The Parable of the Dishonest/Crafty Steward/Manager   2 comments

Above:  The Parable of the Unjust Steward, by Jan Luyken

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XXXIX

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Luke 16:1-15

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This parable has prompted the raising of many eyebrows for a very long time.

In cultural context, however, the parable makes more sense than it does at the first, superficial reading, as well as out of context.

The rich man, a property owner, charged interest in violation of the Law of Moses.  The steward’s job was (1) to manage his employer’s wealth, and (b) to collect rent, debts, and interest.  A steward kept some of the interest for himself. The steward in this parable was (1) squandering his employer’s wealth, (2) “cooking the books,” and (3) making friends in the process of “cooking the books.”  He “cooked the books” by bringing the employer into compliance with the Law of Moses.  The steward had placed his soon-to-be-former employer in a difficult position.  The employer could not charge the steward with dishonesty without admitting his illegal activities.

The steward’s audaciousness in achieving his ends calls attention to Jesus’s lesson.  Anyone of us would go to the greatest lengths, no matter how unsavory, to ensure a place in this world; how much more should we devote our attention to the world to come (v. 8)?

–Michael F. Patella, in Daniel Durken, ed., The New Collegiate Bible Commentary:  New Testament (2009), 277

Then we keep reading:  We are to use “dishonest wealth” to win friends but not to trust “dishonest wealth.”  No, we need to trust God.  We, unlike the steward in the parable, ought not to squander that which is entrusted to us.  No, we should be trustworthy, so as to earn trust.

Then–as now–the origins of vast fortunes were usually unsavory.  For that reason, wealth, in these verses, was dishonest.  In a society in which the vast majority of the population was poor, the relatively few rich people benefited from exploitation.  Many of them had seized the land of the less fortunate, for example.  Or wealthy heirs reaped the rewards of the land grabs.

Wealth is a popular idol.  Money, by itself, is morally neutral.  However, people’s relationship to it cannot be morally neutral.  So, is money an instrument or an idol for you, O reader?  Whom–or what–do you trust?  And are you trustworthy with your responsibilities?

God is the owner; we mere mortals are stewards.  “Steward” derives from “sty ward,” as in one who tends a master’s pigs.  May we tend faithfully to God’s sty and not imagine ourselves to be owners.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 19, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SARGENT SHRIVER AND HIS WIFE, EUNICE KENNEDY SHRIVER, HUMANITARIANS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALESSANDRO VALIGNANO, ITALIAN JESUIT MISSIONARY PRIEST IN THE FAR EAST

THE FEAST OF CHARLES WINFRED DOUGLAS, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, LITURGIST, MUSICOLOGIST, LINGUIST, POET, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND ARRANGER

THE FEAST OF HENRY TWELLS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Trust in God, Part V   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Sts. Simon Peter and Michael the Archangel

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 49:1-6

Psalm 40:1-12 (LBW) or Psalm 92:1-5 (LW)

1 Corinthians 1:1-9

John 1:29-41

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Lord God, you showed your glory and

led many to faith by the works of your Son. 

As he brought gladness and healing to his people,

grant us these same gifts and lead us also to perfect faith in him,

Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 15

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Almighty and eternal God,

Governor of all things in heaven and on earth,

mercifully hear the prayers of your people,

and grant us your peace in our days;

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 22

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We can trust God because of what God has done.  In Hebrew theology, God is like what God has done.  Consider many texts of the Hebrew Bible, O reader; they recount what God has done then they encourage people to trust God.

What has God done in these readings?

  1. God has arranged for the Babylonian Exile to end.
  2. God has protected the people of Israel during that exile.
  3. God has made the people of Israel a light to the nations.
  4. God has healed the author of Psalm 40 from a serious illness.
  5. God has made the author of Psalm 92 happy with His work.
  6. God has enriched the lives of the Corinthian Christians whom St. Paul the Apostle began to criticize in 1 Corinthians 1:10.
  7. God has sent the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth.

What items will you, O reader, add to the list of what God has done?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 19, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SARGENT SHRIVER AND HIS WIFE, EUNICE KENNEDY SHRIVER, HUMANITARIANS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALESSANDRO VALIGNANO, ITALIAN JESUIT MISSIONARY PRIEST IN THE FAR EAST

THE FEAST OF CHARLES WINFRED DOUGLAS, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, LITURGIST, MUSICOLOGIST, LINGUIST, POET, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND ARRANGER

THE FEAST OF HENRY TWELLS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post

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Lost and Found, Part V   Leave a comment

Above:  The Return of the Prodigal Son, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XXXVIII

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Luke 15:1-32

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Given that I have already written about these three parables (the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost/Prodigal Son) at this weblog already, I make no attempt to repeat all that I have written regarding them.  I do, however, refer you, O reader, to those posts, tagged accordingly and in the “Luke 15” category.

In the Lucan narrative, chapter 15 flows directly from chapter 14.  Imagine the scene, O reader.  See it with your mind’s eye.  See Jesus, a dinner guest at the home of a leading Pharisee one Sabbath, criticizing his host and expounding on the cost of discipleship.  Imagine the scene as notorious sinners, including Roman tax thieves, crowded in to listen.  Imagine the scorn evident on the faces of Christ’s critics–perhaps including his host–as they condemned him for dining with the moral riffraff.

Then, in Luke 15, we read three parables.

Notice, O reader, that:

  1. The sheep, drachma, and son are precious to God,
  2. God seeks out the sheep and the drachma, and
  3. God waits for the errant son to return.

These are parables of human repentance and extravagant divine grace.  Rejoicing follows the finding in two parables and the return of the son in the third.  Yet the rejoicing is not unanimous.  We read of the resentful, older, dutiful brother, the father’s heir.

Some exegetes argue that the text does not portray the Prodigal Son as having repented, but as having made an economic decision to return home.  This is an overblown argument.  The parable tells us that the Prodigal (wasteful) Son did return home.  Repentance, by definition, is turning one’s back to one’s sins–some of them, at least.

The literal scene in Luke 15:11-32 is Jesus telling a parable in the home of a leading Pharisee, a prominent member of his society.  Given the content of chapters 14 and 15, one may suppose that this last parable may have stung Jesus’s host.

If you, O reader, have been reading this series of posts, you know that I have no interest in lambasting long-dead people and congratulating myself for my righteousness.  Let us–you, O reader, and I–be honest.  We may be prime candidates to be the older brother.  Yet we are precious to God, too.  May we act like it and rejoice with God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 18, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE CONFESSION OF SAINT PETER, APOSTLE

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A Covenant People, Part IX   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Baptism of Christ

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 42:1-7

Psalm 45:7-9

Acts 10:34-38

Matthew 3:13-17

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Father in heaven, at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan

you proclaimed him your beloved Son

and anointed him with the Holy Spirit. 

Make all who are baptized into Christ

faithful in their calling to be your children

and inheritors with him of everlasting life;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 15

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Father in heaven, as at the baptism in the Jordan River

you once proclaimed Jesus your beloved Son

and anointed him with the Holy Spirit,

grant that all who are baptized in his name may

faithfully keep the covenant into which they have been called,

boldly confess their Savior,

and with him be heirs of life eternal;

through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 21

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The people of God–Jews and Gentiles–have a divine mandate to be a light to the nations, for the glory of God and the benefit of the people.  The ethics of the Law of Moses and the teachings of Jesus value and mandate equity and justice, both collectively and individually, as a matter of conduct and policy.

The servant in Isaiah 42:1-7 is the personification of the people of Israel, in the context of the Babylonian Exile.  Yet much of Christian Tradition interprets that servant as Christ.  Read Isaiah 42:6-7, O reader:

I have created you, and appointed you 

A covenant people, a light of nations–

Opening eyes deprived of light,

Rescuing prisoners from confinement,

From the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures 

I have checked this text in five French translations.  “You” is singular in all of them, for it refers to the personified servant.  Yet 43:6b-7a refers to “a covenant people.”

Possible reasons for Jesus, sinless, taking St. John the Baptist’s baptism for repentance for forgiveness of sins have long filled minds and commentaries.  Maybe Jesus was originally a disciple of St. John the Baptist, and authors of the four canonical Gospels attempted to obscure this potentially embarrassing fact.  Perhaps Jesus was identifying with sinful human beings.  (One may legitimately accept more than one rationale.)

Regardless of how one accounts for the baptism of Jesus, the baptized belong to that covenant people described in Isaiah 42:1-7.  To belong to the covenant people is to carry a demanding divine mandate to serve, to live in mutuality, and to keep the Golden Rule.  To belong to the covenant people, as Gentiles, is to carry the divine mandate to love like Jesus, for Christ’s sake and glory.  To belong to the covenant people is to carry a glorious and crucial calling.

Yet a certain bumper sticker rings true too often.  It reads:

JESUS, SAVE ME FROM YOUR FOLLOWERS.

I hear that saying and think:

Yes, I feel like that sometimes.

Perhaps you, O reader, feel like that sometimes, too.  Many of the members of the covenant community have behaved badly and betrayed the mandate in Isaiah 42:6b-7a.  That is sad, as well as counter-productive to the effort to aid people in their walk with God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 18, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE CONFESSION OF SAINT PETER, APOSTLE

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Adapted from this post

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No Excuses   Leave a comment

Above:  The Man Without a Wedding Garment, by Jan Luyken

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XXXVII

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Luke 14:7-35

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Narratively, Luke 14:7-35 follows 14:1-6, a story of Jesus healing on the Sabbath.

Imagine the scene as if you were there, O reader.  (This is a fine method of gleaning meanings from scripture.)  You have witnessed Jesus, a guest at a meal at the home of a leading Pharisee, heal a man afflicted with dropsy on the Sabbath.  You have listened as Jesus defended himself for doing so.  You have noticed that Christ reduced his critics to silence.

Then our material for this post begins.  The theme of reversal of fortune–a motif in the Gospel of Luke–is prominent here.  Another prominent theme is a motif extant in the Old and New Testaments–the divine eschatological banquet.  In a social context in which most people did not feast, consider the power of that metaphor, O reader.

Back to our imaginary role-playing game now, O reader…..

Imagine how you would have felt as you, another guest at this meal, listened to Jesus speak after his critics had fallen silent.  Perhaps you would have understood what he spoke of when he referred to the shame of social demotion.  Maybe you would have grasped the connection between social status and spiritual status, according to conventional wisdom.  Would Jesus’s counsel to invite the socially lowly have scandalized you?  And how would you have reacted or responded to the Parable of the Great Banquet?  What would the facial expressions in the room have been?

You, O hypothetical guest at this meal, probably would not have known that Jesus was en route to Jerusalem to die.  Therefore, you probably would have missed the full force of the story about the people who had accepted an invitation then refused it.  Yet you probably would have noticed that Jesus was accepting no excuses.

Jesus turned social mores on their heads.  Roman elites curried favor via patronage and lavish banquets.  By doing this, they gathered influence among people who could repay them.  Yet Jesus taught that, in the divine order, true generosity entailed bestowing dignity and respect on those who could never repay one.

All of us are those who can never repay divine generosity.  Do we know and accept that?  Do we attend God’s banquet, or do we make excuses?

Standard English translations of 14:25-27 use “hate,” an unfortunate rendering.  Christ never commanded disciples to hate.  He never ordered them to hate relatives and the disciples’ own lives.  No, Jesus commanded his disciples to love all of the above less than himself.  As we have already established in this series of posts, the priority of following Jesus takes precedence.

Salt cannot lose its taste, scientifically.  That fact is crucial to understanding verses 34-35.  For salt to lose its taste, it must cease to be NaCl.  A disciple who refuses to take up a cross and follow Jesus Christ ceases to be a disciple.  A former disciple is like one of the people who had accepted an invitation to the banquet then refused to attend.  Such a person will never taste of Christ’s banquet.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 17, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY OF EGYPT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND FATHER OF WESTERN MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DEICOLA AND GALL, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS; AND SAINT OTHMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AT SAINT GALLEN

THE FEAST OF JAMES WOODROW, SOUTHERN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, NATURALIST, AND ALLEGED HERETIC

THE FEAST OF SAINT PACHOMIUS THE GREAT, FOUNDER OF CHRISTIAN COMMUNAL MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS A. DOOLEY, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PHYSICIAN AND HUMANITARIAN

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Extending the Borders   1 comment

Above:  Adoration of the Magi Stamp from Latvia, 1992

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 60:1-6

Psalm 72

Ephesians 3:2-12

Matthew 2:1-12

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Lord God, on this day you revealed your Son

to the nations by the leading of a star. 

Lead us now by faith to know your presence in our lives,

and bring us at last to the full vision of your glory,

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 15

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O God, by the leading of a star you once made known

to all nations your only-begotten Son;

now lead us, who know you by faith,

to know in heaven the fullness of your divine goodness;

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

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

Lutheran Worship (1982), 20

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Third Isaiah, in Isaiah 60, applied motifs of the Davidic Dynasty, not to the Messiah, but to the Israelite nation as a whole.  (The “you” in Isaiah 60:1-6 is plural.)  There is no Messiah in Third Isaiah, which teaches that in the future, God will rule directly on Earth.

Yet we have this assigned reading on the Feast of the Epiphany, about Jesus, the Messiah.

Psalm 72, originally for a coronation, describes the ideal Davidic monarch.  He will govern justly, defend the oppressed, crush the extortioners, and revere God, we read.  His renown spreads far and wide, we read.  These sentences describe few of the Davidic monarchs.  They do not even describe King David.  The Christian tradition of reading Jesus into every nook and cranny of the Hebrew Bible interprets Jesus as the ultimate fulfillment of the text, though.

Call me a heretic if you wish, O reader, but I resist the tendency to read Jesus into every nook and cranny of the Hebrew Bible.  Call me a heretic if you wish; I will accept the label with pride.  I even own a t-shirt that reads:

HERETIC.

Father Raymond E. Brown, whom I admire and some of whose books I own, argued against the historicity of the birth narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  I take this point while disagreeing with another one:  Brown considered the account in the Gospel of Luke closer to reality than the one in the Gospel of Matthew.  I reverse that.  I posit that there may have been a natural phenomenon (poetically, a star) that attracted the attention of some Persian astrologers.  This scenario seems plausible.

I, being a detail-oriented person, as well as a self-identified heretic, also wince at the depictions of the shepherds and the Magi together at Bethlehem.  Even if one mistakes the germane accounts in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke for historical stories, one may notice that up to two years separated the stories.  St. Dionysius Exiguus, for all his piety, counted badly.  Herod the Great died in 4 B.C.E.  If one accepts the Massacre of the (Holy) Innocents as being plausible (as I do), then one may wish to notice that the Roman client king ordered the deaths of boys two years old and younger at Bethlehem.  This story, therefore, places the birth of Jesus circa 6 B.C.E.  Either way, St. Dionysius Exiguus still place the birth of Jesus “Before Christ.”  (This is why I use B.C.E. and C.E.)

Whoever wrote or dictated the Epistle to the Ephesians, I am grateful to St. Paul the Apostle, the great evangelist to the Gentiles.  I, as a Gentile, am happy to be in the club of Christ.  I also acknowledge that I, as a Christian, stand on the shoulders of Judaism, a faith I refuse to malign.

The Epiphany–set on the old Eastern date of Christmas–reminds us that God seeks to attract as many followers as possible.  We Gentiles, grafted onto the tree of faith, need to remember that we are a branch, not the trunk, of that tree.  The limits of divine mercy exist, but I do not know where the borders are.  I assume that Judaism and Christianity are the two true faiths.  Yet I do not presume to know who God’s “secret friends”–secret to me–are.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 17, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY OF EGYPT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND FATHER OF WESTERN MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DEICOLA AND GALL, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS; AND SAINT OTHMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AT SAINT GALLEN

THE FEAST OF JAMES WOODROW, SOUTHERN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, NATURALIST, AND ALLEGED HERETIC

THE FEAST OF SAINT PACHOMIUS THE GREAT, FOUNDER OF CHRISTIAN COMMUNAL MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS A. DOOLEY, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PHYSICIAN AND HUMANITARIAN

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Adapted from this post

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Fateful Warnings for Jesus and Jerusalem   Leave a comment

Above:  The Disobedient Children, by Carl Jutz der Altere

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XXXVI

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Luke 13:31-35

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Lest anyone think that Jesus had negative relations with all Pharisees, consider Luke 13:31-33, O reader.  These Pharisees’ warning of the lethal intentions of Herod Antipas seems friendly to Jesus.  Elsewhere in the canonical Gospels, one can identify at least two pro-Jesus Pharisees–Sts. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea–by name.

Herod Antipas, a son of King Herod the Great, was a chip off the old block.  Antipas had ordered the arrest of St. John the Baptist.  Then Antipas, salivating over Salome, his stepdaughter and this half-grandniece, had ordered the execution of St. John the Baptist.  Antipas also wanted that other troublemaker, Jesus, dead.

Jesus was a troublemaker.  He made what the late, great John Lewis called “good trouble.”

Jesus was also en route to Jerusalem to die during the week of Passover.  Not even Herod Antipas, who Jesus contemptuously called “that fox,” could deter Jesus.

The image of Jesus as a mother hen is striking.  This metaphor for God’s relationship to the people of God exists in rabbinic literature and in Deuteronomy 32:11-12; Psalm 36:7; and Isaiah 31:5. In this case, the point is that God has withdrawn divine protection of Jerusalem and perhaps the nation.  This reading fits with the status of Jerusalem and Judea circa 85 C.E., after the First Jewish War.

Another way to interpret the metaphor is in the context of the upcoming crucifixion of Jesus.  A mother hen protects her chicks with her body during a fire in the barnyard.  The chicks live yet the hen dies.  Jesus is like the mother hen, and we are like the chicks.

The interpretation of verse 35 varies.  It may refer to the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, to the Second Coming, or to both.  Given the lenses of hindsight and eschatological expectations in the canonical Gospels, “both” may be the correct answer.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 16, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERTO DE NOBOLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERARD AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN MOROCCO, 1220

THE FEAST OF EDMUND HAMILTON SEARS, U.S. UNITARIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF EDWARD BUNNETT, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUANA MARIA CONDESA LLUCH, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE HANDMAIDS OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION, PROTECTRESS OF WORKERS

THE FEAST OF TIMOTHY RICHARD MATTHEWS, ANGLICAN PRIEST, ORGANIST, AND HYMN TUNE COMPOSER

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Precious to God, Part II   1 comment

Above:  The Tabernacle

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 61:10-62:3

Psalm 147:13-21 (LBW) or Psalm 147:12-20 (LW)

Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-18

John 1:1-18

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Almighty God, you have filled us with the

new light of the Word who became flesh and lived among us. 

Let the light of our faith shine in all that we do;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 15

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O God, our Maker and Redeemer,

who wonderfully created and in the incarnation of your Son

yet more wondrously restored our human nature,

grant that we may ever be alive in him who made himself to be like us;

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

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

Lutheran Worship (1982), 19

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The people of God are precious to God.  All people are precious to God, of course.  I focus on the people of God in this post because that is the axis of the through line in the assigned readings.

The readings from Isaiah and the Psalms, in the context of the Babylonian Exile, speak of the vindication of the Jewish exiles.  Reading the first portion of Psalm 147 augments this theme.

Ephesians 1:5 refers to God having predestined certain people through Jesus Christ “for adoption toward him.”  Adopted children of God receive an inheritance.  The audience in the Epistle to the Ephesians was Gentile Christians.

John 1:14, in the Greek text (not necessarily in most English translations) speaks of the Word (Logos) of God–Jesus–pitching a tent in humankind.  This tent is the Tent of the Tabernacle (Exodus 25:8-9).  John 1:14 contains echoes of Joel 3:7; Zechariah 2:10; Ezekiel 43:7; Sirach 24:8; and other passages.

When the Prologue proclaims that the Word made his dwelling among men, we are being told that the flesh of Jesus Christ is the new localization of the ancient Tabernacle.  The Gospel will present Jesus as the replacement of the Temple (ii.19-22), which is a variation of the same theme.

Raymond E. BrownThe Gospel According to John I-XII (1966), 33

The verb meaning “to pitch a tent” or “to dwell” occurs also in Revelation 7:15 (to refer to God’s presence in Heaven) and in Revelation 21:3:

He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people.

God is present among us.  Do we notice?  God may seem thoroughly camouflaged, given the way the world is.  Yet God, who has long been present, will not depart.  People are precious to God.  Do we notice?  Do we consider others precious to God?  Do we think of ourselves as precious to God?

How we think of ourselves and others dictates how we treat others.  This underpins the Golden Rule.  This also underpins mutuality, a Biblical virtue.

So, how do we think of ourselves and others?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 16, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERTO DE NOBOLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERARD AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN MOROCCO, 1220

THE FEAST OF EDMUND HAMILTON SEARS, U.S. UNITARIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF EDWARD BUNNETT, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUANA MARIA CONDESA LLUCH, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE HANDMAIDS OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION, PROTECTRESS OF WORKERS

THE FEAST OF TIMOTHY RICHARD MATTHEWS, ANGLICAN PRIEST, ORGANIST, AND HYMN TUNE COMPOSER

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Adapted from this post

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Reception and Rejection in the Kingdom of God   Leave a comment

Above:  Herod’s Gate, Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XXXV

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Luke 13:22-30

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Two prominent Lucan themes exist in this passage.  They are: (1) the inclusion of Gentiles, and (2) the reversal of fortune.

Consider the narrative context, O reader:  Jesus was en route to Jerusalem to die.  For all the mixed metaphors, 13:22-30 is about the Jewish rejection of Jesus and the inclusion of faithful Gentiles.  Judgment and mercy coexist in 13:22-30, and many people will be shocked that they do not pass through the narrow door or gate to enjoy the heavenly banquet.

I reject anti-Semitism, an unjustifiable Christian tradition.  Let us–you, O reader, and I–be clear about that as we move forward in this post.  And let us not take the easy way out in (mis)interpreting 13:22-30.

The ultimate message of caution is not to presume on grace.  Our efforts to obey God matter, as faithful response.  They are spiritual fruits.  Yet passage through the narrow gate depends on grace.  Many people exclude themselves by closing themselves to receiving grace.

Consider the context circa 85 C.E., O reader.  The Church was young, small, and growing.  Christianity was still a Jewish sect, albeit one with many Gentile members.  Tensions between Jewish Christians and non-Christian Jews were rising.  And many Christian Jews argued that Gentile Christians must convert to Judaism.  Judaism and Christianity were careening toward a schism, which occurred in 137 C.E., during the Second Jewish War.

The four canonical Gospels, which exist in the shadow of the First Jewish War, include the language of invective, often aimed at non-Christian Jews.  I admit that some of this may be historical in relation to Jesus clashing with religious authorities.  Co-religionists arguing remains a current practice, after all.  Yet I, trained in historical methodology, know that people recount the past through the lens of their present day–circa 85 C.E. for Luke-Acts.  Therefore, we read some circumstances circa 85 C.E. projected onto Jesus’s time.

Invective disturbs me.  Read in historical context, it makes sense.  One can dispassionately interpret invective, especially if one does not have a dog in the fight, so to speak.  Yet, read out of context, invective becomes justification for bigotry and violence, as in the case of Christian anti-Semitism.  I understand the link between centuries of Christian anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.

I dare not pretend to know who will enter through the narrow door or gate and who will not; I am not God.  Besides, not all people who profess of follow Jesus will make the cut anyway.  I do, however, notice a common thread in Covenantal Nomism (of Second Temple Judaism) and Luke 13:22-30:  Salvation is by grace, with the obligation to obey moral and ethical mandates.  Repeatedly and unrepentantly violating and disregarding those mandates leads to damnation.  God damns nobody, but people damn themselves

So, what are we supposed to make of grace?  In the U.S. South, we say that grace is like grits; it comes with everything.  (I dislike grits, by the way.)  I recall a t-shirt I wore until I washed it too many times.  It read:

GRACE HAPPENS.

BLOGA THEOLOGICA is a PG-related weblog, so I will not name what, in the vernacular, usually happens.  After that usual thing happens, grace happens.  Yet scripture keeps warning against behaving badly and presuming on grace; this is a theme in both Testaments.  Furthermore, as the the late Episcopal Bishop Henry Irving Louttit, Jr., said in my hearing:

Baptism is not fire insurance.

As for the Jews, I affirm that God’s covenant for them remains.  I, as a Gentile, come in via a second covenant.  Covenants are, by definition, about grace.  A covenant is not a contract; it is not a transactional relationship.

Grace is free yet not cheap.  Grace requires much of its recipients; they may even die because they fulfill these duties.  Grace also imposes the responsibility to extend grace to each other.  Saying and writing that last sentence is easy.  Living it is difficult, though.  But living grace is possible via grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 14, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACRINA THE ELDER, HER FAMILY, AND SAINT GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE YOUNGER

THE FEAST OF ABBY KELLEY FOSTER AND HER HUSBAND, STEPHEN SYMONDS FOSTER, U.S. QUAKER ABOLITIONISTS AND FEMINISTS

THE FEAST OF EIVIND JOSEF BERGGRAV, LUTHERAN BISHOP OF OSLO, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND LEADER OF THE NORWEGIAN RESISTANCE DURING WORLD WAR II

THE FEAST OF KRISTEN KVAMME, NORWEGIAN-AMERICAN HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MEUX BENSON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST; CHARLES CHAPMAN GRAFTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, CO-FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST, AND BISHOP OF FOND DU LAC; AND CHARLES GORE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WORCESTER, BIRMINGHAM, AND OXFORD; FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE RESURRECTION; THEOLOGIAN; AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AND WORLD PEACE

THE FEAST OF SAVA I, FOUNDER OF THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH AND FIRST ARCHBISHOP OF SERBS

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The Faithfulness of God, Part V   1 comment

Above:  The Return from Egypt, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 63:7-9

Psalm 111

Galatians 4:4-7

Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

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Almighty God, you wonderfully created

and yet more wonderfully restored the dignity of human nature. 

In your mercy, let us share the divine life of Jesus Christ

who came to share our humanity,

and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 14

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Direct us, O Lord, in all our actions by your gracious favor,

and further us with your continual help that in all our works,

begun, continued, and ended in your name,

we may glorify your holy name and

finally by your mercy receive eternal life;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Lutheran Worship (1982), 18

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Isaiah 63:7-64:11 is a psalm of lament.  For this week, we read the first three verses.  For more context, O reader, keep reading.  The theme of human (collective) faithlessness, in contrast to divine faithfulness, is prominent.  That theme runs through the other readings, too.

Yet some people are faithful.  They may be Jews or Zoroastrians (Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23).  Either way, they do what God commands.  They may be Jews or Gentiles (Galatians 4:4-7).  They are heirs–literally, sons of God.  (Sons inherited in St. Paul the Apostle’s cultural context.  Daughters did not.)

Grace is free, not cheap.  Just ask God–Jesus, in particular, O reader.  Grace also requires much of its recipients.  Grace transforms its recipients and the world, by extension.  Grace requires faithful response to God, whom nobody should mistake for a divine vending machine.  Yet certain results are predictable.  As logicians remind us:

If x, then y.

In personal matters, I speak and write only for myself, and aspire to do only that.  In my experience, God and grace have seemed closest during dark times.  I have grown the most, spiritually, when the proverbial bottom has fallen out of my life.  God and grace may have been as close during better times, but I have perceived them as being closer during worse times.  Maybe the light merely seemed brighter in contrast to the darkness.

I acknowledge my dependence on grace.  Daily I establish the goal to be the best possible version of myself.  I, being a mere mortal, fail, of course.  But striving for that goal is worthwhile.  It is something.  God can work with something.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 14, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACRINA THE ELDER, HER FAMILY, AND SAINT GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE YOUNGER

THE FEAST OF ABBY KELLEY FOSTER AND HER HUSBAND, STEPHEN SYMONDS FOSTER, U.S. QUAKER ABOLITIONISTS AND FEMINISTS

THE FEAST OF EIVIND JOSEF BERGGRAV, LUTHERAN BISHOP OF OSLO, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND LEADER OF THE NORWEGIAN RESISTANCE DURING WORLD WAR II

THE FEAST OF KRISTEN KVAMME, NORWEGIAN-AMERICAN HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MEUX BENSON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST; CHARLES CHAPMAN GRAFTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, CO-FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST, AND BISHOP OF FOND DU LAC; AND CHARLES GORE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WORCESTER, BIRMINGHAM, AND OXFORD; FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE RESURRECTION; THEOLOGIAN; AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AND WORLD PEACE

THE FEAST OF SAVA I, FOUNDER OF THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH AND FIRST ARCHBISHOP OF SERBS

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Adapted from this post

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