Archive for the ‘Suffering’ Tag

Devotion for the Seventh Sunday After the Epiphany, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Faithful Servants of God, Part VII

FEBRUARY 24, 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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Ecclesiastes 7:1-4, 11-18 or Ezekiel 34:1-10

Psalm 9:1-10

Galatians 4:1-16

Matthew 5:38-48

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As Koheleth and Jesus tell us, the way of the world is that righteous people suffer, both the righteous and the wicked prosper, and God is in control.  The combination of those three statements might seem incongruous.  Throughout the Book of Psalms righteous people cry out to God for deliverance from oppression.  Often they are understandably angry, but Christ tells us to pray for our persecutors and to love our enemies.  Interestingly, nowhere does the Hebrew Bible command anyone to love one’s enemies, and, as we have read previously in this series of posts, God prospers that the wicked change their ways and find mercy.  Yet many of the wicked refuse to repent, so the divine deliverance of the oppressed becomes bad news for oppressors.

The call to radical love thunders off the pages of the Sermon on the Mount.  We are to trust in God, not ourselves, and be so loving as to seem foolish to many.  Such love breaks the cycle of anger, resentment, revenge, and violence.  We, as inheritors, by grace, and adopted members of the household of God, are free to do that, if we dare.

May we dare accordingly.  Then we, by grace, will be suited for our purpose, or, as Matthew 5:48 puts it, perfect.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 21, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH, CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH, AND JOHANN CHRISTIAN BACH, COMPOSERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF FLÜE AND HIS GRANDSON, SAINT CONRAD SCHEUBER, SWISS HERMITS

THE FEAST OF SAINT SERAPION OF THMUIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM EDWARD HICKSON, ENGLISH MUSIC EDUCATOR AND SOCIAL REFORMER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/03/21/faithful-servants-of-god-part-ix/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/12/devotion-for-proper-5-year-a-humes/

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Fourth Day of Christmas: Feast of the Holy Innocents (December 28)   2 comments

Above:  Massacre of the Innocents, by Pieter Brueghel the Younger

Image in the Public Domain

The Unfortunate Cheapness of Human Life

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 28, 2018

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Christmas is supposed to be a happy season, right?  Yet darkness exists within it.  Consider, O reader, the sequence of three great feasts:  St. Stephen (December 26), St. John the Evangelist (December 27), and the Holy Innocents (December 28).

The kingdom of the Earth has yet to become the Kingdom of God in its fullness.  Thus we read of exiles in Jeremiah 31.  Then we read the plausible story of the Holy Innocents in Matthew 2.  Herod the Great, we know from both Biblical and extra-Biblical sources, was a disturbed and violent man who had members of his family killed.  One need not stretch credibility to imagine him ordering the murder of strangers, even young children.  Reading the story from Matthew 2 then turning to Psalm 124 creates a sense of jarring irony; one is correct to wonder why God did not spare the Holy Innocents also.

On another note, the account of the Holy Innocents provides evidence for the Magi arriving when Jesus was about two years old.  According to the Western calendar, as it has come down to us, Herod the Great died in 4 B.C.E., placing the birth of Jesus circa 6 B.C.E.  I prefer to use the term “Before the Common Era” for the simple reason that speaking and writing of the birth of Jesus as having occurred “Before Christ”–six years, perhaps–strikes me as being ridiculous.

Back to our main point, while admitting the existence of morally ambiguous and difficult scenarios with only bad choices, and in which doing our best cannot help but lead to unfortunate results….

Human life is frequently cheap.  From abortions to wars, from gangland violence to accidental shootings and crimes of passion, from genocidal governments to merely misguided policies, human life is frequently cheap.  The innocent and the vulnerable suffer.  People who are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time suffer.  May God have mercy on us all, for each of us is partially responsible, for merely being part of the social, economic, and political systems that facilitate such suffering.

The kingdom of the Earth has yet to become the Kingdom of God in its fullness.  Only God can make that happen.  We mere mortals can and must, however, leave the world better than we found it.  We can and must do this, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

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We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod.

Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims;

and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and

establish your rule of justice, love, and peace;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 31:15-17

Psalm 124

Revelation 21:1-7

Matthew 2:13-18

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 143

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https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/feast-of-the-holy-innocents-december-28/

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/the-unfortunate-cheapness-of-human-life/

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

the-wrath-of-elihu-william-blake

Above:  The Wrath of Elihu, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

The Oratory and Theology of Elihu, Part VII

MARCH 3, 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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Job 36:14-37:24

Psalm 11

Matthew 8:5-13 or John 4:43-54

Jude 1-25 or Hebrews 13:9-14, 17-25

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Elihu’s speeches contain much that sounds pious.  Job 36:24-37:24 supports this generalization.  We read, among other things, that we should praise God and that divine grandeur exceeds our knowledge of it.  Elihu even sounds like God in Job 38-41, the “I am God and you are not” speeches:

Mediate on God’s wonders.

Can you tell how God controls them

or how his clouds make the lightning flash?

Can you tell how he holds the clouds in balance:

a miracle of consummate skill?

When your clothes are hot to your body

and the earth lies still under the south wind,

can you help him to spread the vault of heaven,

Or temper the mirror of cast metal?

–Job 37:14b-18, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

I prefer the God of Job 42:7-8 to the God of Job 38-41, for the former acknowledges that Job was correct.  For some reason I have really noticed Job 43:7-8 during the preparation for this series of posts, despite the many times I have read that passage over the years.  Part of the wonder of scripture is that one can always find something one has missed.

Among my favorite aspects of Judaism is the practice of arguing faithfully with God.  The character of Job exemplifies that well.  He is, contrary to an inaccurate cliché, impatient and argumentative–justifiably, I contend.  Yes, we can take refuge in God, but this does preclude a good argument now and then.

We should repent of and express remorse for our sins, as grace helps us to recognize them.  As we do so, we ought to follow the advice of Hebrews 13:13-15 and follow Jesus, who healed people around whom he was not present, into the world as pilgrims each day.  We might suffer reproach, but the servant is not greater than the master.  Sometimes we will suffer for reasons neither we nor others understand, or because of the sins of others.  That is simply reality.

One lesson to learn from the Book of Job is the difference between speaking the truth in love and blaming the victim.  Unfortunately, recognizing that distinction can prove difficult in the moment.  May we, by grace, prove innocent of being like Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, Zophar the Naamathite, and Elihu, who were sincerely wrong and not helpful.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 11, 2016 COMMON ERA

PROPER 19:  THE SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAPHNUTIUS THE GREAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF UPPER THEBAID

THE FEAST OF NARAYAN SESHADRI OF JALNA, INDIAN PRESBYTERIAN EVANGELIST AND “APOSTLE TO THE MANGS”

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATIENS OF LYONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/09/11/the-oratory-and-theology-of-elihu-part-vii/

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

the-wrath-of-elihu-william-blake

Above:  The Wrath of Elihu, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

The Oratory and Theology of Elihu, Part IV

FEBRUARY 17, 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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Job 34:21-37

Psalm 12

Matthew 7:1-12

2 Peter 1:1-15

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

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

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

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

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

But this is what all sensible folk will say,

and any wise man among my hearers,

“There is not wisdom in Job’s speech,

his words lack sense.

Put him unsparingly to the proof

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

For to him he adds rebellion,

calling justice into question in our midst

and heaping abuse on God.”

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SALVIUS OF ALBI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF MORDECAI JOHNSON, EDUCATOR

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

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

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Devotion for December 28, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

New Jerusalem

Above:  The New Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

The Kingdom of God

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 28, 2018

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you gave us your only Son

to take on our human nature and to illumine the world with your light.

By your grace adopt us as your children and enlighten us with your Spirit,

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 54:1-13

Psalm 148

Revelation 21:1-7

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Kings of the earth and all peoples,

princes and all rulers of the world;

Young men and maidens,

old and young together.

Let them praise the Name of the LORD,

for his splendor is over earth and heaven.

He has raised up strength for his people

and praise for all his loyal servants,

the children of Israel, a people who are near him.

Hallelujah!

–Psalm 148, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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God will dwell among mortals, we read in Revelation 21:3.  The context of that statement is a prediction of the fully realized Kingdom of God.  The partially evident Kingdom of God has been present on the planet since at least the time of Jesus, who was God dwelling among mortals.  That is one of many reasons to praise the LORD.

The existence and love of God do not indicate the absence of suffering and judgment.  In the pericope from Isaiah 54,  for example, divine grace follows divine judgment.  Sometimes we mere mortals must suffer the temporal consequences of our sins.  God still loves us, though.  Do we learn from our errors and love God?

As one thinks, so one is.  Only God can usher in the fully realized Kingdom of God, but we can, by grace, love God fully and love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  We can, by grace, make (more) evident the partially realized Kingdom of God in our midst.  And we can, with regard to our communities, societies, nation-states, and planet, by grace, pass the “leave it better than you found it” test.

December 28 is the Feast of the Holy Innocents.  They because King Herod the Great was mean, afraid, and paranoid, and because they were at the wrong place at the wrong time.  Unfortunately, the planet has never lacked murderous tyrants during all of recorded history.  The existence of such bad people points to the partial realization of the Kingdom of God.  We do, however, have a realistic hope of the fully realized Kingdom of God in the future.  Will we cling to that hope?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 23, 2015 COMMON ERA

PROPER 16:  THE THIRTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN COPELAND, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/08/23/the-kingdom-of-god-3/

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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 11 and 12, 2018

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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 Wednesday After the Seventh Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Last Judgment Icon

Above:  An Icon of the Last Judgment

Image in the Public Domain

Judgment, Sins, and Suffering

NOT OBSERVED IN 2015

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The Collect:

Almighty God, in signs and wonders your Son revealed the greatness of your saving love.

Renew us with your grace, and sustain us by your power,

that we may stand in the glory of your name,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 25

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The Assigned Readings:

Lamentations 5:1-22

Psalm 38

John 5:19-29

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LORD, do not rebuke me in anger

or punish me in your wrath….

But, LORD, do not forsake me;

my God, be not far aloof from me.

Lord my deliverer, hasten to my aid.

–Psalm 38:1, 21-22, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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Often we suffer because of the sins of others; that is objectively correct statement.  I wish that it were false, but wishing will not alter that reality.  Other times we suffer the consequences of our actions; that is also an objectively correct statement.  We suffer, most basically, because we live, for the hail stones rain down upon the godly and the ungodly.

Yet, John 5:25-29 tells us, there will be a time when we will receive judgment or reward on the basis of grace and our actions.  (We cannot stand on our own merit, such as it is.)  This will fill many with hope and others with dread.  Some will feel both emotions.  But at least our judge will be one who has identified with people to the point of becoming incarnate as a man.  He forgave those who had him crucified, did he not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 3, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARUTHAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MAYPHERKAT AND MISSIONARY TO PERSIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERNARD OF PARMA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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

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

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/06/judgment-sins-and-suffering/

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