Archive for the ‘Romans 12’ Tag

That Old Sweet Song of Angels   Leave a comment

nativity-and-annunciation-to-the-shepherds

Above:  Nativity and Annunciation to the Shepherds

Image in the Public Domain

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Long ago the angels vanished–

But their song is sounding still!

Millions now with hope are singing,

“Peace on earth, to men good will.”

Sing, my heart!  Tho’ peace may tarry,

Sing good will mid human strife!

Till that old sweet song of angels

Shall attune to heav’n our life.

–William Allen Knight (1863-1957), “Come, My Heart, Canst Thou Not Hear It” (1915), quoted in The Pilgrim Hymnal (1931/1935), Hymn #77

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Part of the mystery of the Incarnation is its counterintuitive nature:  a vulnerable baby was God incarnate.  This truth demonstrates the reality that God operates differently than we frequently define as feasible and effective.  Then again, Jesus was, by dominant human expectations, a failure.  I would never claim that Jesus was a failure, of course.

If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat;

and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink;

for you will heap coals of fire on their heads,

and the LORD will reward you.

–Proverbs 25:22, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Speaking of counterintuitive ways of God, shall we ponder the advice of St. Paul the Apostle in Romans 12:14-21?

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.  Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.  If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  No, if your enemies are hungry, feed them, if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

That old sweet song of angels will not attune to heaven our life if we ignore this sage advice–if we fail to overcome evil with good.  How we treat others indicates more about what kind of people we are than about what kind of people they are.  If we react against intolerance with intolerance, we are intolerant.  We also add fuel to the proverbial fire.  Is not a fire extinguisher better?

As the Master said,

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others?  Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

–Matthew 5:43-48, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Perfection, in this case, indicates suitability for one’s purpose, which is, in the language of the Westminster Shorter Catechism,

to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

–Quoted in The United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, The Book of Confessions (1967)

As the annual celebration of the birth of Christ approaches again, may we who follow him with our words also follow him with our deeds:  may we strive for shalom on a day-to-day basis.  Only God can save the world, but we can leave it better than we found it.

Merry Christmas!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 21, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT THOMAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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

Nehemiah Views the Ruins of Jerusalem's Walls--Gustave Dore

Above:  Nehemiah Views the Ruins of Jerusalem’s Walls, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

Mutuality, Society, and the Body of Christ

JANUARY 25, 2019

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord God, you have caused the holy scriptures

to be written for the nourishment of your people.

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

that, comforted by your promises,

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Nehemiah 2:1-10

Psalm 19

Romans 12:1-8

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No one can see his own mistakes,

acquit me of my hidden faults.

Hold me back, too, from sins I know about,

do not let them gain mastery over me.

Then shall I keep my integrity

and be innocent of any great sin.

–Psalm 19:13-14, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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Underpinning much of the Bible is an ethos of mutuality and of recognition of complete human dependence on God.  We are responsible to each other and for each other.  We are supposed to support each other in vocations from God, not seek to advance on the proverbial ladder by kicking other people off that ladder.  And we ought to act based on the knowledge that everything we have comes from God.  There is no such being as a self-made person.

St. Paul the Apostle, writing in Romans 12, likened Christian community to the body of Christ.  He meant what he wrote plainly–that Christians are members of each other and that all spiritual gifts are necessary.  Nobody in the body of Christ is insignificant and no gift is too small.

God has equipped all people for a productive role or roles in society.  One vital function of each person is to help others to fulfill their vocation or vocations as the opportunities to do so present themselves.  Whenever I read about a person who has accomplished much, I notice that others helped him or her along the way to one accomplishment or another.  Such helpers tend not to receive the credit they should, but they are always essential.

Nehemiah, who left a position in the Persian royal court, was able, with the help of King Artaxerxes I (reigned 465-424 B.C.E.) and many others, most of whose names have not come down to us, to help rebuild Jerusalem.  The efforts of those whose labors supported Nehemiah’s project were no less important than Nehemiah’s zeal.  The visionary and his helpers were essential, for one without the other would have accomplished nothing.

In the spirit of mutuality we ought to help each other spiritually.  Each of us has blind spots in spiritual matters, but others can tell us what occupies them.  We also need encouragement to continue to do the right things the right ways.  Positive reinforcement is also crucial to maintaining good practices.  A third category of mutual spiritual help is providing feedback in the middle ground between “keep doing that” and “stop doing the other thing.”  Sometimes we are moving in the right direction yet require advice in how to pursue that path more effectively.  Often we have difficulty recognizing our deficiencies in that category also.

A true friend is one who says and does that which one needs, not necessarily what one wants.  A “yes man” is not a true friend.  Within the bounds of social and ecclesiastical friendship we ought to be true friends to each other.  How many of us will fulfill that vocation?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 3, 2015 COMMON ERA

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

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

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

THE FEAST OF JOHN RALEIGH MOTT, ECUMENICAL PIONEER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/10/03/mutuality-society-and-the-body-of-christ/

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

Burning Embers

Above:  Live Coals

Image in the Public Domain

Grace, Demanding Faithful Responses, Part II

JANUARY 21, 2019

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The Collect:

Lord God, source of every blessing,

you showed forth your glory and led many to faith by the works of your Son,

who brought gladness and salvation to his people.

Transform us by the Spirit of his love,

that we may find our life together in him,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 54:1-8

Psalm 145

Romans 12:9-21

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That sentiment fits well within the contexts of the previous post and this one.  In readings for both God takes a people back–idolatrous Hebrews in Jeremiah and Hebrew exiles (soon to return to their ancestral homeland) in Isaiah.

Such generosity calls for faithful responses to God.  One category of such responses covers how we treat each other.  The excellent advice in Romans 12:9-21 fits neatly under the heading of the Golden Rule.  St. Paul the Apostle’s counsel acknowledges total human dependence on God, human dependence on other people, and responsibility to and for others in society.  It also contains a corrective measure against vengeance, one of the most powerful emotions.

The world would be a better place if more people were to seek common ground, respect others, and forgo repaying evil for evil.  What we humans do matters.  Often, when we think we are behaving righteously, our sinful deeds and attitudes belie that illusion.  One might, for example, commit a violent act against a person whom one thinks has wronged one.  That other person might indeed be in the wrong, but so is the perpetrator of the violence if the motive is revenge.  Two wrongs do not make a right.

May we hold fast to the good, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 27, 2015 COMMON ERA

PROPER 21:  THE EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEOBA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE CHURCH OF SOUTH INDIA, 1947

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/09/27/grace-demanding-faithful-responses-part-ii/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After the Seventh Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

US_$5000_1934_Federal_Reserve_Note

Above:  $5000, 1934

(Images of U.S. currency are in the public domain.)

$5000 U.S. (1934) = $85,700 (2012) on the Consumer Price Index

Attitudes, Love, and Reconciliation

FEBRUARY 20, 2017

FEBRUARY 21, 2017

FEBRUARY 22, 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:

Proverbs 25:11-22 (Monday)

Genesis 31:1-3, 17-50 (Tuesday)

Proverbs 3:27-55 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:57-64 (All Days)

Romans 12:9-21 (Monday)

Hebrews 12:14-16 (Tuesday)

Luke 18:18-30 (Wednesday)

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You are my only portion, O Lord;

I have promised to keep your words.

I entreat you with all my heart,

be merciful to me according to your promise.

–Psalm 119:57-58, Common Worship (2000)

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Certain themes repeat in the Bible.  Among these is the one which states that we have a mandate to seek reconciliation with each other, not vengeance against each other.  A perhaps apocryphal story comes to mind:

A congregation gathered on the day that the aged St. John the Evangelist visited it.  He entered (with assistance) and sat down at the front of the assembly.  The Apostle said, “My children, love one another.”  Then he motioned to his helpers to assist him in leaving.  Someone, disappointed with the brevity of John’s words, followed him and asked why he had said just to love one another.  The Apostle answered, “When you have done that, I will tell you more.”

Loving one another is that basic.  And often it proves difficult, for we might feel righteous while pondering how another has wronged us.  Maybe another has behaved perfidiously toward us.  But nursing a grudge hurts the person who encourages it and does no harm to its intended target.

The readings for these days range from maxims to stories about how we ought to behave toward others.  Sometimes all parties are both the wronged and the perpetrators.  (Life is frequently complicated in that way.)  The seeming outlier among these readings is Luke 18:18-30.  The wealthy man in that passage kept many of the truly timeless provisions of the Law of Moses–honoring his parents, not murdering or stealing, etc.  But his attitude toward his wealth prevented him from treating others as properly as he should have been doing all along.

His health was morally neutral; his attitude was not.  Your “wealth,” O reader, might not be funds or property, but your attitude toward it is a vital issue.  The same applies to all of us.

So may we seek peace with each other, knowing that perhaps nobody is fully innocent in a particular situation.  Thus nobody is in a good position to judge anyway.  And may we not let our attitude(s) regarding anything obstruct such reconciliation.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 19, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MARTYN, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAUL OF THE CROSS, FOUNDER OF THE PASSIONIST CONGREGATION

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/attitudes-love-and-reconciliation/

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Devotion for January 24 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Above:  Anger

Image Source = Petar Pavlov

The Folly of Revenge and the Quest for It

JANUARY 24, 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:

Joel 3:1-21/4:1-21

Psalm 143 (Morning)

Psalms 81 and 116 (Evening)

Romans 12:14-13:14

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Egypt shall be like a desolation,

And Edom a desolate waste,

Because of the outrage to the people of Judah,

In whose land they shed the blood of the innocent.

–Joel 4:19, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Never try to get revenge:  leave that, my dear friends, to the Retribution.  As scripture says:  Vengeance is mine–I will pay them back, the Lord promises.  And more:  If your enemy is hungry, give him something to eat; if thirsty, something to drink.  By this, you will be heaping red-hot coals on his head.  Do not be mastered by evil, but master evil with good.

–Romans 12:19-21, The New Jerusalem Bible

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TECHNICAL NOTE:

Versification of  parts of the Hebrew Bible differs depending upon whether one reads from a Protestant translation or a Jewish, Roman Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox one.  Such is the case in Joel, where 2:1-32 in Protestant versions equals 2:1-3:5 in Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox translations.  And Joel 4 in Jewish, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox versions equals Joel 3 in Protestant translations.

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Vengeance is a primal emotions.  It jumps off the pages of the Book of Psalms.  Consider, O reader, these cringe-worthy lines:

Remember, O LORD, against the Edomites

the day of Jerusalem ‘s fall;

how they cried, “Strip her, strip her

to her very foundations.”

Fair Babylon, you predator,

a blessing on him who repays you in kind

what you have inflicted on us;

a blessing on him who seizes your babies

and dashes them against the rocks.

–Psalm 137:7-9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

And how often have relatives of murdered people stated in public their desire for the death penalty for the guilty and cited revenge as it is a good thing?  Revenge poisons a person’s soul and does not undo the damage the perpetrator has inflicted.  There will be retribution for some from God, in whom there is also mercy.  I know the desire for revenge well, and I have had to rid myself of it.

As Paul advised,

As much as possible,and to the utmost of your ability, be a peace with everyone.

–Romans 12:18, The New Jerusalem Bible

Such matters involve more than one party, of course.  And, if not all parties consent to mutual peace, there will be no reconciliation.  I suppose that simply pursuing revenge–rather, leaving judgment to God–is the best possible outcome in such a case.  Getting on with one’s life is better for oneself than obsessing over a real or imagined injury.

Life is short, certainly in geological terms.  May we not mar our brief time on earth with the quest for revenge more than we have done so already.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 2, 2012 COMMON ERA

MONDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN PAYNE AND CUTHBERT MAYNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF HENRY BUDD, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JAMES LLOYD BRECK, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JOHN PAUL II, BISHOP OF ROME

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/the-folly-of-revenge-and-the-quest-for-it/

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Devotion for January 23 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   7 comments

Above:  A Soup Kitchen

Image Source = U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist Steve Johnson

Hospitality

JANUARY 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:

Joel 2:18-32/3:3:5

Psalm 65 (Morning)

Psalms 125 and 91 (Evening)

Romans 11:25-12:13

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Then the LORD was roused

On behalf of His land.

And had compassion

Upon His people.

–Joel 2:18, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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In the service of the LORD work not half-hearted but with conscientiousness and as an eager spirit.  Be joyful in hope, persevere in hardship, keep praying regularly; share with any of God’s holy people who are in need; look for opportunities to be hospitable.

–Romans 12:11-13, The New Jerusalem Bible

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TECHNICAL NOTE:

Versification of  parts of the Hebrew Bible differs depending upon whether one reads from a Protestant translation or a Jewish, Roman Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox one.  Such is the case in Joel, where 2:1-32 in Protestant versions equals 2:1-3:5 in Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox translations.  And Joel 4 in Jewish, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox versions equals Joel 3 in Protestant translations.

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Many houses in the rural U.S. South during the nineteenth century used to have a front porch, a back porch, and a connecting breezeway.  That was a time before electricity, much less air conditioning, in the region, so many people designed their homes to fit nature and the technology they had.  With that in mind, it was common for a kitchen to be separate from the rest of the house.  If there were a fire, the rest of the house would be more likely to survive.  And they could build another kitchen.

All that was quite practical.  So was another common feature of many such houses:  a guest bedroom which opened up onto a porch and not into any other room.  If a traveler needed to spend a night, such a room offered shelter.  This was both practical and hospitable, for there were no motels in many areas.  Hospitality, in many cases, made the difference between life and death, or at least between relative ease and undue hardship.  Hospitality was a virtue which more than one biblical writer extolled. The texts contain, in fact, condemnations of its absence.  Hospitality still saves lives and eases discomfort, as many who dispense or receive it can attest.

The affirmation of hospitality does not indicate a complete lack of accountability.  Read Joel and Romans, for example.  But hospitality does provide a counter-force, a balance.  There is a time to judge and there is a time to forgive.  There is a time to punish and there is a time to extend the hand of hospitality.  May we–you and I, O reader, get the balance correct.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 2, 2012 COMMON ERA

MONDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN PAYNE AND CUTHBERT MAYNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF HENRY BUDD, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JAMES LLOYD BRECK, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JOHN PAUL II, BISHOP OF ROME

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/hospitality/

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