Archive for the ‘J. B. Phillips’ Tag

Devotion for Saturday Before the Last Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Brueghel_l'Ancien_-_La_Prédication_de_Saint_Jean-Baptiste

Above:  The Preaching of Saint John the Baptist, by Pieter Brueghel the Elder

Image Source = Yelkrokoyade

Humility Before God and the Reality of Unexpected Suffering

FEBRUARY 22, 2020

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The Collect:

O God, in the transfiguration of your Son you confirmed the

mysteries of the faith by the witness of Moses and Elijah,

and in the voice from the bright cloud declaring Jesus your beloved Son,

you foreshadowed our adoption as your children.

Make us heirs with Christ of your glory, and bring us to enjoy its fullness,

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 25

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 21:20-29

Psalm 2

Mark 9:9-13

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Now therefore be wise, O kings;

be prudent, you judges of the earth.

–Psalm 2:10, Common Worship (2000)

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Of those who are sleeping in the Land of Dust, many will awaken, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting disgrace.  Those who are wise will shine as brightly as the expanse of the heavens, and those who have instructed many in uprightness, as bright as stars for all eternity.

–Daniel 12:2-3, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Look, I shall send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes.  He will reconcile parents to their children and children to their parents, lest I come and put the land under a ban to destroy it.

–Malachi 4:4-6, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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“It is quite true,” he told them, “that Elijah does come first, and begins the restoration of all things.  But what does the scripture say about the Son of Man?  This:  that he must go through much suffering and be treated with contempt.  I tell you that not only has Elijah come already but they have done to him exactly what they wanted–just as the scripture says of him.”

–Mark 9:12-13, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972)

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There is much happening in the background of the Gospel lection for today:

  1. The resurrection of the dead is associated with the Day of the Lord in Daniel 12:2-3.
  2. In Malachi 3:23-24/4:5-6 (depending on which versification system one follows), Elijah will return before judgment day and function as an agent of reconciliation.
  3. Jesus identifies the late St. John the Baptist as Elijah in Mark 9:13.
  4. Yet is not the expectation in Malachi that Elijah will prevent suffering?

The account in Mark overturns old assumptions.  For that matter, the entire Gospel of Mark argues against a certain understanding of Messiahship.  In the earliest canonical Gospel, the crucifixion of Jesus makes his status as the Messiah unmistakable.  That has become a common reading of Messiahship since the first century of Christianity yet was once a radical notion.  The same rule applies to St. John the Baptist as “Elijah.”  Our Lord and Savior’s cousin was also his forerunner in suffering and death.

If humbling oneself before God postpones punishments (at least in some cases), the fact remains that the consequences of misdeeds and sins of omission will fall in time–perhaps upon the next generation, as unfair as that might seem.  But that is how reality works, is it not?  Yet the fact remains that one generation leaves legacies–positive and negative–which affect people into the future.  However the Atonement works (I side with the Eastern Orthodox, who argue against the Western Christian tendency to explain away certain mysteries), I like to think that it leaves a positive legacy of negating much of the negative which would have come down to us otherwise.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 22, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK PRATT GREEN, BRITISH METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMEW ZOUBERBUHLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF PAUL TILLICH, LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/humility-before-god-and-the-reality-of-unexpected-suffering/

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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 February 13 and 14 in Epiphany/Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Above:  Pool at Bethesda

Image Source = Library of Congress

Job and John, Part VIII:  Inadequate God Concepts

FEBRUARY 13 and 14, 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 everlasting 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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The Assigned Readings:

Job 9:1-35 (February 13)

Job 10:1-22 (February 14)

Psalm 15 (Morning–February 13)

Psalm 36 (Morning–February 14)

Psalms 48 and 4 (Evening–February 13)

Psalms 80 and 27 (Evening–February 14)

John 4:46-54 (February 13)

John 5:1-18 (February 14)

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Job, in the speech which encompasses Chapters 9 and 10, feels powerless before God, whom he understands as being omnipotent.  The speaker demands to know why God has done what God has done and is doing what God is doing relative to himself (Job):

I say to God, “Do not condemn me;

Let me know what you are charging me with….”

–Job 10:2, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

This is, in the context of the narrative, understandable and justifiable.  The Book of Job does open with God permitting Job’s sufferings.  The text offers no easy answers to the question of the causes of the suffering of the innocent.

John 4:46-5:18 offers us happier material.  Jesus heals a royal official’s son long-distance then a poor man paralyzed for thirty-eight years up close and in person.  Unfortunately for our Lord, he performs the second miracle on the Sabbath and speaks of himself as equal to God, prompting some opponents (labeled invectively as “the Jews”) to plot to kill him.  I said that the material was happier, not entirely joyful.

The paralyzed man and the observers probably understood his disability to have resulted from somebody’s sin.  The Book of Job, of course, repudiated that point of view.

It occurs to me that Job’s alleged friends and our Lord’s accusers had something in common:  Both sets of people were defending their God concept, one which could not stand up to observed reality.   J. B. Phillips wrote a classic book, Your God is Too Small (1961), which I most recently too long ago.  In this slim volume he pointed out that inadequate God concepts and attachments to them cause dissatisfaction with God and blind us to what God is.  Our Lord’s critics in the Gospel of John were blind to what God is and found Jesus unsatisfactory.  And, in the Book of Job, as we will discover as we keep reading, all of the mortals who speak have inadequate God concepts.  Yet Job’s is the least inadequate.

Until the next segment of our journey….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 26, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS REMACLUS OF MAASTRICHT, THEODORE OF MAASTRICHT, LAMBERT OF MAASTRICHT, HUBERT OF MAASTRICHT AND LIEGE, AND FLORIBERT OF LIEGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; LANDRADA OF MUNSTERBILSEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; AND OTGER OF UTRECHT, PLECHELM OF GUELDERLAND, AND WIRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARIES

THE FEAST OF CHRISTINA ROSSETTI, POET

THE FEAST OF SAINT PASCHASIUS RADBERTUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF ROBERT HUNT, FIRST ANGLICAN CHAPLAIN AT JAMESTOWN, VIRGINIA

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/job-and-john-part-viii-inadequate-god-concepts/

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Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C   3 comments

Above:  A Fire Extinguisher

Image Source = KRoock74

Conversations, Trees, and Fruits

NOT OBSERVED IN 2019

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FIRST READING:  OPTION #1

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 27:4-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

When a sieve is shaken, the refuse appears;

so do a person’s faults when he speaks.

The kiln tests the potter’s vessels;

so the test of a person is in his conversation.

Its fruit discloses the cultivation of a tree;

so a person’s speech discloses the cultivation of his mind.

Do not praise anyone before he speaks,

for this is the way people are tested.

FIRST READING:  OPTION #2

Isaiah 55:10-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,

and do not return there until they have watered the earth,

making it bring forth and sprout,

giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,

so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;

it shall not return to me empty,

but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,

and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

For you shall go out in joy,

and be led back in peace;

the mountains and the hills before you

shall burst into song,

and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;

instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;

and it shall be to the LORD for a memorial,

for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

RESPONSE

Psalm 92:1-4, 11-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  It is a good thing to give thanks to the LORD,

and to sing praises to your Name, O Most High;

2  To tell of your loving-kindness early in the morning

and of your faithfulness in the night season;

3  On the psaltery, and on the lyre

and to the melody of the harp.

4  For you have made me glad by your acts, O LORD;

and I shout for joy because of the works of your hands.

11  The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree,

and shall spread abroad like a cedar of Lebanon.

12  Those who are planted in the house of the LORD

shall flourish in the courts of our God.

13  They shall still bear fruit in old age;

they shall be green and succulent;

14  That they may show how upright the LORD is,

my Rock, in whom there is no fault.

SECOND READING

1 Corinthians 15:50-58 (New Revised Standard Version):

What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this:  flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.  Listen, I tell you a mystery!  We will not all die, but we will be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality.  When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:

Death, has been swallowed up in victory.

Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

GOSPEL READING

Luke 6:39-49 (The Jerusalem Bible):

He [Jesus] also told a parable to them,

Can one blind man guide another?  Surely both will fall into a pit?  The disciple is not superior to this teacher; the fully trained disciple will always be like his teacher.  Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the splinter that is in your eye,’ when you cannot see the plank in your own?  Hypocrite!  Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take out the splinter that is in your brother’s eye.

There is no sound tree that produces rotten fruit, nor again a rotten tree that produces sound fruit.  For every tree can be told by its own fruit; people do not pick figs from thorns, nor gather grapes from brambles.  A good man draws what is good from the store of goodness in his heart; a bad man draws what is bad from the store of badness.  For a man’s words from what fills his heart.

Why do you call me, “Lord, Lord,” and not do what I say?

Everyone who comes to me and listens to my words and acts on them–I will show you what he is like.  He is like the man who when he built his house dug, and dug deep, and laid the foundations on rock; when the river was in flood it bore down on that house  but could not shake it, it was so well built.  But the one who listens and does nothing is like the man who built his house on soil, with no foundations:  as soon as the river bore down on it, it collapsed; and what a ruin that house became!

The Collect:

Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

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

Prayer of Confession:

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

Prayer of Dedication:

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

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My grandfather Taylor, whom I do not remember (He died when I was three years old) said that it was better to be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.  That quote came to mind as I made connections among the readings.  Both “Luke” and Jesus ben Sira apply the metaphor of a tree and its fruits to one’s spiritual life.  And the latter writes of one’s conversations as evidence of

the cultivation of his mind

and as a test.  I thought of our Lord’s later comment that what goes into a person’s mouth does not defile him or her; what comes out of his or her mouth does that.  (Read Matthew 15:10 forward.)  To defile was literally

to make one common,

a meaning the late J. B. Phillips made clear in his translations of the New Testament.  Ritual purity set one apart from the great unwashed mass of people; it was about negative identity:

I am not like them.

I want to be careful here.  Christianity, in its pure form, is not overly individualistic; it is more concerned with the community and the individual in that context.  Yet Christianity, in its pure form, does encourage a vital interior life.  If that is not what it ought to be, one’s behavior (including conversation) will reveal this face.  The spiritual fig will not fall far from the tree.

The tongue, James 3:1-2 tells us, is powerful.  The text contains the metaphor of a large forest fire in reference to the negative effects of improper speech, likened also to poison.  Imagine, therefore, O reader, modern metaphors for proper speech and conversation:  a fire extinguisher, flame retardant, an antidote, et cetera.

Such as one thinks, so one is.  The content of one’s character can change, for many people have changed.  The theological term for that is repentance.  The victory is possible via God, in particular through Jesus.  Thus hope for such victory is not in vain; rather, it is well-placed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 14, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FULBERT OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FREDERICK HANDEL, COMPOSER

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

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/conversations-trees-and-fruits/

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