Archive for the ‘Psalm 25’ Tag

Devotion for the First Sunday of Advent, Year C (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Annunciation of the Angel to Saint Zechariah, by Domenico Ghirlandaio

Image in the Public Domain

Trust in God

NOVEMBER 29, 2020

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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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Jeremiah 33:14-16

Psalm 25

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

Luke 1:1-25

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As Karl Barth pointed out, God, not human beings, properly occupies the center of Christian theology.  The overabundance of human-centered language in hymnals and in lyrics to music in church is never a good sign.

God is at the center in the readings for this Sunday.  God occupies the center of Jeremiah 33, with its prophecy of a restored Davidic monarchy and levitical priesthood.  God occupies the center in the prediction of redemption while all around looks dire.  God guides people spiritually and forgives sins.  God helps us empathize and rejoice with each other as we serve God.  God offers good news that seems unbelievable.

A Southern Baptist collegiate ministry sends people to stand in the quadrangle at the Oconee Campus of the University of North Georgia a few times each semester.  Sometimes someone stops me to ask me a few questions.  One of those questions is,

Do you believe in God?

My answer is always the same:

What do you mean?

I ask because my answer depends on the intent of the questioner.  A common understanding of belief in God is intellectual acceptance of the existence of God.  In the creeds and in many Biblical passages, though, belief in God indicates trust in God.  I always affirm the existence of God, whom I usually trust.

Trust is of the essence of in Luke 1:1-25.  In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, the lack of trust is a problem for Zechariah.  I do not condemn, though, for my response would also be in so many words,

Yeah, right.

We readers, if we know the Bible well, should think immediately of Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah (Genesis 15:1-20 and 17:1f).  We ought also to remember Genesis 16, the beginning of the story of Hagar and Ishmael, as well as the faithlessness of Abram and Sarai.

Returning to Luke 1:1-25, if we continue reading that chapter, we find next week’s Gospel reading, which I mention here only in passing.  The contrast between Zechariah and Mary is multifaceted.  Trust (or lack thereof) in God is one of those facets.

I do not condemn Zechariah caution and skepticism.  I also rejoice that God does not asks us to cease to transform into gullible people.  Furthermore, divine grace continues to shower upon those who respond to seemingly unbelievable truths with

Yeah, right.

My favorite Biblical character is St. Thomas the Apostle; I affirm honest doubt.  It keeps one from falling for scams and joining cults.

Yeah, right

is frequently the correct reply.

When, however, the seemingly unbelievable is true and of God, we can turn to God and admit that our initial skepticism was wrong, even if it was understandable.  Sometimes we need hindsight to see more clearly.  And grace continues to abound.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF EDWARD KING, BISHOP OF LINCOLN

THE FEAST OF FRED B. CRADDOCK, U.S. DISCIPLES OF CHRIST MINISTER, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, AND RENOWNED PREACHER

THE FEAST OF GEOFFREY STUDDERT KENNEDY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN HAMPDEN GURNEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF GOD, FOUNDER OF THE BROTHERS HOSPITALLERS OF SAINT JOHN OF GOD

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2020/03/08/trust-in-god-part-iii/

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Devotion for February 29 and March 1 in Epiphany/Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   11 comments

Above:  Good Shepherd

Job and John, Part XX:  Suffering and Discipline

FRIDAY, MARCH 1, 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 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:

Job 32:1-22 (February 29)

Job 33:1-18 (March 1)

Psalm 85 (Morning–February 29)

Psalm 61 (Morning–March 1)

Psalms 25 and 40 (Evening–February 29)

Psalms 138 and 98 (Evening–March 1)

John 10:1-21 (February 29)

John 10:22-42 (March 1)

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Some Related Posts:

Shepherd of Souls:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/07/shepherd-of-souls-by-james-montgomery/

The King of Love My Shepherd Is:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/01/the-king-of-love-my-shepherd-is/

O Thou Who Art the Shepherd:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/10/20/o-thou-who-art-the-shepherd/

Shepherd of Tender Youth:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/shepherd-of-tender-youth/

Very Bread, Good Shepherd, Tend Us:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/very-bread-good-shepherd-tend-us/

Litany of the Good Shepherd:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/litany-of-the-good-shepherd/

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Job 32-37 consists of the Elihu section of that book.  This is certainly a later addition to the Book of Job, for Elihu comes from nowhere and leaves without a trace.  His task is mainly to pester Job for a few chapters while uttering pious-sounding yet non-helpful sentiments the three alleged friends said before.  In point of fact, one can skip from Chapter 31 to Chapter 38 while missing mostly tedium.

Yet not everything Elihu says lacks scriptural parallel.  He tells Job, for example, that this suffering is a divine rebuke.  (It is not, according to the Book of Job.)  A note in The Jewish Study Bible refers me to Proverbs 3:11-12, which, in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures, reads:

Do not reject the discipline of the LORD, my son;

Do not abhor His rebuke.

For whom the LORD loves, He rebukes,

as a father the son whom he favors.

There is such a thing as parental discipline for the good of the child; that is true.  But Elihu’s error was in applying this lesson in a circumstance where it did not apply.

Meanwhile, in John 10, Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd, claims to be the Son of God, rejects the charge of blasphemy, and finds his life at risk.  The contrast between the God concepts of Elihu and Jesus interests me.  Elihu’s God dishes out abuse and Elihu, convinced of the need to commit theodicy, calls it discipline.  Yet the God of Jesus watches gives his sheep eternal life and sends a self-sacrificial shepherd for them.  That shepherd’s suffering is not a rebuke for his sins, for he is sinless.

Once again, Jesus provides an excellent counterpoint to a voice of alleged orthodoxy in the Book of Job and affirms that book’s message.

Until the next segment of our journey….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WASHINGTON DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF NEW JERSEY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANTONY AND THEODOSIUS OF KIEV, FOUNDERS OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONASTICISM; SAINT BARLAAM OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT; AND SAINT STEPHEN OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF THE EARLY ABBOTS OF CLUNY

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH WARRILOW, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/job-and-john-part-xx-suffering-and-discipline/

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Devotion for January 31 and February 1 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  John Calvin

Image Source = Library of Congress

False Prophets, Alleged and Actual

JANUARY 31 and FEBRUARY 1, 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:

Zechariah 10:1-11:3 (January 31)

Zechariah 11:4-17 (February 1)

Psalm 116 (Morning–January 31)

Psalm 85 (Morning–February 1)

Psalms 26 and 130 (Evening–January 31)

Psalms 25 and 40 (Evening–February 1)

2 Timothy 3:1-17 (January 31)

2 Timothy 4:1-18 (February 1)

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The readings for January 31 and February 1 make more sense together then spread across two days.  That is my conclusion, at least.

“False prophets” is the unifying theme.  In Zechariah the speak lies, console with illusions, and lead members of the flock astray.  Thus God, angered, vows to punish these bad shepherds and provide proper leadership for the human flock.  To continue the theme, we read that, in the Last Days,

There will be some difficult times.  People will be self-centred and avaricious, boastful, arrogant, and rude, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, irreligious; heartless and intractable; they will be slanderers, profligates, savages, and enemies of everything that is good; they will be treacherous and reckless and demented by pride, prefering their own pleasure to God.  They will keep up the outward appearance of religion but will have rejected the inner power of it.

–2 Timothy 3:1b-5a, The New Jerusalem Bible

(Human nature has at least been constant.  The past, present, and future seem identical in this regard.)  Anyhow, we read in 2 Timothy to follow the truth, accept sound teaching, and be on guard against harmful people.

We–beginning with the author of this post–must always be careful not to confuse disagreement with one (in my case, myself) as proof positive that the other person is a bad shepherd, a false prophet, a harmful individual.  Maybe the other person is all those things, but perhaps he or she just has some different opinions.  I am convinced, for example, that early Church leaders were correct to insist that Gnosticism constituted false doctrine.  The main problem with Gnosticism is that it denies the Incarnation, without which there is no Christianity.  That one was easy.  Law and theology are easy at the extremes.  But what about opinions regarding certain points of Calvinism, for example?  Christians of good will can–and do–disagree strongly.  And all follow Jesus.

Speaking of Calvinism, one aspect of it offers a nice and good way out of many disputes.  John Calvin spoke and wrote of a category called “Matters Indifferent.”  Anything in that category is optional.  The Incarnation is vital, but whether one observes Christmas is a Matter Indifferent, for example.  So, with Calvin’s category in mind and a well-honed sense of theological humility before us, may we avoid idolizing our own opinions.  We might change them one day, after all.  And we are imperfect.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 11, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIONYSIUS OF CORINTH, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY NEYROT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT STANISLAUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF KRAKOW

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/false-prophets-alleged-and-actual/

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Devotion for December 23 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Above:  A Map of the Roman Empire in 117 C.E.

Nothing is Impossible with God

DECEMBER 23, 2020

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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 43:25-44:20

Psalm 24 (Morning)

Psalms 25 and 110 (Evening)

Revelation 11:1-19

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Appearances, we read in Isaiah 43:25-44:20 and Revelation 11:1-19, can deceive us.  We might seem to be be hopeless due to our sins and our circumstances, but God will redeem and vindicate us.  Polytheism was the default setting in most ancient Middle and Near Eastern religions, but there has always been just one deity.  And the church might seem to be defeated under the weight of the imperium, but it is not.

Nothing is impossible with God.

Once, at Piedmont College, in Demorest, Georgia, I heard a presentation by a professor visiting from the Twin Cities.  This gentleman specialized in critical thinking.  I recall most of all one statement he made:  Our most basic assumptions are those we do not recognize as being assumptions.  In other words, sometimes (if not much or most of the time) we do not distinguish correctly between the subjective and the objective categories, even though we can do so.  In this context we can overlook easily the workings and even the existence of God, whom our categories and preconceptions cannot contain.

An empire which has stood (mostly officially as a republic) for centuries will cease to exist.  A young, small, and persecuted religion will become the largest belief system on the planet.  An exile will end.  A young woman will give birth to a baby boy, who will grow up and redeem the human race of its sin.  What else will happen?

Nothing is impossible with God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 3, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE TENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF EDWARD CASWALL, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD PERRONET, BRITISH METHODIST PREACHER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GENEVIEVE, PROPHET

THE FEAST OF GLADYS AYLWARD, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY TO CHINA

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/08/09/nothing-is-impossible-with-god-2/

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Devotion for December 16 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  The Vision of John of Patmos

True Nobility

DECEMBER 16, 2020

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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 32:1-20

Psalm 24 (Morning)

Psalms 25 and 110 (Evening)

Revelation 4:1-11

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As for the knave, his tools are knavish.

He forges plots

To destroy the poor with falsehoods

And the needy when they plead their cause.

But the noble has noble intentions

And is constant in noble acts.

–Isaiah 32:7-8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Who can ascend the hill of the LORD?

and who can stand in his holy place?

“Those who have clean hands and a pure heart,

who have not pledged themselves to falsehood,

nor sworn by what is a fraud.

They shall receive a blessing from the LORD

and a just reward from the God of their salvation.”

–Psalm 24:3-5, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Round the throne in a circle were twenty-four thrones, and on them twenty-four elders sitting, dressed in white robes with golden crowns on their heads.

–Revelation 4:4, The New Jerusalem Bible

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Nobility, according to the standards of many traditional societies, is a matter of heredity or marriage.  One is a Lord, an Earl, a Duke, a Prince, a Lady, a Duchess, a Princess, a King, or a Queen because of who one’s parents are or one’s spouse is.  In this definition of nobility society is structured–ordered, really–with well-defined social barriers and with deference.  It is not, however, the standard in Isaiah 32.

Here I find the link between Isaiah 32 and Revelation 4.  There is far more going on in both texts, of course.  Revelation 4 is where the symbolism in that book begins to get hip-deep.  And Isaiah 32 also condemns those who exploit their fellow human beings.  That verdict appears earlier in Isaiah  and repeats throughout the rest of the Bible.  There are many rabbits I could chase, but the true standard of nobility is where I choose to dwell.

The aristocrats of God’s perfected Earth will be those who have noble intentions and who are constant in noble acts, Isaiah 32:8 tells us.  And the vision of John of Patmos echoes down the corridors of time to this day.  The count of twenty-four elders could mean several things; it might even mean more than one of them simultaneously.  The number might refer to twenty-four courses of priests, or to twelve Apostles plus twelve patriarchs, or simply to twelve doubled.  The latter option might indicate the combined company of faithful Jews and Gentiles.  But the elders represent faithful people, and they will be victorious in heaven.  The white robes of the elders remind one of the unstained robes of the faithful, as in Revelation 3:4; those who wear white robes are fit for the presence of God and Jesus in heaven.

As we read in 1 Samuel 16:7,

For not as man sees [does the LORD see];  man sees only what is visible, but the LORD sees into the heart.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

We are all imperfect, of course; God knows this.  What does God see (through grace-colored glasses) when looking at my heart  or at your heart?  May God see nobility.

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/2012/08/09/true-nobility/

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Devotion for December 9 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   8 comments

Above:  A Homeless Man in a Vienna Sewer, 1900

The Intersection of the Spiritual and the Physical

DECEMBER 9, 2020

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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,

for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 26:1-19

Psalm 24 (Morning)

Psalms 25 and 110 (Evening)

1 John 3:1-24

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Trust in the LORD for ever and ever,

For in Yah the LORD you have an everlasting Rock.

–Isaiah 26:4, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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We are all aware that we have passed from death to life

because we love our brothers.

Whoever does not love, remains in death….

Children,

our love must be not just words or mere talk,

but something active and genuine.

–1 John 3:14, 18, The New Jerusalem Bible

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How much do we really need?  Perhaps not nearly as much as we think.  Yes, we want a great many things.  And we might be addicted to certain substances.  But our needs are far more basic than our desires.  And we are far better off without addictions than we are with them.

Our most basic spiritual need is for God–the only one who exists, the Judeo-Christian one.  For thousands of years monks and other ascetics have lived this fact.  We cannot take our physical possessions and our money with us when we die, so they, although important, are temporal.  We all need adequate food, shelter, clothing, and money in the here and the now.  To give mere lip service to this fact when one can do more is inadequate and sinful.

If anyone is well-off in worldly possessions,

and sees his brother in need

but closes his heart to him,

how can the love of God be remaining in him?

–1 John 3:17, The New Jerusalem Bible

Here we see the intersection of the physical and the spiritual.  Categories such as “physical” and “spiritual” are like circles in a Venn Diagram; they overlap.  Spiritual values–good or bad–will find expression in he realm of the physical.

This is the season of Advent, the time of preparation for Christmas.  “Thou didst leave thy throne,” a hymn says.  Christ risked and sacrificed much for us; how can we, if we are truly Christian, not to do the same for others?  How can we make excuses for unjust and economically exploitative systems?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 11, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF OCTAVIUS HADFIELD, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WELLINGTON

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/08/05/the-intersection-of-the-spiritual-and-the-physical/

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Devotion for December 2 in Advent (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   7 comments

Above:  A Candle Stump

Image Source = J. Samuel Burner

Light in the Darkness

DECEMBER 2, 2020

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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, 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 8:9-9:6/7 (depending on versification)

Psalm 24 (Morning)

Psalms 25 and 110 (Evening)

1 Peter 4:1-9

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A Related Post:

Hope of the World:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/hope-of-the-world/

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There will be grave trouble for Judah one day, Isaiah said.  It might not happen soon, but that day will come.  And it did.  Yet, in the midst of that gloomy prediction, there was a second, happy one:  There will be a ruler through whom God will deliver the people.  Scholars debate what the vague references meant, and the reading assumes a certain character if one reads it outside of Christological interpretations, but none of that is germane to my purpose here, today.  My point is this:  There is hope in the darkest darkness, thanks to God.

Speaking of difficult times, the audience of 1 Peter knew suffering for the faith (4:12-19).  Yet God was with them, not only spiritually via the Holy Spirit, but also through each other.  We human beings ought to help each other to, in the words of 1 Peter 4:8,

preserve an intense love for each other (The New Jerusalem Bible)

and use our gifts from God for the common good.  What does Jesus look like?  Hopefully, he looks like you, O reader, like me, and like many other people.  As we prepare, to celebrate the arrival of Christ nearly two thousand years ago, may we first recognize those through whom Christ is present with us today.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 3, 2011 COMMON ERA

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

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

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/07/28/light-in-the-darkness/

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First Day of Advent: First Sunday of Advent, Year C   5 comments

Above:  An Ocean Storm

Image Source = Mila Zinkova

Blameless in the Sight of Our Lord and Father

DECEMBER 2, 2018

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Jeremiah 33:14-16 (New Revised Standard Version):

The days are surely coming,

says the LORD,

when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.  In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.  In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell in safety.  And this is the name by which it will be called:  “The LORD is our righteousness.”

Psalm 25:1-9 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;

my God, I put my trust in you;

let me not be humiliated,

nor let my enemies triumph over me.

2  Let none who look to you be put to shame;

let the treacherous be disappointed in their schemes.

3  Show me your ways, O LORD,

and teach me your paths.

4  Lead me in your truth and teach me,

for you are the God of my salvation;

in you have I trusted all the day long.

5  Remember, O LORD, your compassion and love,

for they are from everlasting.

6  Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions;

remember me according to your love

and for the sake of your goodness, O LORD.

7  Gracious and upright is the LORD;

therefore he teaches sinners in his way.

8  He guides the humble in doing right

and teaches his way to the lowly.

9  All the paths of the LORD are love and faithfulness

to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 (New Jerusalem Bible):

How can we thank God enough for you, for all the joy we feel before our God on your account?  We are earnestly praying night and day to be able to see you face to face again and make up any shortcomings in your faith.

May God our Father himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, make it easy for us to come to you.  May the Lord be generous in increasing your love and make you love one another and the whole human race as much as we love you.  And may he so conform your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless in the sight of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus Christ comes with all his saints.

Luke 21:25-31 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus continued:]

Portents will appear in sun and moon and stars.  On earth nations will stand helpless, not knowing which way to turn from the roar and surge of the sea.  People will faint with terror at the thought of what is coming upon the world; for the celestial powers will be shaken.  Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  When all this begins to happen, stand upright and hold your heads high, because your liberation is near.

Jesus told them a parable:

Look at the fig tree, or at any other tree.  As soon as it bud, you can see for yourselves that summer is near.  In the same way, when you see all this happening, you may know that the kingdom of God is near.

Truly I tell you:  the present generation will live to see it all.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

The Collect:

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Advent is about what God has done, is doing, and will do.  God–in the form of Jesus–became human and dwelt among us.  God is present with us in the form of the Holy Spirit.  And we have the promise of a return of Christ.  Much of the New Testament reflects the unfulfilled expectation that he would return nearly 1,900 years ago.  Many times since then predicted dates for the Second Coming have passed without Jesus making a repeat appearance.  God’s timing is not ours.  So be it.

We who call ourselves Christians bear the responsibility to be salt and light in the world, to leave our part of it better than we found it.  We are at our best when we do that rather than slaughter each other over doctrinal disputes.  So may we be the best salt and the brightest light we can be, so that, regardless of what God’s timing turns out to be, we

may be blameless in the sight of our God and Father.  (1 Thessalonians 3:13, The New Jerusalem Bible).

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 3, 2011 COMMON ERA

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

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

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/07/28/blameless-in-the-sight-of-our-lord-and-father/

Advent Devotion for December 23   12 comments

Above:  Zechariah

The Importance of a Name

DECEMBER 23, 2020

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Malachi 3:1-5 (Revised English Bible):

I am about to send my messenger to clear a path before me.  Suddenly the Lord whom you seek will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight is here, here already, says the LORD of Hosts.  Who can endure the day of his coming?  Who can stand firm when he appears?  He is like a refiner’s fire, like a fuller’s soap; he will take his seat, testing and purifying; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver, and so they will be fit to bring offerings to the LORD.  Thus the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as they were in former days, in days long past.  I shall appear before you in court, quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers, and perjurers, against those who cheat the hired labourer of his wages, who wrong the widow and the fatherless, who thrust the alien aside and do not fear me, says the LORD of Hosts.

Psalm 25:1-15 (Revised English Bible):

LORD my God, to you I lift my heart.

In you I trust: do not let me be put to shame,

do not let my enemies exult over me.

No one whose hope is in you is put to shame;

but shame comes to all who break faith without cause.

Make your paths known to me, LORD;

teach me your ways.

Lead me by your faithfulness and teach me,

for you are God my saviour;

in you I put my hope all day long.

Remember, LORD, your tender care and love unfailing,

for they are from of old.

Do not remember the sins and offences of my youth,

but remember me in your unfailing love,

in accordance with your goodness, LORD.

The LORD is good and upright;

therefore he teaches sinners the way they should go.

He guides the humble in right conduct,

and teaches them his way.

All the paths of the LORD are loving and sure

to those who keep his covenant and his solemn charge.

LORD, for the honour of your name

forgive my wickedness, great though it is.

Whoever fears the LORD

will be shown the path he should choose.

He will enjoy lasting prosperity,

and his descendants will inherit the land.

The LORD confides his purposes to those who fear him;

his covenant is for their instruction.

My eyes are ever on the LORD,

who alone can free my feet from the net.

Luke 1:57-66 (Revised English Bible):

When the time came for Elizabeth’s child to be born, she gave birth to a son.  Her neighbours and relatives heard what great kindness the Lord had shown her, and they shared her delight.  On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father, but his mother spoke up:

No!

she said,

He is to be called John.

They said,

But there is nobody in your family who has that name.

Then inquired of his father by signs what he would like him to be called.  He asked for a writing tablet and to everybody’s astonishment wrote,

His name is John.

Immediately his lips and tongue were freed and he began to speak, praising God.  All the neighbours were overcome with awe, and throughout the uplands of Judaea the whole story became common talk.  All who heard it were deeply impressed and said, “What will this child become?”  For indeed the hand of the Lord was upon him.

The Collect:

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The countdown to Christmas Day draws very near to its end with this day in Advent.  Yet let us give each remaining day before December 25 its due.

The day had come for the circumcision and naming of the son of Elizabeth and Zechariah, the latter of which was still mute.  The ceremony was a community event, and custom contained a preference for naming a son after his father or grandfather, usually the grandfather.  Yet this child’s name was unique in his family tree.  The child was to be named John, or, in Hebrew, Jehohanan, which means, “God’s gracious gift.”

As British scholar G. B. Caird wrote in Saint Luke (Pelikan Books then Penguin Books, 1963, with reprints), a child’s name “was closely related to the character and nature of the bearer” and reflected his or her parents’ faith and aspirations for him or her in the Jewish culture of Judea in the late First Century B.C.E.  And while we ponder names, think about these facts:  Zechariah means “the LORD has recalled” and Elizabeth means “oath of God.”  I detect a congruency in these names coming together.

I am grateful to my parents for, among other things, giving me a name I have been able to carry well into adulthood.  That was a great kindness.  And it helps that “Kenneth” is the name of at least two saints–one of Scotland, the other of Wales.  Indeed, I have heard of some truly unfortunate names that have the effect of making it impossible for one to get a job interview, for, when pronounced, they sound like curse words.  (I am not referring to foreign names transliterated into English.)

It is common in some religious orders, when one joins, to receive a new name.  This is symbolic of becoming a new person.  And some indigenous cultures in North America change a person’s name after childhood, to reflect who this individual has become.  A name, I think, ought to be something noble, something into which to strive to grow then to continue to honor.  It is, after all, what we call ourselves and others call us.

“What is this child to become?” the neighbors asked themselves about the young John.  That child was literally “God’s gracious gift,” a statement I hope is true of all of us, for the benefit of others and the glory of God.

KRT

Written on June 4, 2010

Revised on May 19, 2011

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/the-importance-of-a-name/

Posted September 15, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2020-2021, December 23, Episcopal Church Lectionary

Tagged with , ,

Third Week of Advent: Monday   10 comments

Above: A Catacombs Image of Jesus

The Authority of Jesus

DECEMBER 14, 2020

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Numbers 24:1-7, 15-17a (Revised English Bible):

But now that Balaam knew that the LORD wished him to bless Israel, he did not go and resort to divination as before.  He turned towards the desert, and before his eyes he saw Israel encamped tribe by tribe; and, the spirit of God coming on him, he uttered his oracle:

The word of Balaam son of Beor,

the word of the man whose sight is clear,

the word of him who hears the words of God,

who with opened eyes sees in a trance

the vision from the Almighty;

Jacob, how fair are your tents,

Israel, your encampments,

like long palm groves,

like gardens by a river,

like aloe trees planted by the LORD,

like cedars beside the waters!

The water in his vessels shall overflow,

and his seed shall be like great waters,

so that his king may be taller than Agag,

and his kingdom lifted high….

Then he uttered his oracle:

The word of Balaam son of Beor,

the word of the man whose sight is clear,

the word of him who hears the words of God,

who shares the knowledge of the Most High,

who with opened eyes sees in a trance

the vision from the Almighty:

I see him, but now now;

I behold him, but not near:

a star will come forth out of Jacob,

a comet will arise from Israel….

Psalm 25:1-7 (Revised English Bible):

LORD my God, to you I lift up my heart.

In you I trust:  do not let me be put to shame,

do not let my enemies exult over me.

No one whose enemies exult over me.

No one whose hope is in you is put to shame;

but shame comes to all who break faith without cause.

Make your paths known to me, LORD;

teach me your ways.

Lead me by your faithfulness and teach me,

for you are God my saviour;

in you I put my hope all day long.

Remember, LORD, your tender care and love unfailing,

for they are from of old.

Do not remember the offences of my youth,

but remember me in your unfailing love,

in accordance with your goodness, LORD.

Matthew 21:23-27 (Revised English Bible):

He [Jesus] entered the temple, and, as he was teaching, the chief priests and elders of the nation came up to him and asked:

By what authority are you acting like this?  Who gave you this authority?

Jesus replied,

I also have a question for you.  If you answer it, I will tell you by what authority I act.  The baptism of John:  was it from God, or from men?

This set them arguing among themselves:

If we say, ‘From God,’ we will say, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’  But if we say, ‘From men,’ we are afraid of the people’s reaction, for they all take John for a prophet.

So they answered,

We do not know.

And Jesus said,

Then I will not tell you either by what authority I act.

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 was no separation of religion and state in First Century C.E. Judea.  The Roman Empire occupied the Jewish homeland, and competing Jewish sects assumed positions relative to collaborating with the Imperium.  The Temple at Jerusalem was the seat of collaboration, and next door a Roman fortress towered over that complex.  The politics of architecture was impossible to miss.

So Jesus maneuvered a political minefield for years.  (His crucifixion occurred in this historical and social context.)   The Gospels record that religious authority figures asked Jesus questions designed to entrap him and thereby to get him in trouble with the common people or the Roman imperial government.  Yet Jesus, being intelligent and perceptive, understood these facts and answered artfully.  This day’s Gospel reading tells of such an occasion.

The authority of Jesus came from God, of course.  This authority is unassailable, a fact that has not prevented people from attacking it.  Yet the good news is this:  God has won.  God wins.  God will continue to win.

Thanks be to God!

KRT

Written on June 1, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/the-authority-of-jesus/