Archive for the ‘Psalm 126’ Tag

Devotion for the Third Sunday of Advent, Year B (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Negev Desert

Image in the Public Domain

Judgment and Mercy

DECEMBER 15, 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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Isaiah 61:1-11

Psalm 126

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

John 1:1-18

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Advent, in most lectionaries, begins with the Second Coming of Jesus and ends in a way that leads into the First Coming.  The Humes four-year lectionary follows that pattern.

The balance of divine judgment and mercy in these four readings is obvious.  In them judgment and mercy are like sides of a coin; one cannot have one without the other being present.  For example, in Isaiah 61, in the voice of Third Isaiah, divine mercy for exiles entails judgment of their oppressors.  The reading from 1 Thessalonians omits 5:15, unfortunately.

Make sure that people do not try to repay evil for evil; always aim at what is best for each other and for everyone.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

God reserves the right to repay evil with judgment.  Far be it from me to tell God when to judge and when to show mercy.

The lectionary’s turn toward the First Coming is especially obvious in John 1:1-18, the magnificent prologue to the Fourth Gospel.  According to this pericope, which emphasizes mercy (as the Johannine Gospel does), judgment is still present.  It is human judgment, though; those who reject the light of God condemn themselves.

That which we call divine wrath, judgment, and punishment is simply the consequences of our actions blowing back on us much of the time.  These can be occasions for repentance, followed by forgiveness and restoration.  Hellfire-and-damnation theology is at least as wrong as universalism; both are extreme positions.

As we prepare to celebrate the Incarnation, may we, trusting in God and walking with Jesus, recall these words (in the context of the Second Coming) from 1 Thessalonians 5:23:

…and may your spirit, life and body be kept blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 7, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VENERABLE MATTHEW TALBOT, RECOVERING ALCOHOLIC IN DUBLIN, IRELAND

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY GIANELLI, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARIES OF SAINT ALPHONSUS LIGUORI AND THE SISTERS OF MARY DELL’ORTO

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK LUCIAN HOSMER, U.S. UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SEATTLE, FIRST NATIONS CHIEF, WAR LEADER, AND DIPLOMAT

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/06/07/judgment-and-mercy-part-xii/

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Devotion for Tuesday and Wednesday After the Second Sunday of Advent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

St. John the Baptist

Above:  St. John the Baptist

Image in the Public Domain

The Faithfulness and Generosity of God, Part III

DECEMBER 7 and 8, 2021

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son.

By his coming give to all the world knowledge of your salvation;

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 19:18-25 (Tuesday)

Isaiah 35:3-7 (Wednesday)

Psalm 126 (Both Days)

2 Peter 1:2-15 (Tuesday)

Luke 7:18-30 (Wednesday)

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When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,

then we were like those who dream.

Then was our mouth filled with laughter,

and our tongue with shouts of joy.

They they said among the nations,

“The LORD has done great things for them.”

The LORD has done great thins for us,

and we are glad indeed.

Restore our fortunes, O LORD,

like the watercourses of the Negev.

Those who sowed with tears

will reap with songs of joy.

Those who go our reaping, carrying the seed,

will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

–Psalm 126, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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St. John the Baptist was a political prisoner.  The great forerunner of Jesus was having doubts, perhaps due in part to despair.  That was understandable.

Many Hebrews were exiles in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Other Hebrews lived in their homeland, yet under occupation.  Hopelessness was understandable.

Yet God was undefeated and not in prison.  No, God was preparing to do something new.  Egypt was going to suffer, in part because its “sages” depended on their “received wisdom” (actually foolishness), not on God.  Yet after punishment, First Isaiah wrote, Egypt was going to turn to God and become an instrument of divine mercy.  Later, in Isaiah 35, the Babylonian Exile was going to end, the prophet wrote.  And sadly, St. John the Baptist died in prison.  He was a forerunner in execution also.  Yet at least John received his answer from Jesus, who went on to suffer, die, and not remain dead for long.

The Kingdom of God, partially in place since at least the earthly lifetime of Jesus of Nazareth, awaits its full unveiling.  Until then good people will continue to suffer and sometimes die for the sake of righteousness, if not the reality that they prove to be inconvenient to powerful bad people.  One Christian duty during this time of evil coexisting with the Kingdom of God is building up faithful community, thereby striving for justice and reaching out to those around us.  The church is properly salt and light in the world, not an isolated colony living behind barricades and living at war with it.

You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?  It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

You are the light of the world.  A city built on a hill cannot be hid.  No one after lighting a lamp puts it under a bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

–Matthew 5:13-16, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

God is faithful and generous, but that reality precludes neither punishment for offenses nor suffering for the sake of righteousness.  Those who expect God to be a cosmic warm fuzzy are in error, just as those who imagine that the existence and love of God lead to an end to suffering (especially of the godly) are wrong.  Yet, if we suffer for the sake of righteousness, God is at our side.  Can we recognize the reality that God loves us, sides with us, and has suffered for us?  How will that recognition translate into thinking, and therefore into living?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 11, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THAUMATURGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NEOCAESAREA; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF COMANA “THE CHARCOAL BURNER,” ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR AND BISHOP OF COMANA, PONTUS

THE FEAST OF AUGUSTUS MONTAGUE TOPLADY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLARE OF ASSISI, FOUNDER OF THE POOR CLARES

THE FEAST OF MATTHIAS LOY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; AND CONRAD HERMANN LOUIS SCHUETTE, GERMAN-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/08/12/the-faithfulness-and-generosity-of-god-part-iii/

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Devotion for Monday After the Second Sunday of Advent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Road Through Desert

Above:  A Road Through a Desert

Image in the Public Domain

The Faithfulness and Generosity of God, Part II

DECEMBER 6, 2021

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son.

By his coming give to all the world knowledge of your salvation;

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 40:1-11

Psalm 126

Romans 8:22-25

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When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,

then we were like those who dream.

Then was our mouth filled with laughter,

and our tongue with shouts of joy.

They they said among the nations,

“The LORD has done great things for them.”

The LORD has done great thins for us,

and we are glad indeed.

Restore our fortunes, O LORD,

like the watercourses of the Negev.

Those who sowed with tears

will reap with songs of joy.

Those who go our reaping, carrying the seed,

will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

–Psalm 126, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Hope–even that of the well-placed variety–can be difficult to maintain.  Periods of exile might be long, fear and uncertainty might be daunting, physical and/or emotional suffering might be terrible, and daring to aspire to a better future might seem foolish.  Yet God is faithful and generous, and many unlikely and seemingly unlikely events occur.  Samuel L. Clemens, who wrote as Mark Twain, commented, fiction, unlike non-fiction, is, according to many people, supposed to make sense.  Yet I have noticed that many expect non-fiction to make sense, according to their expectations, and reject reality when it contradicts confirmation bias.

This is a devotion for early in Advent, the time of preparation for the twelve days of Christmas.  December should be a time of contemplation, assuming that one observes a spiritual holiday or holidays during the month.  (It is a month full of holidays.)  I, as a Christian, observe the seasons of Advent and Christmas while wishing others happy holidays in their traditions, for having a firm opinion need not lead to hostility and/or intolerance toward those who are different.  I observe Advent so enthusiastically that I wish people a holy Advent until very close to December 25, finally yielding to “Merry Christmas” somewhere around December 23.  Then I wish people “Merry Christmas” until January 5.  I, without becoming lost in theologically minor details, ponder the central mystery of Christianity, which is that God entered into the human story as one of us.  That Jesus was a human being is the first important statement about him.  The incarnation is foundational, for, if that assertion is not true, other essential doctrines, such as those related to Good Friday and Easter, fall apart.  Other ancient religions proposed their own saviors of the world, but those figures never existed as historical figures.  How can a figment of human imaginations save the world?

Was it ever too much to hope that God would become incarnate?  No, but it was wonderful.  And, since Jesus rose from the dead and conquered death and sin, there is even more hope for us than we would have otherwise.  Dare we to live in that hope?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 11, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THAUMATURGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NEOCAESAREA; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF COMANA “THE CHARCOAL BURNER,” ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR AND BISHOP OF COMANA, PONTUS

THE FEAST OF AUGUSTUS MONTAGUE TOPLADY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLARE OF ASSISI, FOUNDER OF THE POOR CLARES

THE FEAST OF MATTHIAS LOY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; AND CONRAD HERMANN LOUIS SCHUETTE, GERMAN-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/08/12/the-faithfulness-and-generosity-of-god-part-ii/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Third Sunday of Advent, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Rising Star Delenn

Above:  Ambassador Delenn, from Rising Star, a 1997 Episode of Babylon 5 (1994-1998)

A screen capture I took via PowerDVD and a legal DVD

Faith Manages

DECEMBER 10, 11, and 12, 2020

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The Collect:

Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God,

and open our ears to the words of your prophets,

that, anointed by your Spirit, we may testify to your light;

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Habakkuk 2:1-5 (Thursday)

Habakkuk 3:2-6 (Friday)

Habakkuk 3:13-19 (Saturday)

Psalm 126 (All Days)

Philippians 3:7-11 (Thursday)

Philippians 3:12-16 (Friday)

Mathew 21:28-32 (Saturday)

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Restore our fortunes, O LORD,

like the watercourses of the Negev.

Those who sowed with tears

will reap with songs of joy.

Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed,

will come in again with joy, shouldering their shears.

–Psalm 126:5-7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The readings for these three days combine to constitute a tapestry of hope, faith, violence, and judgment.

The lessons from Habakkuk complain to God about persistent injustice and report a divine reply that (A) God will settle scores one day, and (B) the righteous must remain faithful during trying times.  Some of the material is disturbing:

You tread the earth in rage,

You trample nations in fury.

You have come forth to deliver Your people,

To deliver Your anointed.

You will smash the roof of the villain’s house,

Raze it from foundation to top.

You will crack [his] skull with Your bludgeon;

Blown away will be his warriors,

Whose delight is to crush me suddenly,

To devour a poor man in an ambush.

–Habakkuk 3:12-14, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Happier is the end of the book:

Though the fig tree does not bud

And no yield is on the vine,

Though the olive crop has failed

And the fields produce no grain,

Though sheep have vanished from the fold

And no cattle are n the pen,

Yet will I rejoice in the LORD,

Exult in the God who delivers me.

My Lord GOD is my strength:

He makes my feet like the deer’s

And lets me stride upon the heights.

–Habakkuk 3:17-19, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

As I have written many times, I understand the reality that some oppressors will not cease oppressing until someone forces them to do so.  Thus a rescue mission becomes necessary.  This is good news for the oppressed and a catastrophe for the oppressors.  Yet the imagery of God cracking open skulls bothers me.

The note of judgment continues in Matthew 21:28-32, set in the context of the final days leading up to our Lord and Savior’s crucifixion.

Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.  For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

–Matthew 21:31b-32, New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The bad news for chief priests and elders, beneficiaries of the Temple system, comes amid a series of controversies in the Gospel of Matthew.  The Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Matthew 21:33-45) follows on the heels of those harsh words, for example.

St. Paul the Apostle picks up the theme of remaining faithful during difficult times in Philippians.  His reference to the righteous living by faith echoes a line from Habakkuk–a nice touch, which the lectionary amplifies.  Faith, in the Pauline sense of that word, is inherently active, compelling one to do something.  In contrast, the definition of faith in the Letter of James is intellectual, hence that author’s insistence on pairing works with faith.  So no disagreement between Sts. Paul and James regarding faith and works exists.  Maintaining that active faith under great pressure is both difficult and crucial, as St. Paul knew well.

When times and circumstances challenge our trust in God, may we say with St. Paul:

But even beyond that, I consider everything a loss in comparison to the superior value of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord.   I have lost everything for him, but whatever I have lost I think of as sewer trash, so that I might gain Christ and be found with him.

–Philippians 3:8-9a, Common English Bible (2008)

Faith (in the Pauline sense) functions in the absence of proof for or against a given proposition.  As Ambassador Delenn, a character from Babylon 5 (1994-1998), one of my favorite science fiction series, said,

Faith manages.

(Indeed, that was one of the major themes of the series.)  Faith keeps one on the proper path when, as Habakkuk wrote, the crops have failed and the livestock have vanished.  If we give up, we have decided to act in a way which will create a more negative future.  Yet if we persist, we act based on hope.  Such hope as overcome incredible odds many times, from ancient to contemporary times.  Many people have suffered and died so that members of subsequent generations can lead better lives.

Advent is a season of hope and violence.  Some of the violence is contemporary.  Other violence comes from the texts we read.  For example, St. Mary of Nazareth, the mother of our Lord and Savior, would have died by stoning if not for the graciousness of St. Joseph.  Faith manages during times of doubt, despair, and suspicion.  It persists during protracted periods of whisper campaigns and rumor-mongering, such as Jesus and his mother had to endure.

May we, by grace, have healthy faith from God in God, in whom both judgment and mercy exist.  And may we leave the judgment to God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 26, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 25:  THE TWENTIETH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALFRED THE GREAT, KING OF THE WEST SAXONS

THE FEAST OF SAINT CEDD, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF LONDON

THE FEAST OF DMITRY BORTNIANSKY, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF PHILLIP NICOLAI, JOHANN HEERMANN, AND PAUL GERHARDT, HYMN WRITERS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/10/28/faith-manages/

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Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle and Martyr (December 21)   7 comments

Above:  St. Thomas Episcopal Church, New Windsor, New York

Image Source = Daniel Case

My Favorite Biblical Character

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Habakkuk 2:1-4 (The Jerusalem Bible):

I will stand on my watchtower,

and take up my post on my battlements,

watching to see what he will say to me,

what answer he will make to my complaints.

Then Yahweh answered and said,

Write the vision down,

inscribe it on tablets

to be easily read,

since this vision is for its own time only:

eager for its own fulfillment, it does not deceive;

it comes slowly, wait,

for it will come, without fail.

See how he flags, he whose soul is not at rights,

but the upright man will live by his faithfulness.

Psalm 126 (The Jerusalem Bible):

When Yahweh brought Zion’s captives home,

at first it seemed like a dream;

then our mouths filled with laughter

and our lips with song.

Even the pagan started talking

about the marvels Yahweh had done for us!

What marvels indeed he did for us,

and how over joyed we were!

Yahweh, bring all our captives back again

like torrents in the Negeb!

Those who went sowing in tears

now sing as they reap.

They went away, went away weeping,

carrying the seed;

they come back, come back singing,

carrying their sheaves.

Hebrews 10:35-11:1 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Be as confident now, then, since the reward is so great.  You will need endurance to do God’s will and gain what he has promised.

Only a little while now, a very little while,

and the one that is coming will have come; he will not delay.

The righteous man will live by faith,

but if he draws back, my soul will take no pleasure in him.

You and I are not the sort of people who draw back, and are lost by it; we are the sort who keep faithful until our souls are saved.

Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of the realities that at present remain unseen.

John 20:24-29 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.  When the disciples said,

We have seen the Lord,

he answered,

Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger in the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.

Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and among them.

Peace be with you,

he said.  Then he spoke to Thomas,

Put your finger here; look, here are my hands.  Give me your hand; put it into my side.  Doubt no longer but believe.

Thomas replied,

My Lord and my God!

Jesus said to him:

You believe because you can see me.

Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.

The Collect:

Everliving God, who strengthened your apostle Thomas with firm and certain faith in your Son’s resurrection: Grant us so perfectly and without doubt to believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, that our faith may never be found wanting in your sight; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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My father served as pastor of Cooks Union United Methodist Church, about eight miles outside Colquitt, Georgia, in Miller County, from June 1985 to June 1986.  One Sunday morning during that year, a laywoman whose name I forget delivered a children’s sermon about St. Thomas.  She held a small book about the Apostles.  You, O reader, might have seen this book or even own a copy.  It features color paintings of each of the main Apostles with a brief profile on the facing page.  The book is thin, with a two-tone hard cover.  The church member explained that Thomas had doubted the resurrection of Jesus and that he had later taken the Gospel to India, where he died for the Christian faith.  So, she said, Thomas was not all bad.

But Thomas not all bad, anyway.  The presumption behind her concluding statement was that the Apostle’s doubt constituted a great stain on his character.  This was a great misunderstanding.

Let us back up for a few moments, though.

St. Thomas was a twin, hence the Greek designation Didymus, which means “twin.”  The canonical Gospels contain few details about him, and he did not write the Gnostic, non-canonical Gospel of Thomas.  (I have read the Gospel of Thomas in three translations, and think that its non-canonical status is proper.)  St. Thomas traveled through Persia all the way to India, where he introduced Christianity to the subcontinent by the 50s C.E.  The modern-day Mar Thoma Church is the heir of this efforts.  In India the Apostle met his martyrdom by spearing at Madras; Mylapore is his burial site.  Today one can visit his tomb at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Thomas at Mylapore.

St. Thomas was a healthy skeptic.  The resurrection was hardly a frequent event, so doubting it was natural.  The Apostle was not the only follower of Jesus at the time to harbor doubts.  The canonical Gospels indicate that St. Peter was initially skeptical, too.  Yet I hear about Doubting Thomases, not Doubting Peters.  Anyway, St. Thomas, the healthy skeptic, believed the evidence when he saw it, and dedicated the rest of his life to telling people about Jesus.

I am sufficiently a product of the Enlightenment to accept the premise that doubt is a legitimate path to knowledge.  I ask questions when I harbor doubts, and I seek answers when I ask questions.  Thus I increase the probability of finding answers when I experience and embrace doubt.  Thomas admitted his doubt, received his answer, accepted it, and lived accordingly.

So, let us treat the label “Doubting Thomas” as a great compliment.

Finally, a personal note:  St. Thomas is my favorite Biblical figure.  He was an honest doubter and seeker, a good skeptic.  So am I.  If I were a Biblical character, I would be St. Thomas the Apostle.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 10, 2010

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (U.S.A.), 1983

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA, 1925

THE FEAST OF SAINT EPHREM OF EDESSA, ROMAN CATHOLIC DEACON AND HYMN WRITER

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Published previously at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR:

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/10/feast-of-st-thomas-apostle-and-martyr-december-21/

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Devotion for December 20 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  Baal

Idols and Icons

DECEMBER 20, 2021

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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 everlasting 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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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 40:18-41:10

Psalm 18:1-20 (Morning)

Psalms 126 and 62 (Evening)

Revelation 8:1-13

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Some Related Posts:

A Prayer for Proper Priorities:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/a-prayer-for-proper-priorities/

A Prayer to Relinquish the Illusion of Control:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/a-prayer-to-relinquish-the-illusion-of-control/

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John of Patmos interpreted natural disasters as calls to repentance.  As I tire of writing repeatedly yet think I must do anyway, repentance is changing one’s mind or turning around.  It is active.  Apologizing is part of repentance much of the time, yet let us never mistake it for all of repentance.

Back to my main thread….

John of Patmos interpreted natural disasters as calls to repentance.  As I wrote in the December 18 devotional post in this series, sometimes we interpret disturbing events (natural or otherwise)  correctly; at other times we add two and two, arriving at a sum of five.  But let us remain focused on the main point:   God desires that we repent.  This indicates that God has not given up on us.  Otherwise there would be just destruction.

God’s self-description in Isaiah 40-41 repudiates idols.  An idol is anything which distracts us from God. We all have a collection of them.  We might not call them statues of Baal or another ancient imaginary deity, but we might have an excessive habit of watching television or playing video games.  For many people the Bible itself is an idol because they treat it as one.

An icon, in contrast, is something through which we see (or hear) God. An icon can be religious artwork, a loved one, or the Bible, for example.  The Bible, in fact, is properly an icon.

May we repent of our idolatry and replace our idols with icons.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 2, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE NINTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS (TRANSFERRED)

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/08/09/idols-and-icons/

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Devotion for December 13 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   9 comments

Above:  The Reverend Will Dexter, from Babylon 5:  And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place (1996)

Image Source = A Screen Capture Via PowerDVD and a Legal DVD

When God Comes Knocking

DECEMBER 13, 2021

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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 everlasting 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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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 29:15-30:14

Psalm 18:1-20 (Morning)

Psalm 126 and 62 (Evening)

Revelation 1:1-20

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A Related Post:

Babylon 5:  And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place:

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/07/29/babylon-5-and-the-rock-cried-out-no-hiding-place-1996/

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The reading from Isaiah condemns haughtiness before God, the commission of evil and exploitative deeds, the quest for a diplomatic agreement with an ancient foe (who once enslaved the Israelites), and the preference for comforting words over true ones.  Judah was rife with legal and economic exploitation.  Judah also made diplomatic overtures to Egypt.  Many workers of malicious deeds acted as if God were not watching them.  They were mistaken.  Isaiah and John of Patmos said that there would be a reckoning, that God will mete out justice.  Those who destroy will face destruction; those suffering from injustice will exult.

I remember an episode of one of my favorite science fiction series, Babylon 5.  Our hero, the stressed-out Captain John Sheridan, had a conversation with a visiting Baptist minister, the Reverend Will Dexter.  Sheridan, not in the mood for spiritual counsel, asked mockingly if he should take all his problems to God.  Dexter replied that Sheridan would not need anyone to tell him when God comes knocking.

When God comes knocking the meek will triumph and the haughty will stumble.  When God comes knocking there will be good news and there will be bad news.  It will be the same news.  Whether it will be good or bad depends on us, does it not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 31, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF JOHN WYCLIFFE, BIBLE TRANSLATOR

NEW YEAR’S EVE

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/08/05/when-god-comes-knocking/

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Devotion for December 6 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Above:  Mounds at the Site of Ancient Nineveh, 1932

Image Source = Library of Congress

Judgment and Patience

DECEMBER 6, 2021

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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 everlasting 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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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 14:1-23

Psalm 18:1-20 (Morning)

Psalms 126 and 62 (Evening)

2 Peter 3:1-18

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The threat of judgment runs through Isaiah 14 and 2 Peter 3.  Assyria, relabeled Babylon by a subsequent editor, will fall.  The text even provides a song of gloating for the exiles to sing on that day.  For Assyria/Babylon there will be no remnant.

Judgment will fall one day, 2 Peter 3 tells us.  The delay indicates divine patience, an opportunity for salvation.  The Day of Judgment was more distant than the author of 2 Peter imagined, for it remains in the future tense.  And, as the author of 2 Peter 3 reminds us, God is being patient now.  May we not try this patience.  Rather, may we seek (and succeed, by grace) to love God fully and our neighbors as yourselves, for that is the summary of the divine law.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 10, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN ROBERTS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF THOMAS MERTON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MONK

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/08/05/judgment-and-patience/

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Devotion for November 29 in Advent (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   9 comments

Above:  A Vineyard

Against Carping Criticism and Social Injustice

NOVEMBER 29, 2021

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Blessed Lord, who caused 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 everlasting 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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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 5:1-25

Psalm 18:1-20 (Morning)

Psalms 126 and 62 (Evening)

1 Peter 2:1-12

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A Related Post:

A Prayer to Be an Instrument of Social Justice:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/26/a-prayer-to-be-an-instrument-of-social-justice/

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Rid yourselves, then, of all spite, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and carping criticism….Always behave honourably among gentiles so that they can see for themselves what moral lives you lead, and when the day of reckoning comes, give thanks to God for the things which now make them denounce you as criminals.

–1 Peter 2:1, 11-12, The New Jerusalem Bible

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Put your trust in him [God] always, O people,

pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge.

–Psalm 62:9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Isaiah 5 speaks in allegorical terms of God as a farmer and Israel as a vineyard.  The farmer has done his best, yet the vineyard has yielded wild grapes.  In this allegory we read condemnations of wealthy landowners who have expanded their holdings at the expense of people of modest means, in violation of the Law of Moses.  The Bible speaks frequently about how much God condemns economic exploitation, a topic which deserves more attention than many Christians, lay or ordained, give it.  We also read in this allegory a condemnation of impious partying, such as the kind fueled by alcohol.  The common thread is misplaced priorities:  greed and dissipation distract one from what matters in Isaiah 5:  social justice as lived holiness.

Certainly we cannot work toward social justice as lived holiness if we engage in

spite, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and carping criticism,

can we?  Honorable behavior builds up society and the body of Christ.  It might also get us into trouble and even cost us as much as our lives.  That is not fair, obviously.  But, if we are to suffer, may we do so for the sake of righteousness.  May we also refrain from causing or permitting anyone to suffer for the sake of righteousness.

And may we check ourselves daily for bad behaviors, such as those 1 Peter 2:1 lists.  The New Jerusalem Bible translators for 1 Peter did a wonderful job with 2:1;

carping criticism

stood out in my mind the first time I read that verse in this translation.  Alternative renderings include

slander

and

malicious talk

and

unkind words,

but I prefer

carping criticism.

Unfortunately, congregations are frequently hotbeds of

carping criticism.

I grew up in a series of congregations I did not choose.  Their characters varied greatly, but I recall some mainly for the

carping criticism

which took place there.  I am ashamed that I have engaged in

carping criticism

of others, not that all criticism is out-of-bounds; the canonical gospels record critical words of Jesus.  But I have carped.  In so doing I have sinned.  And I am not alone in that reality.

May both social injustice and

carping criticism

decrease exponentially, by grace and human cooperation with it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 2, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHANNING MOORE WILLIAMS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP IN CHINA AND JAPAN

THE FEAST OF JOHN BROWN, ABOLITIONIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/07/17/against-carping-criticism-and-social-injustice/

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Fifteenth Day of Advent: Third Sunday of Advent, Year B   32 comments

Above:  The Visitation, with the Magnificat in Latin

God-Bearers

DECEMBER 13, 2020

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THE FIRST READING

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,

because the LORD has anointed me;

he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,

to bind up the brokenhearted,

to proclaim liberty to the captives,

and release to the prisoners;

to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,

and the day of vengeance of our God;

to comfort all who mourn;

to provide for those who mourn in Zion–

to give them a garland instead of ashes,

the oil of gladness instead of mourning,

the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,

the planting of the LORD, to display his glory.

They shall build up the ancient ruins,

they shall raise up the former devastations;

they shall repair the ruined cities,

the devastations of many generations.

For I the LORD love justice,

I hate robbery and wrongdoing;

I will faithfully give them their recompense,

and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.

Their descendants shall be known among the nations,

and their offspring among the peoples;

all who see them shall acknowledge

that they are a people whom the LORD has blessed.

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD,

my whole being shall exult in my God;

for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,

he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,

as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,

as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

For as the earth brings forth its shoots,

and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,

so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise

to spring up before the nations.

THE TWO OPTIONS FOR THE RESPONSE

Psalm 126 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,

then were we like those who dream.

2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter,

and our tongue with shouts of joy.

3 Then they said among the nations,

“The LORD has done great things for them.”

The LORD has done great things for us,

and we are glad indeed.

5 Restore our fortunes, O LORD,

like the watercourses of the Negev.

6 Those who sowed with tears

will reap with songs of joy.

7 Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed,

will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

Canticle 15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

(The Magnificat plus the Trinitarian formula)

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;

for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:

the Almighty has done great things for me,

and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him

in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,

he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,

and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel,

for he has remembered his promise of mercy,

The promise he made to our fathers,

to Abraham and his children for ever.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

as it was in the beginning is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

THE SECOND READING

1 Thessalonians 5 (New Revised Standard Version):

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.

May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

THE GOSPEL READING

John 1:6-8, 19-28 (New Revised Standard Version):

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him,

Who are you?

He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed,

I am not the Messiah.

And they asked him,

What then? Are you Elijah?

He said,

I am not.

[They asked,]

Are you the prophet?

He answered,

No.

Then they said to him,

Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?

He said,

I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord,” as the prophet Isaiah said.

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him,

Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?

John answered them,

I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.

This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

The Collect:

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

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There is a cliche:  The Lord moves in mysterious ways.  Many statements become cliched because they are true, as is the case for this one.  In these readings we read of the divine mandate for us to establish justice, especially that of the economic variety.  We read also of the humility of John the Baptist, forerunner of our Lord, and of Mary, who became Mother of God.  (Follow the logic:  Jesus was God incarnate.  Mary was his mother.  Therefore she was the Mother of God.)

My Eastern Orthodox brethren refer to Mary of Nazareth as the Theotokos, or God-bearer.  That she was, indeed.  Through her God chose to become incarnate, to become one of us, and therefore to set into motion redemptive plans while affirming human dignity.  It is a great mystery, one I choose to savor, not try to explain away or dismiss.

So I invite you, O reader, to echo the words of the Magnificat and to say the Hail Mary.  And, I hope that, regardless of the state of your mariology (assuming that you have one) , that you will recognize yourself and all other human beings as God-bearers, then treat yourself and all others accordingly.  Much justice will flow from that attitude.

KRT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/god-bearers/

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