Archive for the ‘Luke 4’ Tag

Devotion for the Second Sunday of Advent (Year D)   1 comment

Moses Striking the Rock in Horeb

Above:  Moses Strikes the Rock in Horeb, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

Pointing to God, Not Ourselves

DECEMBER 8, 2019

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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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Numbers 12:1-16 or 20:1-13 (14-21) 22-29

Psalm 106:(1) 7-18, 24-18 (43-48) or Psalm 95

Luke 1:(57) 58-67 (68-79) 80

Hebrews 3:1-19

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Many times he delivered them,

but they were rebellious in their purposes,

and were brought low through their iniquity.

Nevertheless he regarded their distress

when he heard their cry.

–Psalm 106:43-44, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,

as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,

when your ancestors tested me,

and put me to the proof, though you had seen my work.

–Psalm 95:8-9, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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In most of the readings for this day we read of grumbling against God and/or Moses despite God’s proven track record, frequently in the presence of those who go on to grumble.  Miriam and Aaron question the authority of Moses in Numbers 12. Miriam becomes ritually unclean because of this (Do not question Moses!), but her brother intercedes for her.  People witness then seem to forget God’s mighty acts in Psalms 95 and 106, as well as in Hebrews 3.  And, in Numbers 20, Moses disobeys instructions from God.  He is supposed to speak to a rock to make water come out of it, but he strikes it instead.

By word and act Moses is thus appropriating to himself an act of God.  In doing this he is undoing the message that God and Moses himself have been conveying to the to the people up to this point.  The people have continuously directed their attention to Moses instead of to God….Until this episode Moses has repeatedly told the people, “It is not from my own heart,” and “You are congregating against YHWH,” but now his words and actions confirm the people’s own perception.

–Richard Elliott Friedman, Commentary on the Torah with a New English Translation and the Hebrew Text (2001), page 495

Moses was generally trustworthy in the sight of God, per the positive assessment of him in Hebrews 3.  At Meribah he gave into human weakness.  All of us have caved into our own weaknesses on multiple occasions, have we not?  Have we not, for example, sought our own glory instead of that of God?  Have we not yielded to the temptation to be spectacular, which Henri J. M. Nouwen identified in The Way of the Heart (1981) as one of Satan’s temptations of Jesus in Luke 4 and Matthew 4?   If we have lived long enough, yes, we have.

And you, my child, will be called Prophet of the Most High,

for you will be the Lord’s forerunner to prepare his way

and lead his people to a knowledge of salvation

through the forgiveness of sins:

for in the tender compassion of our God

the dawn of heaven will break upon us,

to shine on those who live in darkness, under the shadow of death,

and to guide our feet in the way of peace.

–St. Zechariah in Luke 1:76-79, The Revised English Bible (1989)

St. John the Baptist grew up and became one who admitted the truth that he was not the Messiah (Luke 3:15-17 and Mark 1:7-8).  He pointed to cousin Jesus instead (Matthew 3:13-14 and John 3:25-36).

The spiritual vocations of Christians vary in details, but the common threads run through those calls from God.  We who call ourselves Christians have, for example, a responsibility to glorify God, not ourselves, and to point to Jesus.  We also have an obligation to lead lives defined by gratitude to God, not rebellion against God.  We can succeed, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN BAJUS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/08/20/pointing-to-god-not-ourselves/

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

Othniel

Above:  Othniel

Image in the Public Domain

Turning Toward God

FEBRUARY 9, 2019

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The Collect:

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

and before you angels and saints stand in awe.

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

and by your grace make us heralds of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24

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The Assigned Readings:

Judges 3:7-11

Psalm 138

Luke 4:42-44

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

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

your right hand shall save me.

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

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 9, 2015 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUIS BERTRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GROSSETESTE, SCHOLAR

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

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

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After the Third Sunday After the Epiphany, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Jehoiakim

Above:  Jehoiakim

Image in the Public Domain

Building Up Others

JANUARY 28, 29, and 30, 2019

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord God, you have caused the holy scriptures

to be written for the nourishment of your people.

Grant that we may hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that, comforted by your promises,

we may embrace and forever hold fast to the hope of eternal life,

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 36:1-10 (Monday)

Jeremiah 36:11-26 (Tuesday)

Jeremiah 36:27-32 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:89-96 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 14:1-12 (Monday)

2 Corinthians 7:2-12 (Tuesday)

Luke 4:38-44 (Wednesday)

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Your word endures for ever, LORD;

it stands firm in the heavens.

Your faithfulness lasts for all time;

it stands firm in the earth you founded.

Your decrees stand firm even today;

all these are your servants.

Unless your law had been a source of delight to me

I should have perished amid my afflictions,

I will never neglect your rules

for by them you have kept me alive.

I belong to you.  Save me!

For I have sought to keep your rules.

Wicked people are waiting to destroy me

but I have looked closely into your instructions.

I have seen how everything comes to an end once it is finished

but your commandment knows no bounds.

–Psalm 119:89-96, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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Proclaiming the words of God can prove to be a risky undertaking.

The prophet Jeremiah and his scribe Baruch knew this truth well.  They worked in a particular political context.  Not only was there no separation of religion and government, but the monarch, Jehoiakim (reigned 608-598 B.C.E.), was a vassal.  Neco, the Pharaoh of Egypt, had chosen him to rule as King of Judah in lieu of Jehoahaz (reigned 609 B.C.E.), another son of the great Josiah (reigned 640-609 B.C.E.).  In time Jehoiakim became a vassal of Nebuchadnezzar II (reigned 605-562 B.C.E.) of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, against whom he rebelled.  Nebuchadnezzar II was not amused.  (You, O reader, can read more at 2 Kings 23:28-24:7 and 2 Chronicles 36:1-8).  The purpose of the contents of the first scroll in Jeremiah 36 was to create an opportunity for repentance–the act of turning around or changing the mind.  King Jehoiakim and his courtiers did not repent.  No, he burned the scroll.  YHWH was not amused.  Jeremiah and Baruch found themselves in legal trouble, but YHWH hid them.  And Jeremiah dictated a second scroll to Baruch.

St. Paul the Apostle and his traveling companions also knew well the political and legal hazards of proclaiming the words of God.  In fact, the Apostle became a martyr because of that proclamation.  He also knew the risks of hurting the feelings of people who were precious to him.  As St. Paul knew, one is not responsible for the thin skins of other people.

Jesus and St. Paul understood the value of building up others and faithful community.  Sometimes acting on this principle requires moving along to another place, to engage in the work of building up others there.

I have belonged to a series of congregations, mostly during my time in the household of my father, a United Methodist minister.  I moved on psychologically, burying many memories, when I relocated physically.  Nevertheless, I recall that certain members of those rural congregations in southern Georgia, U.S.A., used their positions, whether formal or informal, to build up themselves to the detriment of faith community.  They forgot, if they ever knew, that the congregation belonged to God, not to them.  Those churches would have been healthier faith communities if those people had acted differently and others had not enabled such destructive behavior.  I have seen such behavior less frequently in Episcopal congregations I have attended, not than one denomination is more prone to this pathology than another.

What is God calling you, O reader, to do in the context of faith community?  Building it up is a general description, what are the details in your context?  And, if proclaiming the words of God faithfully puts you at risk, are you willing to proceed anyway?  Whatever your circumstances are or will become, may the love of God and the imperative of building up others, society, and faith community compel you.  And may you succeed, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 3, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE EVE OF THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI:  PROPER FOR THE GOODNESS OF CREATION

THE FEAST OF THEODOR FLIEDNER, PIONEER OF THE DEACONESS MOVEMENT IN THE LUTHERAN CHURCH

THE FEAST OF GEORGE KENNEDY ALLEN BELL, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CHICHESTER

THE FEAST OF JOHN RALEIGH MOTT, ECUMENICAL PIONEER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/10/03/building-up-others/

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

Christ Pantocrator Icon

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Our Mission from God

JANUARY 24, 2019

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord God, you have caused the holy scriptures

to be written for the nourishment of your people.

Grant that we may hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that, comforted by your promises,

we may embrace and forever hold fast to the hope of eternal life,

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 61:1-7

Psalm 19

Romans 7:1-6

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The law of the LORD is perfect; it restores vitality,

the commandments of the LORD are reliable;

they provide wisdom for those who need it.

–Psalm 19:8, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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That is true.  Yet what are we readers supposed to do with Romans 7:1-6?

I found the Commentary on Romans (Swedish, 1944; English, 1949) by Swedish Lutheran Bishop Anders Nygren helpful in considering that question.  Nygren’s Commentary has proven to be influential and durable, for other published exegetes have quoted and/or referred to it.  So why not cut out the middle man and go directly to Nygren?

Nygren argued that, according to St. Paul the Apostle, the Law (Torah) never dies.  It has not expired or run its course, and Christ has neither superceded, negated, nor repealed it:

The law does not die.  There is only one way to liberation.  Only in the fact that the Christian has died with Christ is he really and truly set free beyond the realm of the law.  Paul’s emphasis lies on this genuine liberation.

–Page 272

On page 268 Nygren presents in two columns the parallels between Romans 6 and 7:1-6.  In Chapter 6 Christians die to sin so that they might walk in newness of life, in freedom from sin.  When we turn to Chapter 7, we read of dying to the law for the purpose of serving in the new life of the Spirit, in freedom from the law.

This liberation has come through the death of Christ, and through the fact that by baptism we have become sharers in His death.

–Page 269

As a note in The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003) stated well,

The point Paul desires to make is that death ends obligations; the law has lost its claim over Christians, who have transferred their allegiance to Christ.

–Page 2019

The theme of liberation via God to live righteously in the joy of God applies also to Isaiah 61:1-7.  The speaker in that text is most likely the author of the last few chapters of the Book of Isaiah.  The notes in The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) identify him as Deutero-Isaiah.  I think that Trito-Isaiah is the accurate label, but that is a minor issue.  The prophet speaks of his mandate from God

To bind up the wounded of heart,

To proclaim release to the captives,

Liberation to the imprisoned;

To proclaim a year of the LORD’s favor

And a day of vindication by our God;

To comfort all who mourn….

–Isaiah 61:1b-2, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The historical context of this pericope is the return of the Hebrew exiles to their ancestral homeland.  Decades of captivity had understandably caused much despondency and prompted much derision, hence the necessity of the prophet’s mission.

In a broader sense, is not the prophet’s mission that of all who have known the love of God?  Grace is free yet definitely not cheap; it requires a positive, faithful response.  The wounded of heart and those who mourn are always around us.  Captives and prisoners (both literal and metaphorical) are numerous also.  The mission of Trito-Isaiah is mine as well as yours, O reader.  Jesus claimed it as part of his mission in Luke 4:16-19.  If he claimed it for himself, should not we who follow him?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 3, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE EVE OF THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI:  PROPER FOR THE GOODNESS OF CREATION

THE FEAST OF THEODOR FLIEDNER, PIONEER OF THE DEACONESS MOVEMENT IN THE LUTHERAN CHURCH

THE FEAST OF GEORGE KENNEDY ALLEN BELL, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CHICHESTER

THE FEAST OF JOHN RALEIGH MOTT, ECUMENICAL PIONEER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/10/03/our-mission-from-god/

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Devotion for Friday and Saturday Before the Seventh Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Hezekiah

Above:  King Hezekiah

Image in the Public Domain

Short-Term Thinking

NOT OBSERVED IN 2015

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The Collect:

Almighty God, in signs and wonders your Son revealed the greatness of your saving love.

Renew us with your grace, and sustain us by your power,

that we may stand in the glory of your name,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 25

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 38:1-8 (Friday)

Isaiah 39:1-8 (Saturday)

Psalm 41 (Both Days)

Hebrews 12:7-13 (Friday)

Luke 4:38-41 (Saturday)

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By this I know that you are pleased with me;

because my enemy has not triumphed over me.

But you have upheld me because of my integrity,

and set me in your presence forever.

–Psalm 41:11-12, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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That text functions as a counterpart to the story of King Hezekiah of Judah, as we read it in Isaiah 38-39 and 2 Kings 20.

In the lectionary we read of two main healings–one of King Hezekiah and the other of St. Simon Peter’s mother-in-law.  The former seemed not to have improved spiritually.  In fact, he acted recklessly, showing off for a Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian envoy seeking an ally against Assyria.  This happened about a century (maybe a little more than, perhaps slightly less than) before that would-be ally ended the existence of the Kingdom of Judah.  The monarch took comfort that he would be dead by then.  St. Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, however, extended hospitality to her house guests.

As Hebrews 12:7-13 reminds us, God disciplines people for their own good.  Healing and holiness follow in that divine plan.  Some people are oblivious, however; Hezekiah comes to mind immediately.

Hezekiah answered, “The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good,” for he was thinking to himself that peace and security would last out his lifetime.

–2 Kings 20:19, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Such self-interest does not indicate proper concern for others, especially those of the future.  This kind of short-term thinking is what damages the planet and ravages ecosystems.  Future generations and members of other species will pay the high price for a lack of concern and imagination and for the quest for convenience and immediate gratification in the present day.  But we, unlike Hezekiah, will pay part of the price for our folly also.  Are we not supposed to be stewards of blessings, including the Earth?  Should we not extend hospitality to those around us and those not yet born?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 3, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARUTHAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MAYPHERKAT AND MISSIONARY TO PERSIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERNARD OF PARMA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY TO ASIA

THE FEAST OF JOHN OWEN SMITH, UNITED METHODIST BISHOP IN GEORGIA

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/06/short-term-thinking/

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Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C   15 comments

Above:  The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.

Image Source = Library of Congress

Rejecting Agape

FEBRUARY 3, 2019

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Jeremiah 1:1-10 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The words of Jeremiah, son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin.  The word of the LORD came to him in the days of King Josiah son of Amon of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign, and throughout the days of Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah, and until the end of the eleventh year of King Zedekiah son of Josiah son of Judah, when Jerusalem went into exile in the fifth month.

The word of the LORD came to me:

Before I created you in the womb, I selected you;

Before you were born, I consecrated you;

I appointed you a prophet concerning the nations.

I replied:

Ah, Lord GOD!

I don’t know how to speak,

For I am still a boy.

And the LORD said to me:

Do not say, “I am still a boy,”

But go wherever I send you

And speak whatever I command you.

Have no fear of them,

For I am with you to deliver them

–declares the LORD.

The LORD put out His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me:

Herewith I put My words into your mouth.

See, I appoint you this day

Over nations and kingdoms:

To uproot and to pull down,

To destroy and to overthrow,

To build and to plant.

Psalm 71:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  In you, O LORD, have I taken refuge;

let me never be ashamed.

2  In your righteousness, deliver me and set me free;

incline your ear to me and save me.

3  Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe;

you are my crag and my stronghold.

4  Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked,

from the clutches of the evildoer and the oppressor.

5  For you are my hope, O Lord GOD,

my confidence since I was young.

6  I have been sustained by you ever since I was born;

from my mother’s womb you have been my strength;

my praise shall be always of you.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (New American Bible):

If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.  And if I have the gift of prophecy, and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind.   It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.  If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.  For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.  When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.  At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face.  At present, I know partially; then I shall know fully as I am known.  So faith, hope, and love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Luke 4:21-30 (The Jerusalem Bible):

And he [Jesus] won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips.

They said,

This is Joseph’s son, surely?

But he replied,

No doubt you will quote the saying, “Physician, heal yourself” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own countryside.”

And he went on,

I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.

There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of those; he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town.  And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.

When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged.  They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-fourth-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-fourth-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/24/forgive-our-lack-of-love-prayer-of-confession-for-the-fourth-sunday-after-epiphan/

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Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,

Guilty of dust and sin.

But quickeyed Love, observing me grow slack

From my first entrance in,

Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,

If I lacked anything.

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“A guest,” I answered, “worthy to be here.”

Love said, “You shall be he.”

“I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,

I cannot look on thee.”

Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,

“Who made the eyes but I?”

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“Truth, Lord, but I have marred them.  Let my shame

Go where it doth deserve.”

“And know you not,” says Love,  “who bore the blame?

My dear, then, I will serve.

You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”

So I did sit and eat.

–George Herbert (1633)

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The love in 1 Corinthians 13 is agape.  There are four types of love in the New Testament, with agape being the highest form.  For a description of agape I turn to Volume X (1953), page 167 of The Interpreter’s Bible:

Agape is another kind of love which roots in the undeserved goodness men have received in Christ.

Agape is a type of love which extends to one’s enemies, looks past mutual interests, and is not merely sentimental.  It is the love which God has for us.  Thus agape is crucial, greater even than faith and hope, which are also commendable and of God.

This was the love which qualified Jeremiah and kept him company on his difficult vocation, one fraught with rejection.  And this was the love which Jesus, also rejected, embodied in a unique way.  This was the love those who tried to kill him at Nazareth lacked.

Agape is hard for many people to practice, for we are flawed.  This statement applies to me.  But I like agape; I seek to come nearer to living it.  One poetic expression of the essence of agape is the George Herbert poem I have quoted in this post.  My choir at St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, has sung the Ralph Vaughan Williams setting of it.  The text speaks to me of what I have received and continue to receive from God.  I can do better, by grace, and I am.  And I have much room for improvement.

Agape is also intolerable for many people.  They seek to destroy it.  The reason for this, I suppose, is that it reminds them of their shortcomings.  And, instead of admitting those failings, some people react defensively and fearfully.  Thus violent people have, throughout history and into the present day, persecuted pacifists, from Quakers to Anabaptists to Mohandas Gandhi to Martin Luther King, Jr.  New England Puritans hanged Quakers in colonial times.  Anabaptists in Europe and elsewhere have attracted a host of foes.  There was, for example, state-sanctioned persecution of Amish and Mennonite conscientious objectors in the United States during World War I.  And Gandhi and King became victims of assassins.  Before King’s death many of his self-identified conservative coreligionists condemned his stances on civil rights and the Vietnam War.  (I have notecards full of citations, quotes, and summaries from back issues of The Presbyterian Journal, which midwifed the Presbyterian Church in America in the early 1970s.  The Journal, publishing immediately after King’s death, continued to condemn him.)

Our human intolerance for agape has caused quite a body count to accumulate.  May God forgive us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 11, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIONYSIUS OF CORINTH, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY NEYROT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF GEORGE AUGUSTUS SELWYN, ANGLICAN PRIMATE OF NEW ZEALAND

THE FEAST OF SAINT STANISLAUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF KRAKOW

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/rejecting-agape/

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Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C   10 comments

Above:  A Jail Cell

Image Source = Andrew Bardwell

The Law of Liberation

JANUARY 27, 2019

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Nehemiah 8:1-12 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

When the seventh month arrived–the Israelites being [settled] in their towns–the entire people assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the scroll of the Teaching of Moses with which the LORD had charged Israel.  On the first day of the seventh month, Ezra the high priest brought the Teaching before the congregation, men and women and all who could listen with understanding.  He read from it, facing the square before the Water Gate, from the first light until midday, to the men and the women and those who could understand; the ears of all the people were given to the scroll of the Teaching.

Ezra the scribe stood upon a wooden tower made for the purpose, and beside hm stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah at his right, and at his left Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, Meshullam.  Ezra opened the scroll in the sight of all the people; the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people; as he opened it, all the people stood up.  Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” with hands upraised.  Then they bowed their hands and prostrated themselves before the LORD with their faces to the ground.  Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites explained the Teaching to the people, while the people stood in their places.  They read from the scroll of the Teaching of God, translating it and giving the sense; so they understood the reading.

Nehemiah the Tirshatha, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites, who were explaining to the people said to all the people,

This day is holy to the LORD your God:  you must not mourn or weep,

for all the people were weeping as they listened to the words of the Teaching.  He further said to them,

Go, eat choice foods and drink sweet drinks and send portions to whoever has nothing prepared, for the day is holy to our Lord.  Do not be sad, for your rejoicing in the LORD is the source of your strength.

The Levites were quieting the people, saying,

Hush, for the day is holy; do not be sad.

Then all the people went to eat and drink and send portions and make great merriment, for they understood the things they were told.

Psalm 19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the firmament shows his handiwork.

2  One day tells its tale to another,

and one night imparts knowledge to another.

3  Although they have no words or language,

and their voices are not heard,

4  Their sound has gone out into all lands,

and their message to the ends of the world.

5  In the deep has he set a pavilion for the sun;

it comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber;

it rejoices like a champion to run its course.

6  It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens

and runs about to the end of it again;

nothing is hidden from its burning heat.

7 The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

8 The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is clean and endures forever;

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold, more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.

11 By them also is your servant enlightened,

and in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can tell how often he offends?

cleanse me from my secret faults.

13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;

let them not get dominion over me;

then shall I be whole and sound,

and innocent of a great offense.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,

O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

1 Corinthians 12:12-31a (New Revised Standard Version):

Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say,

Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,

that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say,

Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,

that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand,

I have no need of you,

nor again the head to the feet,

I have no need of you.

On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gifts.

Luke 4:14-21 (New Jerusalem Bible):

Jesus, with the power of the Spirit in him, returned to Galilee; and his reputation spread throughout the countryside.  He taught in their synagogues and everyone glorified him.

He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day as he usually did.  He stood up to read, and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.  Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:

The spirit of the Lord is upon me,

for he has anointed me

to bring the good news to the afflicted.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives,

sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free,

to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord.

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down.  And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him.  Then he began to speak to them,

The text is being fulfilled today even while you are listening.

The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-third-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/prayer-of-confession-for-the-third-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-third-sunday-after-epiphany/

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When I saw the citation for the Nehemiah reading (8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10) in the Revised Common Lectionary, I wondered why it omitted verses 4 and 7.  Then I read the text.  Verses 4 and 7 tell us the names of the people on the platform.  Nehemiah 8:1-10 had been one of the dreaded readings in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer lectionary before The Episcopal Church adopted the Revised Common Lectionary.  The reason for dread was simple:  the names!  Lectors I heard tackle it usually substituted something like

and some other people

for the names and moved along.  And they did not miss any theological point.  The framers of the Revised Common Lectionary did a good deed.  For the purposes of this post, all the names are there because I found a post where I had typed the entire reading.  So I just copied and pasted from my previous work.

The Law of Moses, when applied properly, was about liberating people, not imposing needless burdens on them, unless one considers being stoned for a variety of offenses, including touching a pigskin, committing blasphemy (however people defined that), cursing one’s parents, and engaging in premarital sexual relations necessary burdens.  (I have a mixed view of the Law of Moses.)  Applications of the Law to which Jesus objected including stoning people to death for adultery.  The incidents reported most often in the canonical Gospels, however, pertain to practices which favored the wealthy–those with enough money and leisure time to do certain things just do–and penalized the majority, the poor, who, because of their finances, could not do so.  Liberation of several sorts was on our Lord’s mind.  Next week’s Gospel lesson will will finish the incident at Nazareth, telling of our Lord’s rejection there.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

Psalm 19:7-8, from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer translation, tells us that

The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

The people of Christ are the body of Christ, Paul tells us.  Each person is therefore a different part of that body.  All are necessary because of, not in spite of, their differences.  Since the parts of Christ’s body need each other, suffering and rejoicing are collective.  And we cannot build up the body by stoning parts of it.  The Law of God–the Law of Liberation–revives the soul and is just.  It sets the captives free.  That is part of our work as Christians:  to love people, to seek what is best for them.  May we recognize what that entails in our circumstances, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 9, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DIETRICH BONHOEFFER, MARTYR AND GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/the-law-of-liberation/

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