Archive for the ‘Matthew 7’ Tag

Devotion for the Seventh Sunday After the Epiphany (Ackerman)   2 comments

Above:   An Olive Tree

Image in the Public Domain

Good and Bad Fruit

NOT OBSERVED IN 2018

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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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1 Samuel 28:7-8, 11-25

Psalm 6

2 Peter 2:1-3, 17-22

Matthew 7:13-17

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Psalm 6, with its references to death, fits well with the reading from 1 Samuel 28, in which King Saul, in violation of Jewish law, consults a necromancer.  She is actually a somewhat sympathetic character, for she cares about the monarch’s well-being.  Meanwhile, one gets the impression that Saul has neglected his duties.  I do not agree, however, that committing genocide is a king’s duty.

With great power comes great responsibility, as an old saying tells us.  This is true in both secular and sacred settings.  In 2 Peter 2, for example, we read condemnations of certain early Christian leaders who, out of embarrassment, sought to reconcile Christianity with pagan permissiveness.  As we read in Matthew 7, good trees bear good fruit and bad trees bear bad fruit.

And committing genocide is definitely bad fruit.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 3, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIE-LEONIE PARADIS, FOUNDER OF THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WHITING, HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/good-and-bad-fruit-2/

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Devotion for the Seventh Sunday After the Epiphany (Year D)   1 comment

the-wrath-of-elihu-william-blake

Above:  The Wrath of Elihu, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

The Oratory and Theology of Elihu, Part V

NOT OBSERVED IN 2018

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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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Job 35:1-16

Psalm 119:(1-16) 17-32

Matthew 7:13-20

2 Peter 2:1-22

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Elihu is simultaneously correct and incorrect.  Indeed, whenever we sin, we harm others, not just ourselves, and whenever we act righteously, we benefit others, not just ourselves.  Furthermore, nothing escapes divine notice.  One might think of the false teachers in Matthew 7 and 2 Peter 2 and find examples of these principles.  One might also imagine Elihu agreeing wholeheartedly with the ideas in Psalm 119:1-16 and be correct.  The problem with Elihu’s speech in Job 35 is that he employs truthful statements to support a mostly false conclusion:

Hence when Job opens his mouth,

it is for idle talk:

his spate or words comes out of ignorance.

–Job 35:16, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

In the Book of Job all people who speak do so out of ignorance, but the main character is accurate in his assertion of innocence (Consult Job 1, 2 and most of 42, Chapters 38-41, and the first few verses of Chapter 42 not withstanding).  That Job, as an innocent person, is suffering, is the main idea to which Elihu objects.  Elihu speaks out of ignorance yet does not know it.

Each of us speaks out of ignorance, partial or total, daily; that is part of the reality of the human condition.  Knowing this about ourselves is a fine beginning of the process of addressing the problem via grace.  May we be sufficiently humble to recognize the fact that we do not know as much as we might imagine about many topics, especially the nature of God.  And may we, even in our ignorance, glorify and draw people to the throne of grace, not blame victims and incur divine anger.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SALVIUS OF ALBI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF MORDECAI JOHNSON, EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT NEMESIAN OF SIGUM AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS AND MARTYRS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/09/10/the-oratory-and-theology-of-elihu-part-v/

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Devotion for the Sixth Sunday After the Epiphany (Year D)   1 comment

the-wrath-of-elihu-william-blake

Above:  The Wrath of Elihu, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

The Oratory and Theology of Elihu, Part IV

NOT OBSERVED IN 2018

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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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Job 34:21-37

Psalm 12

Matthew 7:1-12

2 Peter 1:1-15

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God cares for the poor and the oppressed, Elihu, Psalm 12, and Matthew 7 tell us.  Yet how do we explain the divine wager in Job 1 and 2, as well as the suffering of other innocent people?  It is a difficult theological question, one for which I, along with the Book of Job, refuse to offer any easy answers.  I not that, according to God in Job 42:7, Job had, unlike Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, spoken truthfully about God.  I remind you, O reader, that Job had spoken critically of God, who agreed with Job in Chapter 42 yet not in Chapters 38-41.  Such contradictions are par for course in a text with layers of authorship.

Elihu, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar should have followed timeless advice which the author of 2 Peter 1 summarized thusly:

…you should make every effort to add virtue to your faith, knowledge to virtue, self-control to knowledge, fortitude to self-control, piety to fortitude, brotherly affection to piety, and love to brotherly affection.

–1:5b-7, The Revised English Bible (1989)

They would have avoided being not only inhospitable but overreaching in statements in defense of God, as they understood God.  Elihu said:

But this is what all sensible folk will say,

and any wise man among my hearers,

“There is not wisdom in Job’s speech,

his words lack sense.

Put him unsparingly to the proof

since his retorts are the same as those that the wicked make.

For to him he adds rebellion,

calling justice into question in our midst

and heaping abuse on God.”

–Job 34:34-37, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

They would have refrained from heaping abuse on Job and would have been good friends had they acted according to the timeless advice the author of 2 Peter 1:5b-7 understood well.

May we–you, O reader, and I–act according to 2 Peter 1:5b-7 daily, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SALVIUS OF ALBI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF MORDECAI JOHNSON, EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT NEMESIAN OF SIGUM AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS AND MARTYRS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/09/10/the-oratory-and-theology-of-elihu-part-iv/

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Devotion for the Fifth Sunday After the Epiphany (Year D)   2 comments

the-wrath-of-elihu-william-blake

Above:  The Wrath of Elihu, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

The Oratory and Theology of Elihu, Part III

FEBRUARY 4, 2018

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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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Job 34:1-20

Psalm 28

Matthew 6:7-15

Hebrews 13:9-14 (15-16) 17-25

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Elihu seems like a rather annoying person.  He is eager to defend God against Job’s complaints and to offer a more vigorous theodicy than that of Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite.  Elihu argues, in part:

So far is God removed from wickedness,

and Shaddai from injustice,

that he requites a man for what he does,

treating each one as his way of life deserves.

God is never wrong, do not doubt that!

Shaddai does not deflect the course of right.

–Job 34:10b-12, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Translation:  Job sinned, and these sufferings of his are divine punishment for those sins.  If he repents, God will forgive Job and end his sufferings.  This conclusion contradicts Job 1 and 2, which offer a truly disturbing answer:  God has permitted an innocent man to suffer as part of a wager.

This seems like an excellent place at which to add the analysis of John Job, author of Job Speaks to Us Today (Atlanta, GA:  John Knox Press, 1977), pages 102-103.  The author asks, “Why are Job’s friends not truly wise?”  He concludes, in part:

The friends, first of all, are shameless utilitarians.  Repentance, in the estimation of Eliphaz, is a kind of insurance policy.  Making petition to God is advocated, not for the intrinsic value of a relationship with him, but simply for the pay-off in material terms–as when he says, “Come to terms with God and you will prosper; that is the way to mend your fortune” (22:21).  The interesting point here is that the friends adopt precisely the position which Satan regards as universally occupied by those who make a show of being god-fearing.  “Does Job fear God for nothing?” he had asked.  Eliphaz makes no secret of the grounds on which he is advising Job to fear God.  It is all too shallow.  Faith is depersonalized:  it becomes self-centered instead of God-centered.  Its character as faith is destroyed.  Fear of God is simply not the right way to describe it.

If one replaces “Eliphaz” with “Elihu” and changes the citation from Job 22 to one from Chapter 34, this analysis remains valid.

The Book of Job defies the desire for easy answers that fundamentalism typifies.  God is just, correct?  Then how does one explain the wager in Job 1 and 2?  And does not Job deserve better than the “I am God and you are not” speeches in Job 38-41?  In Job 42, however, God expresses his displeasure with Eliphaz and company for speaking falsely about him and praises Job for speaking honestly about him (God).  Those two responses seem incompatible, do they not?  Of course, one came from one source and the other came from another.  Elihu, who states correctly that God does not meet human measures (Job 33:12b), also spouts foolishness.  The Book of Job provides no easy answers and offers a false, Hollywood ending, at least in its final, composite form.  The original version ends with Job’s repentance for overreaching a few verses into Chapter 42.

Job needed good friends, not Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu.  He needed people who came to comfort him, to listen to him, and to let him cry on their shoulders.  He needed friends who followed advice from Hebrews 13:16:

Never neglect to show kindness and to share what you have with others; for such are the sacrifices which God approves.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

The standard we apply to others will be the standard God applies to us; we read this in Matthew 7:1-5.  Forgiveness is something we are to extend to others, and divine forgiveness of our sins depends on our forgiveness of the sins of others.  This is a lesson the author of Psalm 28 had not yet learned.  This is a lesson with which I have struggled mightily and with which I continue to struggle.  Success in the struggle does not depend on my own power, fortunately; grace is abundant.  The desire to do something one knows one ought to do is something with which God can work.  It is, metaphorically, a few loaves and fishes, which God can multiply.

In Job 42 God burned with anger toward Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar.  (The text does not mention Elihu, most likely because the text of the Book of Job did not yet contain the Elihu cycle.)  The alleged friends had not spoken truthfully of God, but Job had.  Job interceded on their behalf, however, and God excused their folly and forgave their sins.  Job, who had complained bitterly to his alleged friends, who had taunted him and sometimes even enjoyed his sufferings, all while imagining that they were pious and that he had done something to deserve his plight, prayed for their forgiveness.

That is a fine lesson to draw from the Book of Job.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 9, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CONSTANCE AND HER COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF ANNE HOULDITCH SHEPHERD, ANGLICAN NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ISAAC THE GREAT, PATRIARCH OF ARMENIA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CHATTERTON DIX, HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/09/09/the-oratory-and-theology-of-elihu-part-iii/

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

Donkeys

Above:  Donkeys, Lancaster County, Nebraska, 1938

Photographer = John Vachon

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USF33-T01-001266-M4

Righteousness and Self-Righteousness

NOT OBSERVED IN 2016

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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:

1 Samuel 9:15-10:1b (Tuesday)

Isaiah 8:1-15 (Wednesday)

Psalm 115 (Both Days)

1 Timothy 3:1-9 (Tuesday)

Luke 5:27-32 (Wednesday)

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Not to us, O LORD, not to us,

but to your Name give glory;

because of your love and because of your faithfulness.

–Psalm 115:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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As I heard growing up, God does not call the qualified.  No, God qualifies the called.  King Saul came from the tribe of Benjamin, the smallest of the twelve tribes of Israel.  He was self-conscious of this fact.  In 1 Timothy 3 not being puffed up is among the qualifications for being a bishop.  All that we have comes from God, whom alone people should revere and hold in sacred awe.

Self-righteousness is something to avoid.  Each of us is sinful and broken.  The tax collectors (who lived off that they stole from their fellow countrymen and women in excess of the tax rates) and other sinners were no more or less sinful and broken than the scribes and Pharisees who criticized Jesus for dining with them.  The major difference seems to have been that some broken sinners were conscious of their brokenness and sinfulness while others were not.

Tradition can be useful and beautiful; it frequently is just that.  There are, however, bad traditions as well as good traditions which have become outdated or which apply in some settings yet not in others.  Even good traditions can become spiritually destructive if one uses them in that way.  A holy life is a positive goal, but certain ways of pursuing it are negative.  Defining oneself as a member of the spiritual elite and others as the great unwashed–as people to shun–is negative.  Pretending that one is more righteous than one is leads one to overlook major flaws in oneself while criticizing others for major and minor flaws.

Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your neighbor, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” while the log is in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

–Matthew 7:3-5, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Here ends the lesson.

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/righteousness-and-self-righteousness/

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

Fall of Jerusalem and Zion March

Above:  The Cover of the Sheet Music to The Fall of Jerusalem and Zion March, 1900

Image Source = Library of Congress

Judgment, Mercy, and Ethical Living, Part I

NOT OBSERVED IN 2015

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The Collect:

Loving God, by tender words and covenant promise you have joined us to yourself forever,

and you invite us to respond to your love with faithfulness.

By your Spirit may we live with you and with one another in justice, mercy, and joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 25

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 16:1-14 (Thursday)

Ezekiel 16:44-52 (Friday)

Ezekiel 16:53-63 (Saturday)

Psalm 103 (All Days)

Romans 3:1-8 (Thursday)

2 Peter 1:1-11 (Friday)

John 7:53-8:11 (Saturday)

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The LORD is compassionate and gracious,

slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love.

He will not contend forever,

or nurse His anger for all time.

–Psalm 103:8-9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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As the readings for these three days remind us, God both judges and shows mercy.  Often mercy follows judgment, in fact.  We have received ample grace from God.  Such generosity warrants a response of gratitude and ethical living from us.  (Grace is free, but not cheap.)  One aspect of that ethical living (as in 2 Peter 1:7) is brotherly affection, one of the four loves in the New Testament.

We read also of ways in which God’s glory becomes evident because of or despite human actions.  If you, O reader, ever wondered if God will receive glory, the answer is “yes.”  Nevertheless, it is better to be a vehicle of divine glorification than an obstacle to it.

John 7:53-8:11, the pericope regarding the woman caught in adultery, is a floating story actually of Synoptic origin.  One can read the Gospel of John without it, moving from 7:52 to 8:12 without missing a beat.  Usually I like to read an excerpt from the canonical Gospels in the immediate context of what happens before and after it, but today I will not follow that practice with regard to this pericope.

This is a story about a trap.  Those religious authorities who sought to ensnare Jesus cared nothing about the location of the man with whom the woman had committed adultery.  Jesus probably reminded them of the fact that the punishment for them under the Law of Moses was stoning also.  Then our Lord and Savior forgave the woman, who had been a pawn just a few minutes prior.

May our thankfulness to God lead us to treat our fellow human beings ethically.  And may we understand that, when we accuse others, we might open ourselves up to charges (even if not legal ones) also.

Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.  For with the judgment you make, you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.

–Jesus in Matthew 7:1-2, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Also, forgiving each other goes a long way toward building better families, communities, cultures, and societies.  So does minding one’s own business.  Understanding the scope of one’s own business leads one to recognize the difference between doing what is necessary and proper to build up one’s neighbors and making matters worse.  When we love one another properly, as God commanded, we glorify the deity by acting correctly toward others.  We cannot love God, whom we cannot see, if we do not love human beings, whom we can see.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 4, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH MOHR, AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARBARA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF DAMASCUS, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CALABRIA, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE POOR SERVANTS AND THE POOR WOMEN SERVANTS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/06/judgment-mercy-and-ethical-living-part-i/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Seventh Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Torfabrik_02

Above:  A Soccer Ball

Image Source = DerHans04

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Torfabrik_02.jpg)

Freedom in God

FEBRUARY 16, 2017

FEBRUARY 17, 2017

FEBRUARY 18, 2017

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The Collect:

Holy God of compassion, you invite us into your way of forgiveness and peace.

Lead us to love our enemies, and transform our words and deeds

to be like his through whom we pray, Jesus Christ, our Savior.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 22:21-27 (Thursday)

Leviticus 6:1-7 (Friday)

Leviticus 24:10-23 (Saturday)

Psalm 119:33-40 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1 (Thursday)

Galatians 5:2-6 (Friday)

Matthew 7:1-12 (Saturday)

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A Related Post:

Excesses and Errors of Pietism:

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/09/03/excesses-and-errors-of-pietism/

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Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes

and I shall keep it to the end.

–Psalm 119:33, Common Worship (2000)

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Freedom in God comes bundled with responsibilities to each other in community life.  Such liberty is not an ultra-libertarian fantasy.  But neither does it constitute individual-crushing conformity.  No, freedom comes with rules.  We ought not to harm others by our actions purposefully or otherwise.  When we do, we have an obligation to make restitution.  Sometimes, in the Law of Moses, one finds a rule which offends contemporary sensibilities.  Executing someone for blasphemy comes to mind immediately.  I know that such a charge contributed to the judicial murder of our Lord and Savior.  I know also that such a charge leads to the martyrdom of many of my fellow Christians in these days.  So I have my reasons for holding the opinion that I do.  Yet I know that this law came from the context of thinking about the welfare of the community.

We must avoid ridiculous extremes, which are relatively easy to identify.  I think of a secondhand story over a decade old.  Some very conservative Christians in Statesboro, Georgia, objected to soccer, calling it

too worldly.

I argue that one does not sin by playing soccer, no matter how much it might offend people with such an opinion.  If one chooses to offend nobody one sets oneself up for an impossible situation, for anything might offend somebody, somewhere.  And improper idleness, taking the place of righteous action, constitutes a sin.  So some people will just have to take offense and cope as best they can.  There is no right not to be offended.  Many things offend me, but I move on with life, minding my own business, which keeps me occupied.

On the other hand, we must think about the effects of our behaviors upon others if we are to behave toward them with proper respect.  And, since how we think drives how we act, a loving and respectful, not judgmental attitude, is the proper starting point.  May we choose noble or at least innocent pursuits in the knowledge that somebody, somewhere might misunderstand even these, but that we must do something positive despite that fact.  Perhaps we will have opportunities to correct such confusion.  Yet, even if we will not, we will have the chances to engage in good works, which are part of one’s set of responsibilities to others in the community.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 18, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUKE THE EVANGELIST, PHYSICIAN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/10/18/freedom-in-god-2/

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