Archive for the ‘Judgment and Mercy’ Tag

Devotion for the Seventh Sunday After the Epiphany, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Angry Talk

Image in the Public Domain

Judgment and Mercy

NOT OBSERVED IN 2023

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18

Psalm 103:1-13

1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23

Matthew 5:38-48

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Lord God, we ask you to keep your family, the Church, faithful to you,

that all who lean on the hope of your promises

may gain strength from the power of your love;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 16

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

God of compassion, keep before us the love

you have revealed in your Son, who prayed even for his enemies;

in our words and deeds help us to be like him

through whom we pray, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 16

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

O Lord, keep your family and Church continually in the true faith

that they who lean on the hope of your heavenly grace

may ever be defended by your mighty power;

through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns

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

Lutheran Worship (1982), 28

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Whenever I hear someone refer to the God of the Hebrew Bible as mainly judgmental and the God of the New Testament as primarily merciful, I wonder how closely that person has read the Old and New Testaments.  Judgment and mercy remain in balance throughout the Old and New Testaments.  Consider the readings from the Old Testament for today, O reader.  Recall, also, that

an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth 

(Exodus 21:24)

curtails violence.  Furthermore, nowhere does the Law of Moses say to hate one’s enemies.

St. Paul the Apostle, writing to the argumentative and self-destructive church in Corinth, told them that they were God’s temple in that city.  That was good news.  A warning preceded it:

God will destroy anyone who defiles his temple, for his temple is holy…..

–1 Corinthians 3:17a, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972)

Agents of destruction frequently come from within, as in the case of the Corinthian church.

I wonder what the world would be like if the socially expected and normative behavior was to love people, or at least to be civil toward them.  I wonder what the world would be like if this extended to everyone.  I do not live in that world, of course.  I live in the world in which social media are mostly agents and conduits of anger, misinformation, half-baked conspiracy theories, and damn lies.  I live in the world in which sound advice includes not to read the comments section of a webpage.

Divine judgment and mercy exist in a balance.  I do not pretend to understand what that balance is.  I do not know where judgment gives way to mercy, and mercy to judgment.  I do trust that God gets the balance right.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 26, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS TIMOTHY, TITUS, AND SILAS, C0-WORKERS OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

Above:  King Hezekiah of Judah

Image in the Public Domain

Judgment and Mercy

JANUARY 22, 2023

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 9:1b-5 (LBW) or Isaiah 9:1-4 (LW) or Amos 3:1-8 (LBW, LW)

Psalm 27:1-9

1 Corinthians 1:10-17

Matthew 4:12-23

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Almighty God, you sent your Son to proclaim your kingdom

and to teach with authority. 

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

may bring good news to the afflicted,

bind up the brokenhearted,

and proclaim liberty to the captive;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 15

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lutheran Worship (1982), 24

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance throughout the Old and New Testaments.

Isaiah 9 opens on a note of mercy.  The verb tenses in Hebrew throughout Isaiah 9:1-6 are vague.  My historical methodology makes me biased toward interpreting this text as a reference to King Hezekiah of Judah.  Yet millennia of Christian interpretation bypasses Hezekiah and makes the text about Jesus.  Anyhow, Isaiah 9:1-6 is about the divine deliverance of the Kingdom of Judah from the perils of the Syro-Ephraimite War.

Divine judgment of the (northern) Kingdom of Israel opens Amos 3.  Or divine judgment of the Jewish people (in general) opens Amos 3.  References to Israel in the Book of Amos are vague sometimes.  The status of being God’s chosen people–grace, if ever I heard of it–means that the people (collectively) should have known better than they do or seem to know, we read.  They brought judgment upon themselves.

Psalm 27 is a pious Jew’s expression of confidence in God.  This text fits well with Isaiah 9 and stands as a counterpoint to Amos 3.

The Corinthian Christians should have known better than they did.  That church, still a group of problematic house churches long after the time of St. Paul the Apostle (see 1 Clement, circa 100), compromised its witness by being, among other things, petty and fractious.  They brought judgment upon themselves.

Matthew 4:12-23, quoting Isaiah 9:1-2, tells of Christ’s first cousins, Sts. James and John, sons of Zebedee, leaving the family fishing business and following him, after two other brothers, Sts. Andrew and Simon Peter, had done the same.

God sends nobody to Hell.  God seeks everyone to follow Him.  All those in Hell sent themselves.  C. S. Lewis wrote that the doors to Hell are locked from the inside.

Judgment need not necessarily lead to damnation, though.  It may function instead as a catalyst for repentance.  Some of the Hebrew prophetic books, with their layers of authorship over generations, contradict themselves regarding the time for repentance has passed.  That time seems to have passed, according to an earlier stratum.  Yet according to a subsequent layer, there is still time to repent.

Anyway, while the time to repent remains, may we–collectively and individually–do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 20, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FABIAN, BISHOP OF ROME, AND MARTYR, 250

THE FEAST OF SANTS EUTHYMIUS THE GREAT AND THEOCTISTUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF GREVILLE PHILLIMORE, ENGLISH PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF HAROLD A. BOSLEY, UNITED METHODIST MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HARRIET AUBER, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF RICHARD ROLLE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC SPIRITUAL WRITER

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Devotion for the Epiphany of Our Lord, Years A, B, and C (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Adoration of the Magi Stamp from Latvia, 1992

Image in the Public Domain

Extending the Borders

JANUARY 6, 2023

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 60:1-6

Psalm 72

Ephesians 3:2-12

Matthew 2:1-12

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Lord God, on this day you revealed your Son

to the nations by the leading of a star. 

Lead us now by faith to know your presence in our lives,

and bring us at last to the full vision of your glory,

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 15

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

O God, by the leading of a star you once made known

to all nations your only-begotten Son;

now lead us, who know you by faith,

to know in heaven the fullness of your divine goodness;

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

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

Lutheran Worship (1982), 20

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Third Isaiah, in Isaiah 60, applied motifs of the Davidic Dynasty, not to the Messiah, but to the Israelite nation as a whole.  (The “you” in Isaiah 60:1-6 is plural.)  There is no Messiah in Third Isaiah, which teaches that in the future, God will rule directly on Earth.

Yet we have this assigned reading on the Feast of the Epiphany, about Jesus, the Messiah.

Psalm 72, originally for a coronation, describes the ideal Davidic monarch.  He will govern justly, defend the oppressed, crush the extortioners, and revere God, we read.  His renown spreads far and wide, we read.  These sentences describe few of the Davidic monarchs.  They do not even describe King David.  The Christian tradition of reading Jesus into every nook and cranny of the Hebrew Bible interprets Jesus as the ultimate fulfillment of the text, though.

Call me a heretic if you wish, O reader, but I resist the tendency to read Jesus into every nook and cranny of the Hebrew Bible.  Call me a heretic if you wish; I will accept the label with pride.  I even own a t-shirt that reads:

HERETIC.

Father Raymond E. Brown, whom I admire and some of whose books I own, argued against the historicity of the birth narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  I take this point while disagreeing with another one:  Brown considered the account in the Gospel of Luke closer to reality than the one in the Gospel of Matthew.  I reverse that.  I posit that there may have been a natural phenomenon (poetically, a star) that attracted the attention of some Persian astrologers.  This scenario seems plausible.

I, being a detail-oriented person, as well as a self-identified heretic, also wince at the depictions of the shepherds and the Magi together at Bethlehem.  Even if one mistakes the germane accounts in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke for historical stories, one may notice that up to two years separated the stories.  St. Dionysius Exiguus, for all his piety, counted badly.  Herod the Great died in 4 B.C.E.  If one accepts the Massacre of the (Holy) Innocents as being plausible (as I do), then one may wish to notice that the Roman client king ordered the deaths of boys two years old and younger at Bethlehem.  This story, therefore, places the birth of Jesus circa 6 B.C.E.  Either way, St. Dionysius Exiguus still place the birth of Jesus “Before Christ.”  (This is why I use B.C.E. and C.E.)

Whoever wrote or dictated the Epistle to the Ephesians, I am grateful to St. Paul the Apostle, the great evangelist to the Gentiles.  I, as a Gentile, am happy to be in the club of Christ.  I also acknowledge that I, as a Christian, stand on the shoulders of Judaism, a faith I refuse to malign.

The Epiphany–set on the old Eastern date of Christmas–reminds us that God seeks to attract as many followers as possible.  We Gentiles, grafted onto the tree of faith, need to remember that we are a branch, not the trunk, of that tree.  The limits of divine mercy exist, but I do not know where the borders are.  I assume that Judaism and Christianity are the two true faiths.  Yet I do not presume to know who God’s “secret friends”–secret to me–are.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 17, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY OF EGYPT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND FATHER OF WESTERN MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DEICOLA AND GALL, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS; AND SAINT OTHMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AT SAINT GALLEN

THE FEAST OF JAMES WOODROW, SOUTHERN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, NATURALIST, AND ALLEGED HERETIC

THE FEAST OF SAINT PACHOMIUS THE GREAT, FOUNDER OF CHRISTIAN COMMUNAL MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS A. DOOLEY, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PHYSICIAN AND HUMANITARIAN

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Devotion for the Third Sunday of Advent, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  St. John the Baptist

Image in the Public Domain

Judgment and Mercy

DECEMBER 11, 2022

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 35:1-10

Psalm 146

James 5:7-10

Matthew 11:2-11

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Almighty God, you once called John the Baptist

to give witness to the coming of your Son and to prepare his way. 

Grant us, your people, the wisdom to see your purpose today

and the openness to hear your will,

that we may witness to Christ’s coming and so prepare his way;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 13

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Almighty God, through John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ,

you once proclaimed salvation;

now grant that we may know this salvation and serve you

in holiness and righteousness all the days of our lives;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 13

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

If I seem like a proverbial broken record, I am.  I am like a proverbial broken record because the Bible is one on many points.  In this case, the point is the balance of divine judgment and mercy.  Divine judgment on the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in Isaiah 34 balances divine mercy (via a second exodus) in Isaiah 35.  Divine mercy on the faithful balances divine judgment on princes in Psalm 146.  Jesus is simultaneously the judge and the advocate in James 5:7-10.  Despite divine faithfulness to the pious, some (such as St. John the Baptist, in Matthew 11) suffer and die for their piety.  Then God judges the oppressors.

The twin stereotypes of the Hebrew Bible being about judgment and the New Testament being about grace are false.  Judgment and mercy balance each other in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.

The inclusion of the fate of St. John the Baptist in Advent reminds us that he was the forerunner of Christ in more than one way.  About two weeks before December 25, one may prefer not to read or hear such a sad story.  Yet we all need to recall that Christmas commemorates the incarnation of Jesus, who suffered, died, then rose.  Advent and Christmas are bittersweet.  This is why Johann Sebastian Bach incorporated the Passion Chorale into his Christmas Oratorio.  This is why one can sing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” to the same tune (EASTER HYMN).

God is active in the world.  So are evil and misguided forces, unfortunately.  Evil, in the Biblical sense, rejects dependence on God.  Evil says:

If God exists, God does not care.  Everyone is on his or her own in this world.  The ends justify the means.

Evil is amoral.  The misguided may be immoral, at best.  The results of amorality and immorality may frequently be identical.  Yet God remains constant.

That God is constant may constitute good news or bad news, depending on one’s position.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 7, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANÇOIS FÉNELON, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CAMBRAI

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALDRIC OF LE MANS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF LE MANS

THE FEAST OF JEAN KENYON MACKENZIE, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY IN WEST AFRICA

THE FEAST OF LANZA DEL VASTO, FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE ARK

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUCIAN OF ANTIOCH, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 312

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JONES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND MUSICIAN

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Devotion for the Second Sunday of Advent, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Cedars of Lebanon

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-75016

Eschatological Ethics

DECEMBER 4, 2022

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 11:1-10

Psalm 72:1-14 (15-19)

Romans 15:4-13

Matthew 3:1-12

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Stir up in our hearts, O Lord, to prepare the way for your only Son. 

By his coming give us strength in our conflicts

and shed light on our path through the darkness of the world; 

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 13

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to make ready the way of your only-begotten Son

that at his second coming we may worship him in purity;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 11

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For improved comprehension of Isaiah 11:1-10, O reader, back up to 10:32b-34.  There we read that God will destroy the Neo-Assyrian Empire, built on militarism, cruelty, and exploitation.  Isaiah 10:34 likens that empire to majestic cedars of Lebanon, cut down by God.  Then Isaiah 11 opens with the image of the Messiah, depicted as a twig sprouting from a tree stump.

The Messiah–the ruler of the fully-realized Kingdom of God in Isaiah 11–has much in common with the ideal king in Psalm 72.  Both monarchs govern justly.  They come to the aid of the oppressed and punish the oppressors.  Judgment and mercy remain in balance.

The ethics of the Kingdom of God–whether partially-realized or fully-realized–contradict the conventional wisdom of “the world” and its great powers.  The Roman Empire, built on militarism, cruelty, and exploitation, continues as a metaphor to apply to oppressive powers–not only governments–in our time.  Spiritual complacency remains a problem.  And how we mere mortals treat each other continues to interest God.

Real life is frequently messy and replete with shades of gray.  Sometimes one must choose the least bad option, for no good options exist.  Whatever one does, somebody may suffer or perhaps die, for example.  We live in an imperfect world.  But we can, by grace, make the best decisions possible then act accordingly.  We can, by grace, love one another selflessly and self-sacrificially.  We can, by grace, act based on mutuality and the Golden Rule.  We can, by grace, welcome those whom God welcomes.  We can, by grace, confront those whom God confronts.  We can, by grace, make the most good from an imperfect situation.

May we do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 6, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

Above:  Isaiah Wall, United Nations, New York, New York

Image in the Public Domain

Eschatological Ethics

NOVEMBER 27, 2022

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 2:1-5

Psalm 122 (LBW) or Psalm 50:1-15 (LW)

Romans 13:11-14

Matthew 24:37-44 or Matthew 21:1-11

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Stir up your power, O Lord, and come.

Protect us by your strength and

save us from the threatening dangers of our sins,

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

now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 13

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Stir up, we implore you, your power, O Lord, 

and come that by your protection

we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins

and be saved by your mighty deliverance;

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

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 10

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

When I compose a post based on lectionary readings, I prefer to write about a theme or themes running through the assigned readings.  The readings for this Sunday fall on the axis of divine judgment and mercy, in balance.  Hellfire-and-damnation preachers err in one direction.  Those who focus so much on divine mercy that they downplay judgment err in the polar opposite direction.

Isaiah 2:2-4, nearly identical to Micah 4:1-4 (or the other way around), predicts what, in Christian terms, is the fully-realized Kingdom of God.  The soaring, positive imagery of Isaiah 2:2-4 precedes divine judgment on the impious and impenitent–those who revel in the perils of their sins.  There is no place for such people in the fully-realized Kingdom of God.

Psalm 50 focuses on divine judgment.  YHWH is just, keeping faith with the “devoted ones” who have kept the moral mandates of the Law of Moses.  YHWH is just, prioritizing these moral mandates over ritual practices.  Rituals still matter, of course; they are part of the Law of Moses, too.  Yet these rites are never properly talismans, regardless of what people may imagine vainly.  People will still reap what they have sown.

Psalm 122 is a hymn of a devout pilgrim who had recently returned from Jerusalem.  The text fits neatly with Isaiah 2:1-4.  Psalm 122 acknowledges the faithfulness of God and the reality of “thrones of judgment.”

Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 21:1-11, and Matthew 24:37-44, like Isaiah 2:1-4, exist within the expectation of the establishment or unveiling of the fully-realized Kingdom of God.  We read of Jesus acting out Second Zechariah’s prediction of the Messiah’s arrival at Jerusalem at the fulfillment of time (Zechariah 9:9-10) in Matthew 21:1-11.  Romans 13:1-14 and Matthew 24:37-44 remind us to straighten up and fly right, so to speak.

St. Paul the Apostle identified the resurrection of Jesus as the dawn of a new historical era.  Naturally, therefore, he taught that salvation had come nearer.  St. Paul also expected Jesus to return soon–nearly 2000 years ago from our perspective, O reader.  St. Paul’s inaccurate expectation has done nothing to minimize the importance of his ethical counsel.

Forbidden fruits frequently prove alluring, perhaps because they are forbidden.  Their appeal may wear off, however.  This is my experience.  That which really matters is consistent with mutuality, the Law of Moses, and the Golden Rule.  That which really matters builds up the common good.  This standard is about as tangible as any standard can be.

Let us be careful, O reader, not to read into Romans 13:14 that which is not there.  I recall Babette’s Feast (1987), a delightful movie set in a dour, Pietistic “Sad Dane” Lutheran settlement.  Most of the characters are unwilling even to enjoy their food, literally a “provision for the flesh.”  One can live honorably as in the day while enjoying the pleasures of life.

Advent is a bifurcated season.  It begins with mostly somber readings.  By the end of Advent, however, the readings are more upbeat.  Just as divine judgment and mercy exist in balance, so do the two halves of Advent.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 5, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF ANTONIO LOTTI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF FELIX MANZ, FIRST ANABAPTIST MARTYR, 1527

THE FEAST OF SAINT GENOVEVA TORRES MORALES, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS AND THE HOLY ANGELS

THE FEAST OF JOHN NEPOMUCENE NEUMANN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PHILADELPHIA

THE FEAST OF MARGARET MACKAY, SCOTTISH HYMN WRITER

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Devotion for the Eighth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year D (Humes)   2 comments

Above:  Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well of Jacob

Image in the Public Domain

Judgment and Mercy

NOT OBSERVED IN THE SEASON AFTER THE EPIPHANY 2022

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Amos 9:8-15 or Proverbs 22:1-23

Psalm 119:33-48

1 Timothy 6:1-8

John 4:1-42

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

First, I condemn all forms of slavery at all times and places.  The acceptance of slavery in 1 Timothy 6:1-2 is false doctrine.

With that matter out of the way, I focus on my main point.  1 Timothy 6:7 is correct; we came into this world with nothing.  We, likewise, can take nothing with us when we die.  Greed is a form of idolatry.

The reading from Proverbs 22 includes harsh words for those who oppress the poor.  To oppress to the poor is to get on God’s bad side.  Oppression of the poor is a topic in the Book of Amos.  That practice is one of the stated causes of the fall of the northern Kingdom of Israel.

Judgment and mercy exist in balance in Amos 9.  The destruction, we read, will not be thorough.  Then restoration will follow.  This restoration remains in future tense, given the scattering of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.

LORD, let your mercy come upon me,

the salvation you have promised.

–Psalm 119:41, The Revised New Jerusalem Bible (2019)

Jesus knew how to use harsh language.  He used none with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, though.  He had a long conversation with a woman–a Samaritan woman.  Jesus surprised even his closest associates by doing so.  Christ offered grace and no judgment.  Many exegetes, preachers, and Sunday School teachers have judged the woman, though.  They should never have done so.

The woman at the well was different from the condemned people in Amos 9 and the false teachers in 1 Timothy 6.  She was receptive to God speaking to her when she realized what was happening.  That Samaritan woman gained insight.  She also acquired a good name, something more desirable than great riches.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 3, 2021 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 GLADYS AYLWARD, MISSIONARY IN CHINA AND TAIWAN

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ALFRED PASSAVANT, SR., U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HUMANITARIAN, AND EVANGELIST

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/03/devotion-for-proper-6-year-d-humes/

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/03/judgment-and-mercy-part-xx/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Devotion for the Sixth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year D (Humes)   2 comments

Above:  Nicodemus Coming to Jesus, by Henry Ossawa Turner

Image in the Public Domain

Salvation and Damnation

FEBRUARY 13, 2022

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Amos 7:1-17 or Proverbs 8:1-21

Psalm 118:14-29

1 Timothy 5:1-16

John 3:1-21

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance in the Old and New Testaments.  They find balance in Jesus in John 3.  Those who reject the light condemn themselves to the darkness.  God sends nobody to Hell.  All who go there send themselves.  We read of the impending doom of the northern Kingdom of Israel in Amos 7.  In that passage, we also read that God is in judgment mode.

Proverbs 8 speaks of divine wisdom.  That is the wisdom, the persistent, collective rejection which led to the pronouncement of divine judgment in Amos 7.  The word of God that Amos proclaimed was treasonous, according to authorities in the Kingdom of Israel.  That word of God condemned the leaders who labeled that truth as treason.  The Assyrians arrived in force, right on schedule, though.  The truth was not treason.

The reading from 1 Timothy 5 speaks to divinely-mandated ethics.  The passage also contains some culturally-specific elements that may be irrelevant to your context, O reader.  May we not become distracted by those culturally-specific details.  The timeless principle is mutuality:  We are res[pmsob;e to and for each other.  In that timeless context, individual and collective responsibility also exist in balance.

I admit without apology that I am pedantic.  My pedantry extends to theology.  In the Gospel of John, eternal life is knowing God via Jesus (John 17:3).  Within the Johannine context, as in John 3:16, therefore, there is no eternity apart from God–Jesus, to be precise.  In other words, eternal life and the afterlife are not synonyms in Johannine theology.  “Eternal” describes the quality of life, not the length thereof.  I am a generally Johannine Christian, so I understand “eternal life” according to the definition in John 17:3.  Nevertheless, outside of the Johannine tradition in the New Testament, the meaning of “eternal” is “everlasting.”

I am not shy about saying and writing openly what I really think:  I remain unconvinced that my Jewish elder brothers and sisters in faith are doomed to go to Hell.  No, I affirm that their covenant remains in effect.  According to Covenantal Nomism, consistently and unrepentantly disregarding the ethical obligations of the Law of Moses causes one to drop out of the covenant.  Salvation comes via grace, but damnation comes via works.

The more I age and move away from reflexively Reformation-influenced theology, the more comfortable I become embracing the relationship among faith, works, salvation, and damnation in both Testaments.  God cares deeply about how people treat each other, the Bible tells us.  We mere mortals may deceive ourselves and each other.  We cannot, however, pull the proverbial wool over God’s equally proverbial eyes.  Our creeds become evident in our deeds.

Nevertheless, may we avoid the trap of thinking that we deserve salvation.  That remains a gift.  All who receive it may experience a degree of shock when they realize who else has received it.  So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 1, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE EIGHTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS

THE WORLD DAY OF PEACE

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/01/devotion-for-proper-4-year-d-humes/

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/01/salvation-and-damnation-part-iii/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Devotion for the Fourth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Marriage at Cana, by Paolo Veronese

Image in the Public Domain

Deeds and Creeds

JANUARY 30, 2022

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Amos 5:18-24 or Proverbs 3:5-18

Psalm 117

1 Timothy 3:1-13

John 2:1-12

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Rituals are part of religion.  The Law of Moses specifies elements of ritualism, down to priestly vestments and certain details of sacred spaces.  May we human beings shun Puritanical and Pietistic excesses as we focus on the point of Amos 5:18-24.  That point is that sacred rituals are not talismans.  They do not shield people from the consequences of a lack of righteousness–in this case, manifested in the exploitation of the vulnerable and in corruption.

Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.  We may praise God for having merciful love (as in Psalm 117), but divine justice is catastrophic for the habitually unrighteous (as in Amos 5).  Therefore, blessed and happy are those who find wisdom (as in Proverbs 3).

1 Timothy 3, somewhat bound by cultural context, does contain a timeless element, too.  Ecclesiastical leaders have a duty to lead by example.  They must have fine character.  Their deeds must not belie the sacred truth.

Hypocrisy offends, does it not?  I recall a news story from years ago.  A minister had preached against gambling.  Then someone caught him gambling in a casino.

Deeds reveal creeds.  Words may deceive, but deeds to not lie.  In Jewish theology, God is like what God has done and is doing.  The same principle applies to human beings.

In the Gospel of John, Christ’s first miracle was turning water into wine at Cana.  This was no mere parlor trick.  Yes, Jesus saved his host from embarrassment.  Christ also pointed to his glory, that is, God’s presence in him.  Jesus pointed to God.

Divine grace is extravagant.  It saves us from sins and from ourselves.  Sometimes it may save us from embarrassment.  Do we accept that grace and point to God?  Do we accept that grace and love our neighbors as we love ourselves?  Or do we reject that grace?

Our deeds will reveal our creeds.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 30, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF ALLEN EASTMAN CROSS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN MAIN, ANGLO-CANADIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MONK

THE FEAST OF FRANCES JOSEPH-GAUDET, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EDUCATOR, PRISON REFORMER, AND SOCIAL WORKER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ADAMS BROWN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND SOCIAL REFORMER

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2020/12/30/deeds-and-creeds-iv/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

Above:  Icon of Amos

Image in the Public Domain

Mutuality in God

JANUARY 16, 2022

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Amos 3:1-8 or Proverbs 1:1-19

Psalm 115:1-11

1 Timothy 1:1-2, 12-17

John 1:35-42

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Humes lectionary provides two options for the First Reading.  I will write about both of them.

Amos 3:1-8 includes a variation on the old saying that great responsibility accompanies great privilege.  Grace is free, not cheap.  One can never purchase it, but accepting it entails taking on duties.  To tie Proverbs 1:1-19 into that principle, one has a duty to show love for God by doing love to one’s fellow human beings.  Elsewhere in Amos, we read of greedy, exploitative people, as we do in Proverbs 1:8-19.

These men lie in wait for their own blood,

they set a trap for their own lives.

This is the fate of everyone greedy of loot:

unlawful gain takes away the life of him who acquires it.

–Proverbs 1:18-19, The New American Bible (1991)

Whatever we do to others, we do also to ourselves.

The audience in Amos 3 is collective; it is the people of Israel.  To be precise, it is the people of Israel during the reigns of King Azariah (Uzziah) of Judah (785-733 B.C.E.) and King Jeroboam II of Israel (788-747 B.C.E.).  The  Deuteronomic theology of the Book of Amos teaches that actions have consequences.  Obey the Law of Moses, please God, and reap the benefits.  Alternatively, disobey the Law of Moses, displease God, and reap the negative consequences.  Many of those commandments pertain to social justice, especially economic justice.

Our Western culture, with its pervasive individualism, easily overlooks collective responsibility.  Politically, the Right Wing emphasizes individual responsibility.  Meanwhile, the Left Wing stresses collective responsibility.  Both sides err in so far as they give short shrift to or ignore either type of responsibility.  Just as divine judgment and mercy exist in balance, so do individual and collective responsibility.  Mutuality holds them in balance.

Psalm 115 condemns idolatry.  The real idols are ideas, not objects.  A statue of a god, for example, can be a work of art to display in a museum.  Idolatry is about misplaced, disordered love, to go Augustinian on you, O reader.  In the case of the greedy people in Proverbs 1, their idol was attachment to wealth.

The reading from 1 Timothy 1 reminds us that God embraces repentance.  Remorse is an emotion that enables repentance, a series of actions.

Regardless of who wrote or dictated the First Letter to Timothy (probably not St. Paul the Apostle), St. Paul seemed unlikely to have become what he became in God.  Saul of Tarsus certainly did not expect it.  And, to turn to John 1:35-42, calling St. Simon “Peter,” or “Rock,” may have seemed ironic at first.  But Jesus recognized potential in him.  St. Simon Peter eventually grew into that potential.  St. Paul the Apostle grew into his potential, as well.

If we are to grew into our potential individually, we need the help of God and other people.  St. Paul had Ananias.  St. Simon Peter had Jesus.  Who do you have, O reader?

Likewise, if we are to grow into our potential collectively, we need the help of God and other groups of people.  We live in a web of mutuality.  We know this, do we not?  Globalization, at least, should have taught us that the communities and nation-states can affect the fates of our communities and nation-states.  

Will we work for the common good?  Or will we persist in delusions of amoral rugged individualism and isolationism?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 28, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST (TRANSFERRED)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2020/12/28/mutuality-in-god-v/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++