Archive for the ‘Law of Moses’ 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

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

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Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18

Psalm 103:1-13

1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23

Matthew 5:38-48

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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

Above:  Icon of Moses

Image in the Public Domain

Mutuality in God

FEBRUARY 12, 2023

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

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Deuteronomy 30:15-20

Psalm 119:1-16

1 Corinthians 2:6-13

Matthew 5:20-37

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Lord God, mercifully receive the prayers of your people. 

Help us to see and understand the things we ought to do,

and give us grace and power to do them;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 16

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O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers

of your people who call upon you,

and grant that they may understand the things they ought to do

and also may have grace and strength to accomplish them;

through Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 27

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Culturally-specific examples make timeless principles applicable, in context.  Outside of that context, the culturally-specific examples may seem confusing and may not apply.  Yet the timeless principles remain.  When reading any Biblical text, the question of context(s) is always relevant.  Knowing the difference between a timeless principle and a culturally-specific example thereof is essential.

Consider the reading from Matthew 5, for example, O reader.

  1. “Raca,” or “fool,” was an extremely strong insult.  We have counterparts in our contemporary cultures; these counterparts are unsuitable for quoting in a family-friendly weblog. How we think and speak of others matters.
  2. Divorce and remarriage, in well-to-do families, consolidated landholding, thereby taking advantage of deeply indebted families.  Such practices endangered societal and familial cohesion.  Some divorces are necessary, especially in cases of domestic violence and emotional abuse.  The innocent parties deserve happiness afterward, do they not?  I support them receiving that happiness.  Yet modern practices that endanger societal and familial cohesion exist.

The Gospel of Matthew makes clear that Jesus affirmed the Law of Moses.  He favored Torah piety.  Jesus also opposed those who taught the Torah badly.  Deuteronomy 30 and Psalm 119 taught Torah piety, too.  St. Paul the Apostle admitted that the Law of Moses was good.  His objection after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, was that Judaism was not Christianity, not that it was legalistic.  For St. Paul, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus changed everything.

We have now received not the spirit of the world but the Spirit of God himself, so that we can understand something of God’s generosity towards us.

–1 Corinthians 2:12, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972)

In your context, O reader, what does God’s generosity require you to do?  Returning to Matthew 5 (among other Biblical texts), God orders that we–collectively and individually–treat others properly.  How we think of them influences how we behave toward them, inevitably.

May we–you, O reader, and I–as well as our communities, cultures, societies, et cetera–in the words of Deuteronomy 30:19, choose life.  May we choose proper piety.  May we acknowledge and accept our complete dependence on God.  May we practice mutuality.  May we love one another selflessly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 25, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE CONVERSION OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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

Above:  Homeless (1890), by Thomas Kennington

Image in the Public Domain

Mutuality in God

FEBRUARY 5, 2023

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

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Isaiah 58:5-9a

Psalm 112 (LBW) or Psalm 119:17-24 (LW)

1 Corinthians 2:1-5

Matthew 5:13-20

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Almighty God, you sent your only Son

as the Word of life for our eyes to see and our ears to listen. 

Help us to believe with joy what the Scriptures proclaim,

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 16

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O God, our loving Father, through the grace of your Holy Spirit,

you plant your gifts of your love

into the hearts of your faithful people. 

Grant to your servants soundness of mind and body,

so that they may love you with their whole strength

and with their whole heart do these things

that are pleasing in your sight;

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), 26

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In various contexts, from different times, the Bible proclaims a consistent message:  God cares deeply how people treat each other.  God commands care for the vulnerable and weak.  This message is not merely for individuals.  Rather, it is usually collective.

The context of Isaiah 58:5-9a is instructive.  That context was Jerusalem, circa 538 B.C.E.  The first wave of Jewish exiles had returned to their ancestral homeland and found it a troubled, drought-ridden place, not the verdant utopia some prophets had promised.  Second Isaiah reminded people who were feeling vulnerable to care for those who were more vulnerable.  Second Isaiah reminded people of mutuality and complete dependence on God, principles from the Law of Moses.

Jesus upheld the Law of Moses.  He criticized people who taught it badly and wrongly.

When we–collectively and individually–feel vulnerable and do not acknowledge our complete dependence on God, we may victimize or ignore the more vulnerable and the less fortunate.  When we–collectively and individually–do not feel vulnerable and do not acknowledge our complete dependence on God, we may victimize the more vulnerable and the less fortunate.  Either way, we–collectively and individually–may safeguard “me and mine” and endanger or ignore people God does notice.  There is another way, though.  We–collectively and individually–can notice those God notices.  And we–collectively and individually–can practice mutuality and the recognition of universal human dependence on God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 22, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN JULIAN, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF ALEXANDER MEN, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1990

THE FEAST OF BENJAMIN LAY, AMERICAN QUAKER ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT LADISLAO BATTHÁNY-STRATTMAN, AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PHYSICIAN AND PHILANTHROPIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT VINCENT PALLOTTI, FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY FOR THE CATHOLIC APOSTOLATE, THE UNION OF CATHOLIC APOSTOLATE, AND THE SISTERS OF THE CATHOLIC APOSTOLATE

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Link to the corresponding link at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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

Above:  Icon of the Beatitudes

Image in the Public Domain

Mutuality in God

JANUARY 29, 2023

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

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Micah 6:1-8

Psalm 1

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Matthew 5:1-12

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O God, you know that we cannot withstand

the dangers which surround us. 

Strengthen us in body and spirit so that, with your help,

we may be able to overcome the weakness

that our sin has brought upon us;

through Jesus Christ, your Son our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 16

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Almighty God,

you know that we are set among so many and great dangers

that by reason of the weakness of our fallen nature

we cannot always stand upright;

grant us your strength and protection to support us in all dangers

and carry us through all temptations;

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

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

Lutheran Worship (1982), 25

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Sacred ritual is part of the Law of Moses.  So are moral mandates regarding how people ought to treat each other.  A sacred ritual is not a talisman.  To treat it as such is to make a mockery of it.

“The man” of Psalm 1:1 is a student of the Torah.  He, in the original cultural setting and in the Hebrew text, is a man.  In my cultural setting, that role is no longer gender-specific, for the better.  Certain details change, according to physical and temporal setting.  Others remain constant, though, for better or worse.  For example, “the man” of Psalm 1:1 is stable.  The language of positions in Psalm 1:1 is interesting.  “The man” contrasts with the impious, who are in motion–walking, following, and standing–before finally sitting down in the seat of scoffers.  True stability exists in God alone.

The readings from the New Testament tell us that divine values differ from dominant human values.  Conventional wisdom may get some details right.  After all, a broken clock is right twice a day.  Yet conventional wisdom tends to be foolishness.  The ethics of the Beatitudes, for example, look like folly to “the world.”

Micah 6 contrasts with what God has done with what people have done, collectively.  The Bible frequently concerns itself with collective actions and inactions.  My Western culture, with its individualistic emphasis, does not know how to comprehend collective guilt, sin, and repentance.  Yet the Bible does.  Mutuality, not individualism, is a Biblical virtue.  Remember, O reader, that in three of the four readings for this Sunday, the emphasis is on “we,” not “me.”  Furthermore, “we” and “me” coexist in Psalm 1.

The emphasis on “we” terrifies me.  I may try to follow God daily, to practice the Golden Rule, et cetera.  Yet I also belong to a community, a culture, a society, a nation-state, and a species.  The sins of others may cause me to suffer because of my group memberships–community, culture, society, nation-state, and species.  Recall, O reader, that the population in Micah 6 addressed included pious people.  Remember, O reader, that not all Christians in Corinth were querulous jerks.

Ponder, O reader, how we–the “we” of wherever you live–can improve relative to Micah 6:8.  How can “we” do justice, love goodness, and walk modestly with God?

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MIROCLES OF MILAN AND EPIPHANIUS OF PAVIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ALBAN ROE AND THOMAS REYNOLDS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1642

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN YI YON-ON, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN KOREA, 1867

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the First Sunday After the Epiphany: The Baptism of Our Lord, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Baptism of Christ

Image in the Public Domain

A Covenant People

JANUARY 8, 2023

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

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Isaiah 42:1-7

Psalm 45:7-9

Acts 10:34-38

Matthew 3:13-17

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Father in heaven, at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan

you proclaimed him your beloved Son

and anointed him with the Holy Spirit. 

Make all who are baptized into Christ

faithful in their calling to be your children

and inheritors with him of everlasting life;

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

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Father in heaven, as at the baptism in the Jordan River

you once proclaimed Jesus your beloved Son

and anointed him with the Holy Spirit,

grant that all who are baptized in his name may

faithfully keep the covenant into which they have been called,

boldly confess their Savior,

and with him be heirs of life eternal;

through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 21

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The people of God–Jews and Gentiles–have a divine mandate to be a light to the nations, for the glory of God and the benefit of the people.  The ethics of the Law of Moses and the teachings of Jesus value and mandate equity and justice, both collectively and individually, as a matter of conduct and policy.

The servant in Isaiah 42:1-7 is the personification of the people of Israel, in the context of the Babylonian Exile.  Yet much of Christian Tradition interprets that servant as Christ.  Read Isaiah 42:6-7, O reader:

I have created you, and appointed you 

A covenant people, a light of nations–

Opening eyes deprived of light,

Rescuing prisoners from confinement,

From the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures 

I have checked this text in five French translations.  “You” is singular in all of them, for it refers to the personified servant.  Yet 43:6b-7a refers to “a covenant people.”

Possible reasons for Jesus, sinless, taking St. John the Baptist’s baptism for repentance for forgiveness of sins have long filled minds and commentaries.  Maybe Jesus was originally a disciple of St. John the Baptist, and authors of the four canonical Gospels attempted to obscure this potentially embarrassing fact.  Perhaps Jesus was identifying with sinful human beings.  (One may legitimately accept more than one rationale.)

Regardless of how one accounts for the baptism of Jesus, the baptized belong to that covenant people described in Isaiah 42:1-7.  To belong to the covenant people is to carry a demanding divine mandate to serve, to live in mutuality, and to keep the Golden Rule.  To belong to the covenant people, as Gentiles, is to carry the divine mandate to love like Jesus, for Christ’s sake and glory.  To belong to the covenant people is to carry a glorious and crucial calling.

Yet a certain bumper sticker rings true too often.  It reads:

JESUS, SAVE ME FROM YOUR FOLLOWERS.

I hear that saying and think:

Yes, I feel like that sometimes.

Perhaps you, O reader, feel like that sometimes, too.  Many of the members of the covenant community have behaved badly and betrayed the mandate in Isaiah 42:6b-7a.  That is sad, as well as counter-productive to the effort to aid people in their walk with God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 18, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE CONFESSION OF SAINT PETER, APOSTLE

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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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

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the Sunday of the Transfiguration, Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Transfiguration of Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

Transfigured Lives

FEBRUARY 27, 2022

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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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Genesis 11:1-9

Psalm 50:1-6

Galatians 6:1-18

Mark 9:2-13

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The great myth of the Tower of Babel is a cautionary tale.  It is certainly neither history nor cultural anthropology.  So be it.  The great myth in Genesis 11:1-9 condemns human hubris, that which

goeth before the fall.

“Look at me!  Look at us!” is terrible theology.  It is not humility before God either.  Besides, such large-scale construction projects (as in the mythical Tower of Babel) entailed forced labor in antiquity.  They required the exploitation of many people, in violation of the ethical mandates of the Law of Moses.

Galatians 6 is consistent with the ethical mandates of the Law of Moses.  Bear one another’s burdens, we read.  Act out of mutuality, we read.  Never tire of doing good, we read.

Reaching to Heaven in pride is an element of Genesis 11.  In the accounts of the Transfiguration, we read that God has reached down to people in sacrificial love.  One proper response to such love is to love one another sacrificially.  We cannot love as God loves, even by grace.  However, we can, by grace, love each other better than we can on our own power.

May the sacrificial love of God manifest in the life of Jesus of Nazareth transfigure our lives.  May it transfigure your life, O reader.  May it transfigure my life.  May hubris recede far into the background and disappear.  May we seek to glorify God, not ourselves.  May we succeed, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 4, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH ANN SETON, FOUNDRESS OF THE AMERICAN SISTERS OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF FELIX MANZ, FIRST ANABAPTIST MARTYR, 1527

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY OF LANGRES, TERTICUS OF LANGRES, GALLUS OF CLERMONT, GREGORY OF TOURS, AVITUS I OF CLERMONT, MAGNERICUS OF TRIER, AND GAUGERICUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN LUDWIG FREYDT, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/04/transfigured-lives/

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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

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

Psalm 118:14-29

1 Timothy 5:1-16

John 3:1-21

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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

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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/

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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

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

Psalm 117

1 Timothy 3:1-13

John 2:1-12

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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

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

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

Above:  Saint Bartholomew, by Antonio Veneziano

Image in the Public Domain

Salvation and Damnation

JANUARY 23, 2022

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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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Amos 5:6-15 or Proverbs 1:20-33

Psalm 115:12-18

1 Timothy 2:1-15

John 1:43-51

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Without getting lost on a side trip through cultural context in 1 Timothy 2, I focus on the core, unifying theme this week:  We reap what we sow.

Now they must eat the fruit of their own way,

and with their own devices be glutted.

For the self-will of the simple kills them,

the smugness of fools destroys them.

But he who obeys me dwells in security,

in peace, without fear of harm.

–Proverbs 1:33, The New American Bible (1991)

The crucifixion of Jesus, the blood of the martyrs, and the suffering of the righteous contradicts the last two lines.  O, well.  The Book of Proverbs is excessively optimistic sometimes.  The Book of Ecclesiastes corrects that excessive optimism.

Righteousness is no guarantee against suffering in this life.  Nevertheless, we will reap what we sow.  Some of the reaping must wait until the afterlife, though.

The New Testament readings point to Jesus, as they should.  1 Timothy gets into some cultural details that do not reflect the reality of Athens, Georgia, in December 2020.  I denounce the male chauvinism evident in 1 Timothy 1:9-15.  That sexism is of its time and place.  I focus instead on God desiring that people find salvation.  They do not, of course.  Many of them are like the disobedient people in Amos 5 and Proverbs 1.

The divine mandate of economic justice present in Amos 5 remains relevant.  It is a mandate consistent with the teachings of Jesus and the ethos of Second Temple Judaism.  That divine mandate, built into the Law of Moses, is crucial in Covenantal Nomism.  According to Covenantal Nomism, salvation is via grace–birth into the covenant.  One drops out of the covenant by consistently and willfully neglecting the ethical demands of the covenant.

In other words, damnation is via works and salvation is via grace.

The reading from John 1 requires some attempt at an explanation.  The parts of John 1:35-43 that need to be clear are clear.  But, after consulting learned commentaries, I still have no idea what amazed St. Bartholomew/Nathanael the Apostle about Jesus seeing him under a fig tree.  I recall having read very educated guesses, though.  The crucial aspect of that story is the call to follow Jesus.  Also, John 1:43 links Jacob’s Ladder/Staircase/Ramp (Genesis 28:10-17) to the crucifixion (“lifting up”) of Jesus.  The Johannine theme of the exaltation of Christ being his crucifixion occurs in Chapter 1, too.  The crucifixion of Jesus was the gate of Heaven, according to John 1:43.

That gate is sufficiently narrow to exclude those who exclude themselves.  Those who carry with them the luggage of bribery cannot enter.  Those who haul along the bags of exploitation of the poor cannot pass.  No, those who exclude themselves have done injustice to God and Jesus while exploiting “the least of these.”  Those who have excluded themselves must eat the fruit of their own way.

C. S. Lewis wrote that the doors to Hell are locked from the inside.  

Think about that, O reader.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 29, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY INNOCENTS (TRANSFERRED)

THE FEAST OF JOHN BURNETT MORRIS, SR., EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF PHILIPP HEINRICH MOLTHER, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, BISHOP, COMPOSER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT THOMAS BECKET, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY, AND MARTYR, 1170

THE FEAST OF THOMAS COTTERRILL ENGLISH PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2020/12/29/salvation-and-damnation-part-ii/

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