Galatians 4:21-5:1 (Tuesday)

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The LORD kills and brings to life;

he brings down to Sheol and raises up.

The LORD makes poor and makes rich;

he brings low; he also exalts.

He raises the poor from the dust;

he lifts the needy from the heap,

to make them sit with princes

and inherit a seat of honor.

–1 Samuel 2:6-8a, The New Revised Standard Version

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Hannah’s Song from 1 Samuel 2, a partial basis for the Magnificat, is fitting to read during Advent and with these lections.  The birth of Isaac was a miracle, as was the birth of Samuel.  And we read an allegory of Isaac and Ishmael in Galatians.  The essence of the allegory is this:  In grace there is freedom, not slavery–freedom to serve God.

Among the underlying principles of the Law of Moses was that everything belongs to God.  Therefore we are tenants on this planet and slaves of God, a kindly (at least some of the time) master.  God, in the Bible (both Testaments) does have quite a temper.  God, in both Testaments, exercises both judgment and mercy.  And, in the Law of Moses, there was mercy in exchange for obedience to the Law, which spoke of mutual responsibilities of people to each other.  If all were slaves of God, none was better than anyone else.  And nobody had the right to exploit anyone else.

There was, of course, the long list of stonable offenses (many of which I have committed), from working on the Sabbath day to showing disrespect to parents.  If one were subject to such laws, who would live into or past adolescence?  Obviously, executing someone does not indicate mercy toward him or her.  I mention these matters to avoid even the appearance of committing prooftexting and to acknowledge the complexity of the texts.  But my earlier point remains accurate.

That point–responsibility to each other–runs through the Galatians lessons also.  There is a consistent biblical testimony on the topic of what we owe to each other as social beings who bear the Image of God.  The well-being of the community is crucial to this theology, for none of us is, as John Donne said, an island.  So, just as surely as we ought not to endanger the community, the community has no right to crush us for simply not conforming to every rule.  Diversity enriches the whole and individualism and communitarianism can co-exist peacefully and respectfully.  Besides, if everybody were alike, much that is essential would not get done.  If that were not bad enough, the community and the world wold be incredibly dull.

May this Advent be a time to renew our commitments to God and each other to labor faithfully for the greater good in interesting and perhaps even quirky ways.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 4, 2013 COMMON ERA

INDEPENDENCE DAY (U.S.A.)

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/serving-god-and-each-other/

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