Archive for the ‘Martin Luther’ Tag

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

Deborah

Above:  Deborah

Image in the Public Domain

Relying on God’s Power

JANUARY 14, 2019 and JANUARY 15, 2019

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

The Collect:

Almighty God, you anointed Jesus at his baptism with the Holy Spirit

and revealed him as your beloved Son.

Keep all who are born of water and the Spirit faithful in your service,

that we may rejoice to be called children of God,

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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

The Assigned Readings:

Judges 4:1-16 (Monday)

Judges 5:12-21 (Tuesday)

Psalm 106:1-12 (Both Days)

Ephesians 6:10-17 (Monday)

1 John 5:13-21 (Tuesday)

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

Though God delivered them many times

they, for their part, went on planning rebellion

and so sank deeper into sin.

Yet he looked kindly on their distress

whenever he heard them cry.

To help them he recalled his covenant with them,

so deep was his devotion that he took pity on them.

He saw to it that they received compassion

even from those who had taken them captive.

Save us, LORD, our God,

gather us in from among the nations

so that we may acknowledge you as the Holy One.

and take pride in praising you.

–Psalm 106:43-47, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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

I know that the portion of Psalm 106 I have quoted follows verse 12, but those verses seem more applicable to the readings from Judges 4 and 5 than Psalm 106:1-12.  If I had quoted from the first 12 verses of Psalm 106 I would have selected verse 10, set in the context of the Exodus from Egypt:

He rescued them from their foes,

he reclaimed them from enemy hands.

–Harry Mowvley translation

The story in Judges 4 and 5 is consistent with a motif in that book:

  1. The Israelites have fallen into pervasive sin.
  2. YHWH permits a foreign group to oppress the Israelites.
  3. The Israelites cry out to YHWH.
  4. YHWH sends a leader or leaders to resist the oppressors.
  5. The oppression ceases.
  6. The Israelites follow God for a time.
  7. The cycle repeats.

As a note in The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) informs me, nowhere does the text of Judges 4 and 5 identify any of the human protagonists–Deborah the prophetess, Barak the army commander, and Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite–as the deliverer of the Israelites.  Each of those individuals played a crucial role in the liberation, but God delivered the Israelites from oppression.  That theme occurs elsewhere in the Book of Judges and other portions of the Bible, as in the Exodus and the end of the Babylonian Exile.

A motif in the Bible is that God works through people much of the time.  These might be upstanding individuals or they might be scoundrels, at least on their bad days.  Some of these instruments of God are not even believers.  These realities point toward the power and sovereignty of God.

As much as I find Martin Luther to have been a morally troublesome character, his theology of relying on the faithfulness of God is beyond reproach.  We who follow God are children of God, members of the household of God, so we ought to act boldly and confidently in righteousness.  Such righteous confidence should banish faithless and selfish fears (distinct from well-reasoned fears, such as that of touching hot surfaces), enabling us to love our neighbors (both near and far) selflessly.  We have the spiritual armor of God, of which St. Paul the Apostle  or someone writing in his name imagined as being like the armor of a Roman soldier.  Every piece of the armor is God’s.  If it is good enough for God, it is good enough for mere mortals.  After the reading from Ephesians 6 comes this advice:

Constantly ask God’s help in prayer, and pray always in the power of the Spirit.

–Ephesians 6:18, The Revised English Bible (1989)

After all, we depend on God’s power, not our own.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 21, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATTHEW THE EVANGELIST, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/09/21/relying-on-gods-power/

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

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

Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

Above:  Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

Human Folly and Divine Wisdom

JANUARY 10, 2019

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

The Collect:

Almighty God, you anointed Jesus at his baptism with the Holy Spirit

and revealed him as your beloved Son.

Keep all who are born of water and the Spirit faithful in your service,

that we may rejoice to be called children of God,

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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

The Assigned Readings:

Ecclesiastes 1:1-11

Psalm 29

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

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

Bow down to the LORD in his holy splendour.

–Psalm 29:2, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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

The author of Ecclesiastes was a realist.  I, as a student and teacher of history, recognize the truth of 1:10-11 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures, 1985):

Sometimes there is a new phenomenon of which they say, “Look, this one is new!”–it occurred long since, in ages that went by before us.  The earlier ones are not remembered; so too those that will occur later will no more be remembered than those that will occur at the very end.

If all is “futility” (to quote TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures) and “vanity” (to quote The New Revised Standard Version), to whom should we cling?  Is life a morass of postmodern uncertainty or do we have access to a ground for sound theological epistomology?  The author of Ecclesiastes advised trusting in God.

St. Paul the Apostle agreed with Koheleth.  Human wisdom and power are nothing compared to God, St. Paul wrote.  The power of God is saving those who are not perishing.  The only proper boast is in God, whose wisdom is foolishness to many people and whose foolishness is wiser than human wisdom.  God is reliable.  As Martin Luther counseled, may we rely on the faithfulness of God.

This ethos contradicts much “received wisdom” in the United States of America, where rugged individualism is a perceived virtue.  Reality belies rugged individualism, however.  We rely on each other in society.  For example, I drive my car to work.  I rely on mechanics to keep my car in working order.  (Fortunately, the vehicle is reliable, needing mostly routine maintenance.)  I also rely on those who maintain the roads on which I drive to work.  Beyond that concrete example, the social ethos of the Law of Moses is to acknowledge our total dependence on God, our responsibilities for each other, and our duties to each other.  This ethos precludes exploiting any person.

Only God can inaugurate such a society, but we mere mortals can labor to approach it.  We, after all, are society.  If we were to take more seriously our duties to God, to each other, and for each other, I wonder how much better society would be.  Such visions are not futile, if enough people, trusting in God, act faithfully.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 21, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATTHEW THE EVANGELIST, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/09/21/human-folly-and-divine-wisdom/

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

Week of 6 Epiphany: Thursday, Year 2   8 comments

Above:  The Rich and the Poor, Close Together

Image Source = eenthappana

Mercy and Impartiality

FEBRUARY 20, 2020

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

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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

James 2:1-13 (Revised English Bible):

My friends, you believe in our Lord Jesus Christ who reigns in glory and you must always be impartial.  For instance, two visitors may enter your meeting, one a well-dressed man with gold rings, and the other a poor man in grimy clothes.  Suppose you pay special attention to the well-dressed man and say to him,

Please take this seat,

while to the poor man you say,

You stand over there, or sit here on the floor by my footstool,

do you not see that you are discriminating among your members and judging by wrong standards?  Listen, my dear friends:  has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to possess the kingdom he has promised to those who love him?  And yet you have humiliated the poor man.  Moreover, are not the rich your oppressors?  Is it not they who drag you into court and pour contempt on the honoured name by which God has claimed you?

If, however, you are observing the sovereign law laid down in scripture,

Love your neighbor as you love yourself,

that is excellent.  But if you show partiality, you are committing a sin and you stand convicted by the law as offenders.   For if a man breaks just one commandment and keeps all the others, he is guilty of breaking all of them.  For he who said,

You shall not commit adultery,

said also,

You shall not commit murder.

If you commit murder you are a breaker of the law, even if you do not commit adultery as well.  Always speak and act as men who are to be judged under a law which makes them free.  In that judgement there will be no mercy  for the man who has shown none.  Mercy triumphs over judgement.

Psalm 72:1-4, 13-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Give the King your justice, O God,

and your righteousness to the King’s Son;

2  That he may rule your people righteously

and the poor with justice;

3  That the mountains may bring prosperity to the people,

and the little hills bring righteousness.

4  He shall defend the needy among the people;

he shall rescue the poor and crush the oppressor.

13  He shall have pity on the lowly and the poor;

he shall preserve the lives of the needy.

14  He shall redeem their lives from oppression and violence,

and dear shall their blood be in his sight.

Mark 8:27-33 (Revised English Bible):

Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi, and on the way he asked his disciples,

Who do people say that I am?

They answered,

Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, others one of the prophets.

He asked,

And you, who do you say that I am?

Peter replied,

You are the Messiah.

Then he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone about him; and he began to teach them that the Son of Man had to endure great suffering, and to be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes; to be put to death, and to rise again three days afterwards.  He spoke about it plainly.  At this Peter took hold of him and began to rebuke him.  But Jesus, turning and looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter.

Out of my sight, Satan!

he said.

You think as men think, not as God thinks.

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

The Collect:

O  God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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

Some Related Posts:

Week of 6 Epiphany:  Thursday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/week-of-6-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

Faith in Romans vs. Faith in James:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/week-of-proper-23-tuesday-year-1/

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

Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye” when there is the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

–Matthew 7:1-5, Revised Standard Version

and this:

Matthew 18:22-35, which I cover with this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/week-of-proper-14-thursday-year-1/

One of the advantages to following a well-planned lectionary is reading certain books continuously.  If, however, one drops in during the continuous reading and does not orientate one’s self, one will not not notice the threads binding one portion of a book to others.  James 2:1-13 fits neatly with James 1 and, immediately, the rest of James 2.  (Read for yourself.)  At the end of James 1, for example, we read that pure religion–worship, rather–in the sight of God entails caring for widows and orphans (and other vulnerable people, we may extrapolate safely).

Then we read a condemnation of class-conscious preference and the predatory  rich, the kind of who drag the poor into court.

Fortunately, we read, mercy trumps judgment.  This is consistent with Jesus in Matthew 7:1-5 yet goes beyond that.  James 2:13 does say that, by showing mercy to others, we can erase our own sins.  I can understand why Martin Luther, who objected strongly to Roman Catholic theology of works, called James “an epistle of straw.”  But what if Luther overreacted?

A firm and balanced grasp of James 2:13 requires an understanding of faith, as Paul used that term in Romans, and faith, as James wrote of it.  Fortunately, I have covered that in a post, a link to which I have provided in this post.  It is sufficed to say here, however, that if one understands faith as intellectual and therefore works as necessary for justification, James 2:13 is consistent with the rest of the book.

There was much egalitarianism, especially across economic lines, in the early Church.  Unfortunately, as Christianity became respectable, mainstream, and even state-sponsored, it abandoned much of that ethic in favor of defending the status quo as God’s favored order.  To agitate for social justice, then, became a sin, according to the Church.  This state of affairs was itself a sin.

The predatory rich, who are distinct from the genuinely philanthropic and kindhearted wealthy, remain with us, as does the imperative to show mercy.  May all of us, regardless of our economic states, treat others with mercifully, obeying the Golden Rule.

KRT

Week of 6 Epiphany: Tuesday, Year 2   8 comments

Above:  Diagram of a U-Turn

Image Source = Smurrayinchester

Temptation and Repentance

FEBRUARY 18, 2020

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

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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

James 1:12-18 (Revised English Bible):

Happy is the man who stands up to trial!  Having passed that test he will receive in reward the life which God has promised to those who love him.  No one when tempted should say,

I am being tempted by God;

for God cannot be tempted by evil and does not himself tempt anyone.  Temptation comes when anyone is lured and dragged away by his own desires; then desire conceives and gives birth to sin, and sin when it is full-grown breeds death.

Make no mistake, my dear friends.  Every good and generous action and every perfect gift comes from above, from the Father who created the lights of heaven.  With him there is no variation, no play of passing shadows.  Of his own choice, he brought us to birth by the word of truth to be a kind of firstfruits of his creation.

Psalm 94:12-19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

12  Happy are those whom you instruct, O Lord!

whom you teach out of your law;

13  To give them rest in evil days,

until a pit is dug for the wicked.

14  For the LORD will not abandon his people,

nor will he forsake his own.

15  For judgment will again be just,

and all the true of heart will follow it.

16  Who rose up for me against the wicked?

who took my part against the evildoers?

17  If the LORD had not come to my help,

I should soon have dwelt in the land of silence.

18  As often as I said, “My foot has slipped,”

your love, O LORD, upheld me.

19  When many cares fill my mind,

your consolations cheer my soul.

Mark 8:14-21 (Revised English Bible):

Now they had forgotten to take bread with them, and had only one loaf in the boat.  He began to warn them:

Beware,

he said,

be on your guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the the leaven of Herod.

So they began to talk among themselves about having no bread.  Knowing this, Jesus said to them,

Why are you talking about having no bread?  Have you no inkling yet?  Do you still not understand?  Are your minds closed?  You have eyes:  can you not see?  You have ears:  can you not hear?  Have you forgotten?  When I broke the five loaves among the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?

They said,

Twelve.

He asked,

And how many when I broke the seven loaves among the four thousand?

They answered,

Seven.

He said to them,

Do you still not understand?

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

The Collect:

O  God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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

Some Related Posts:

Week of 6 Epiphany:  Tuesday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/22/week-of-6-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

Faith in Romans vs. Faith in James:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/week-of-proper-23-tuesday-year-1/

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

From time to time I hear really bad theology.  I would hear more of it, except for the fact that I choose not to listen to certain preachers whose programs populate radio and television waves.  Nevertheless, much bad theology has permeated the laity.  There, from time to time, I hear that God is testing people’s faith by doing something like creating false yet convincing-looking rock layers which contradict Creationism.  First, I am a Theistic Evolutionist and one who affirms the veracity of geological layers, so I have expressed my opinion of Creationism; it is foolishness.  Can we join the scientific age now?  But, to the point of God making rocks look older than they are:  If one accepts that (A) the rocks are younger than they seem and that (B) God has pulled off this deception, what is one saying about God?  Is one saying that God tempts people to believe something that is objectively false?

I hope that is not what some people are saying, but it sounds like that.

James is one of my favorite books.  Martin Luther famously dismissed it as an “epistle of straw,” but he was mistaken on that point.  (In fact, I have heard more than Lutheran pastor speak critically of James.  It must be all that talk of the importance of works in the epistle.)  The Letter of James is full of practical advice and common-sense comments, such as the one that God does not tempt us.  Instead, God calls us to repentance, literally turning around or changing our minds.  And, as we think, so we are.  This makes sense, for our attitudes lead to our actions, barring accidents.

Desire is powerful.  There are many physical desires, including but not restricted to those related to sexuality.  Food, for example, is the subject of many desires, some of them unhealthy.  The existence of desire is morally neutral, although what one does with it is not.  There is no moral error is savoring a well-cooked meal, for example.  Indeed, the taste buds provide much wonderful pleasure, and one ought to enjoy blessings, including food.  There is not even anything wrong with savoring an occasional cheeseburger, but a steady diet of them leads to negative consequences.  (I have greatly reduced my consumption of cheeseburgers and replaced them with healthy alternatives.)  As James points out, we should control our desires; they ought not do drag us away to sin and death.  Sometimes that death is spiritual; other times, physical; other times, both.

Resisting temptation can be very difficult.  If I were to tell you, O reader, that I have mastered the resistance of temptation, I would lie to you.  It is true, however, that, by grace, I have improved.  There is much room for further improvement, and there is also plenty of grace available.  Thanks be to God!

KRT