The Scandal of Grace V   1 comment

Above:   Jesus Healing an Infirm Woman on the Sabbath, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Prepare our hearts, O Lord, to accept thy Word.

Silence us in any voice but thine own, that hearing, we may also obey thy will;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 121

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Exodus 2:23-3:12

Romans 6:1-11

Luke 13:10-21

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Sometimes God works in ways that surprise and perhaps scandalize us.  Consider three examples, O reader.

God called Moses, a murderer and a fugitive prince with a speech impediment, to return to Egypt, confront the Pharaoh, and lead the Hebrews out of slavery.  (No pressure!)  God spoke through a burning bush–sort of a burning bush; it did not burn.

Jesus healed on the sabbath more than once.  Healing on the sabbath was allegedly inappropriate.  Keeping the sabbath was one of the marks of a faithful Jew and of covenant community.  Did Jesus transgress one of the defining marks of his people?

The crucifixion of Jesus, in grand and terrible Foucaultian style, was as far as the Roman executioners were concerned, a way of shaming and exterminating him in public.  God had other plans, as the resurrection indicated.  The crucifixion was a great scandal into the time of the early church.  The author of the Gospel of John went so far as to make the scandalous claim that the crucifixion of Christ was the glorification of Jesus.

Today the Biblical stories and teachings lead us, as if we pay attention, to behave scandalously–by showing compassion to members of certain politically controversial populations, for example.  Grace impels us to take up our crosses, follow Jesus, and love–all the way into scandal, even.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 23, 2019 COMMON ERA

PROPER 7:  THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF JOHN JOHNS, PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH GOTTLOB GUTTER, GERMAN-AMERICAN INSTRUMENT MAKER, REPAIRMAN, AND MERCHANT

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETAS OF REMESIANA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILHELM HEINRICH WAUER, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN

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Light in the Darkness, Part V   2 comments

Above:  Candle Flame

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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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The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18

Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22

2 Timothy 3:1-5, 14-4:4

Mark 14:26-52

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As St. Augustine of Hippo reminded us, we should love God most of all.  God is, for lack of a better word, God.  Kingdoms, empires, and nation-states rise and fall, but God remains.  Authorities arrest innocent people, but God remains.  We fail God, but God remains.  Immorality is endemic, but God remains.  And God is, in the words of Psalm 107,

very great indeed.

Although injustice (the opposite of righteousness in the Bible) is endemic, this will not always be so.  Eventually the fully realized Kingdom God will be present on the Earth.  Until then we must, as we wait, keep the faith and show the light of God in the darkness, so that the darkness will not be as dark as it would be otherwise.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 23, 2019 COMMON ERA

PROPER 7:  THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF JOHN JOHNS, PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH GOTTLOB GUTTER, GERMAN-AMERICAN INSTRUMENT MAKER, REPAIRMAN, AND MERCHANT

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETAS OF REMESIANA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILHELM HEINRICH WAUER, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2019/06/23/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-b-humes/

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Judgment and Mercy, Part XIII   Leave a comment

Above:  The Finding of Moes, by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third Sunday in Lent, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O God, who seest that we are prone to bring back the troubles of yesterday,

and to forecast the cares of tomorrow:

give us grace to throw off our fears and anxieties, as our Lord hath commanded;

that, this and every day, we may by kept in thy peace;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 121

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Exodus 2:1-15

Romans 5:1-11

Luke 9:51-62

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The balance of divine judgment and mercy interests me.  Both seem to be like sides of a coin; judgment for some is part of mercy for others, and mercy tempers judgment.

Mercy does not eliminate properly high standards of conduct, of course.  Excuses for not following Jesus are never acceptable.  Abusing slaves is always wrong.  Having slaves is always morally unacceptable.  Sometimes violence in the defense of slaves or by slaves is the only way to resist oppression in the moment.  Yet even oppressors are people for whom Jesus died.

If we remember that, we will know how to leave certain judgments to God, even as we sometimes have to defend others or ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 22, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBAN, FIRST BRITISH MARTYR

THE FEAST OF DESIDERIUS ERASMUS, DUTCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, BIBLICAL AND CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, AND CONTROVERSIALIST; SAINT JOHN FISHER, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, BISHOP OF ROCHESTER, CARDINAL, AND MARTYR; AND SAINT THOMAS MORE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, JURIST, THEOLOGIAN, CONTROVERSIALIST, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF GERHARD GIESCHEN, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF YORK, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NOLA

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Posted June 22, 2019 by neatnik2009 in Exodus 2, Luke 9, Romans 5

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Execution and Character Assassination   1 comment

Above:  Daniel in the Lions’ Den

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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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The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 6:4-24

Psalm 19

2 Timothy 2:16-26

Mark 14:12-25

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As I wrote in the previous post in this lectionary series, Darius the Mede, supposed predecessor of Cyrus II after the Persian conquest of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, was ahistorical and contradictory of other Biblical accounts.  Attempts to explain “Darius the Mede” away by claiming that “king” is a translation error have not convinced me, for the text of Daniel 6 states plainly that he was a predecessor of Cyrus II.  (The word translated “king” can also refer to another high-ranking government official; that is an accurate statement.  However, read Chapter 6 from beginning to end and place the end and the beginning of that chapter in context of each other.)  The author of Daniel 6 wrote theology, not history.

I stand with the facts.  While doing so, I ponder the theology of the story of Daniel in the lions’ den, relate the story to other readings, and create a devotional post that covers the four assigned lessons.

I do not wish to attempt to reduce the causes of the crucifixion of Jesus to just one, for I know better than that.  When I read Mark 14:12-25 beside Daniel 6, however, I detect a common thread–the jealousy of people of lesser character.  Psalm 19 extols the Law of God.  A servant of God seeks to be as blameless as possible.  That is consistent with the advice in 2 Timothy 2:16-26.

Both Daniel and Jesus became threats, because of who they were and how good they were, to people of lesser character.  In the fictional account of Daniel and the lions’ den, Daniel emerged unscathed.  Jesus of Nazareth died terribly, however.  Then he rose again a few days later, of course.

We mere mortals are imperfect; we all have proverbial skeletons in the closet.  The best of us is not proud of certain deeds he or she has committed, as well as certain sins of omission.  Perhaps we will not be at risk of murder or another form of killing, but character assassination can be a great peril.  This is especially true in the digital age; nothing really goes away on the Internet, and social media is frequently a cesspool.

When we recognize someone who is morally superior to us, we need to confess our sins and seek to become better people, not seek to destroy that person.  We have the Golden Rule to obey, after all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 22, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBAN, FIRST BRITISH MARTYR

THE FEAST OF DESIDERIUS ERASMUS, DUTCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, BIBLICAL AND CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, AND CONTROVERSIALIST; SAINT JOHN FISHER, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, BISHOP OF ROCHESTER, CARDINAL, AND MARTYR; AND SAINT THOMAS MORE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, JURIST, THEOLOGIAN, CONTROVERSIALIST, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF GERHARD GIESCHEN, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF YORK, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NOLA

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2019/06/22/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-in-lent-year-b-humes/

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God of the Jews and the Gentiles   Leave a comment

Above:  Israel in Egypt, by Edward Poynter

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Second Sunday in Lent, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Lord Jesus Christ, our only King, who came in the form of a servant:

control our wills and restrain our selfish ambitions,

that we may seek thy glory above all things and fulfill our lives in thee.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 121

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Exodus 1:1-14

Romans 3:19-31

Mark 9:30-37

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Do you suppose that God is the God of the Jews alone?  Is he not the God of Gentiles also?  Certainly, of Gentiles also.

–Romans 3:29, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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Nevertheless, many of the Gentiles do not know this.  And, if many of them have heard this, they disregard it.

God is the God of both the oppressed and the oppressors, of the slaves and the salve drivers, of the executed and the executioners.  God is never in question, given divine faithfulness, mercy, and judgment; the promises of God are sure.  Human relationships to God  (or the lack thereof) are in question, though.  Related to those relationships are our relationships to each other.  Human relationships frequently belie any claims to human pride, and nobody looks adequate in the light of God.

Do we ponder any people and write them off spiritually?  If we do, we err.  That is not our judgment call to make.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 21, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALOYSIUS GONZAGA, JESUIT

THE FEAST OF BERNARD ADAM GRUBE, GERMAN-AMERICAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, COMPOSER, AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF CARL BERNHARD GARVE, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN JONES AND JOHN RIGBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Posted June 21, 2019 by neatnik2009 in Exodus 1, Mark 9, Romans 3

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Humility Before God, Part V   3 comments

Above:  Belshazzar’s Feast, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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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The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 5:1-7, 17-30

Psalm 22:23-31

2 Timothy 2:1-15

Mark 14:1-11

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Before I address my main point, I write about two historical problems with Daniel 5 and 6.  Belshazzar was never a king, for example.  His father was Nabonidus (reigned 556-539 B.C.E.), the last king of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  In 539 B.C.E. Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire .  Darius the Mede (6:1), a supposed predecessor of Cyrus II, was fictitious.  At best Belshazzar was the regent or viceroy his father when his father was away.  The chronology within the Book of Daniel makes no sense, regardless of whether one restricts oneself to the Hebrew version or the version with Greek additions. The Book of Daniel is not history; its chronology contradicts other portions of the Hebrew Bible.  That fact does not mean, of course, that we cannot read it in a spiritually profitable manner.

Humility before God is a theme running through the assigned readings.  Belshazzar was far from humble before God.  The author of Psalm 22 preached the virtues of being in the awe of God, a term we usually read or hear translated as “fear of God.”  St. Paul the Apostle, who knew much about ego, obeyed God and suffered for his obedience.  The unnamed woman who anointed Jesus at the home of Simon the leper in Bethany demonstrated extravagant love and humility; she did not care about how she looked.

To be humble is to be down to earth, literally.  In the context of God each of us should recognize his or her relative insignificance.  Yet we bear the image of God, as Cyrus II was.  Divine grace can flow through us to others.  That should be sufficient status for us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 21, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALOYSIUS GONZAGA, JESUIT

THE FEAST OF BERNARD ADAM GRUBE, GERMAN-AMERICAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, COMPOSER, AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF CARL BERNHARD GARVE, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN JONES AND JOHN RIGBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2019/06/21/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-in-lent-year-b-humes/

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Faithful Servants of God, Part XII   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Crucifixion

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday in Lent, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty God, who givest us our quiet seasons of thought and prayer:

help us now and at all times to find in thee our true peace.

Save us in the hour of trial, deliver us from evil thoughts and desires,

and from the tyranny of outward things.

May we learn of Christ to be strong and brave in the struggle with temptation,

and to over come even as he overcame.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 120-121

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Isaiah 42:1-9

Hebrews 2:9-18

Luke 9:14-29

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The servant of God in Isaiah 42 is the personification of the people of Israel.  The servant is a covenant people assigned to turn the world upside-down for God.  Reading Isaiah 42 in such a way as to find a prediction of Jesus is an old practice.  One can identify much that Jesus and the servant in Isaiah 42 had in common.

Yet, in another way, the servant in Isaiah 42 is the people of God in each generation.  In Christian terms the servant is the personification of those who take up their crosses and follow Jesus.  The radical agenda of the servant is to show the light to those in darkness, to free prisoners, and to glorify God.  The servant in Isaiah 42, marked by love, will be a threat to all those institutions and people who benefit from the darkness.  The servant does not fit into the societal status quo.

To serve God in this way is to pursue a high and (potentially) dangerous calling.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 20, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH AUGUSTUS SEISS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CHARLES COFFIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HANS ADOLF BRORSON, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHANN FRIEDRICH HERTZOG, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

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Posted June 20, 2019 by neatnik2009 in Hebrews 2, Isaiah 42, Luke 9

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