Archive for the ‘Suffering’ Tag

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

Crucifix I July 15, 2014

Above:  One of My Crucifixes, July 15, 2014

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Burden-Bearing Community

FEBRUARY 7, 2018

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The Collect:

Everlasting God, you give strength to the weak and power to the faint.

Make us agents of your healing and wholeness,

that your good may be made known to the ends your creation,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 6:1-13

Psalm 102:12-28

Mark 3:7-12

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The days of my life are like a lengthening shadow:

though I am withering away like grass

You remain, LORD, for ever:

succeeding generations will be reminded of you.

–Psalm 102:12-13, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers, Harry Mowvley (1989)

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Today we have readings about two men–one fictional, the other real–who suffered, but not for any sin they had committed.

The titular character of the Book of Job was righteous.  He suffered because God permitted it as a test of loyalty.  Job’s alleged friends defended their orthodoxy, which held that Job must be suffering for a sin or sins he had committed, for God, being just, would never let an innocent person suffer.  They blamed a victim and even gloated as he suffered.  After Eliphaz the Temanite stated that a righteous person’s merit can shield him or her from harm, Job said:

…What strength have I, that I should endure?

How long have I to live, that I should be patient?

–6:11, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Jesus had made deadly enemies as early as Mark 3:6.  (His offense had been to heal on the Sabbath.)  Throngs of people seeking healing pursued him, pressed upon him, and caused him great physical stress.  At least Jesus had Apostles to prepare a getaway boat.  But he still died at the hands of powerful political enemies.  Fortunately, there was also the Resurrection.

A few weeks ago I heard a new (to me, anyway) take on the statement that God will never give us more to bear than we can handle.  An individualistic understanding of that statement is erroneous, for we exist in spiritual community.  Thus God will not impose a burden too heavy for the community to bear.  This is about “we,” not “me.”  May we support each other and not be like Job’s alleged friends.  And there is more:  we have the merits of Christ.  That merit is sufficient, although it has not protected martyrs from harm.  The message I take away from that fact is that safety is not necessarily part of God’s promise to the faithful.  God will, however, be present with them.  How is that for burden-sharing community?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 2, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIOC, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT TUDWAL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

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

THE FEAST OF JOHN BROWN, ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT OSMUND OF SALISBURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/06/burden-bearing-community/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After the Eighth Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Common Raven

Above:  A Common Raven, March 2004

Photographer = Dave Menke

Image Source = U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Endurance

NOT OBSERVED IN 2017

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The Collect:

God of tender care, like a mother, like a father,

you never forget your children, and you know already what we need.

In our anxiety give us trusting and faithful hearts,

that in confidence we may embody the peace and justice

of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 25

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 32:1-14 (Monday)

1 Kings 17:1-16 (Tuesday)

Isaiah 66:7-13 (Wednesday)

Psalm 104 (All Days)

Hebrews 10:32-39 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 4:6-21 (Tuesday)

Luke 12:22-31 (Wednesday)

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All of these look to you to give them their food in due season.

When you give it to them, they gather it;

you open your hand and they are filled with good.

When you hide your face they are troubled,

when you take away their breath,

they die and return again to the dust.

When you send forth your spirit, they are created,

and you renew the face of the earth.

–Psalm 104:29-32, Common Worship (2000)

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The Book of Job is allegedly about why people suffer.  I have read that book closely several times recently and concluded that the book is about a different topic–how many pious people misunderstand God and presume to spread their confusion.  As for the cause of suffering in the Book of Job, the text makes clear that, in the titular character’s case, God permitted it.

There is no single cause of suffering.  Possible causes include one’s own sin, another person’s sin, and the fact of being alive.  The main topic of these days’ readings, however, is endurance, not suffering.  While we endure, do we welcome those agents of grace God sends to us?  Do we cease to endure, abandoning faith in God?  Or do we mature spiritually?  And do we anticipate the blessings which follow after suffering ends?

J. B. Phillips, in his classic book, Your God is Too Small (1961), posited that many people have spiritual deficiencies flowing from inadequate God concepts.  I find this conclusion persuasive.  It applies to the human characters in the Book of Job, for example.  And it applies to many, if not most of us who describe ourselves as religious.

A woefully inadequate God concept can contribute to buckling under pressure and not trusting in God, therefore in not enduring then maturing spiritually.  This is not a condemnation of anyone, for I know firsthand about struggling spiritually when one’s world collapses.  I also know what grace feels like in those dark days, weeks, and months.  And I know that it is to emerge–singed, to be sure–from the metaphorical fire.

So from experience I write the following:  No matter how bad the situation is now and how dire it seems to be, there is no shortage of grace.  Thanks be to God!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

PROPER 24–THE TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

THE FEAST OF MARY A. LATHBURY, U.S. METHODIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERTILLA BOSCARDIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND NURSE

THE FEAST OF JOHN HARRIS BURT, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF TARORE OF WAHOARA, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/endurance-2/

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Devotion for February 4 in Epiphany/Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Above:  Tragic Mask

Image Source = Holger.Ellgaard

Job and John, Part I:  Suffering

FEBRUARY 4, 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:

Job 1:1-22

Psalm 5 (Morning)

Psalms 84 and 29 (Evening)

John 1:1-18

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Some Related Posts:

A Prayer for Those Who Are Tortured:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/a-prayer-for-those-who-are-tortured/

A Prayer for Those Who Inflict Torture:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/a-prayer-for-those-who-inflict-torture/

God Be In My Head:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/god-be-in-my-head/

Prayers for Those Who Suffer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/prayers-for-those-who-suffer/

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With this day the Lutheran daily lectionary takes a turn into two great books:  Job and the Gospel of John.  I have read these closely but never together.  So I look forward to that experience.  I wonder what parallels, contrasts, and connections will become apparent.

It is crucial to avoid reading the Book of Job anachronistically if one is to understand what is happening in its pages.  Satan is God’s employee in the text.  His job is to test the loyalty of people–in this case, Job.  The theology of Satan’s role relative to God did not make him a rebel until the Persian period in Jewish history, and the Book of Job, with all of its layers of composition (at least four, according to The Jewish Study Bible), is pre-Persian.  So Job, a good man, suffers because God permits it.  That is what the Book of Job says.

Turning to the the Johannine Gospel, we read the glorious prologue.  There is much to comment on there, but I focus on the thread of rejections, for that led to Christ’s suffering.

The Word was the real light

that gives light to everyone;

he was coming into the world.

He was in the world

that had come into being through him,

and the world did not recognise him.

He came to his own

and his own did not accept him.

–John 1:9-11, The New Jerusalem Bible

Job, a purely fictional figure, suffered not because of what he had done.  Jesus, who was real, also suffered not because of any sin or consequences thereof.  The question of suffering and its causes is vexing much of the time.  As Mayer Gruber, in his introduction to the Book of Job in The Jewish Study Bible, pointed out excellently, those who insist that suffering must result form one’s sins think that suffering must be deserved.  This argument, which the Book of Job contradicts, leads one to falsify the character of the one who suffers and that of God, whom such a one who makes the argument seeks to defend.  Yet, Gruber reminds his readers, God does not offer an explanation for suffering.

That is, in the LORD’s argument, the reasons for suffering–if there are any–are simply beyond human comprehension.  (page 1500)

The Book of Job ends without having explained in a satisfactory way why Job suffered.  Yes, God permitted it in Chapter 2, but who does that make God look?  And, in the Gospel of John, the incarnate Son of God finds his glory on the cross.  How is that for counter-intuitive?  Things are not always as they seem.

Until the next segment of our journey….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 13, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HERMENEGILD, VISIGOTHIC PRINCE AND ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUGH OF ROUEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, ABBOT, AND MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARTIN I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF MIKAEL AGRICOLA, FINNISH LUTHERAN BISHOP OF TALLINN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/job-and-john-part-i-suffering/

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