The Faithfulness of God, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  Coastal Landscape with Balaam and the Ass, by Bartholomeus Breenburgh

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third Sunday after Easter, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty God, who showest to them that be in error the light of thy truth,

to the intent that they may return into the way of righteousness;

grant unto all them that are admitted into the fellowship of Christ’s religion

that they may avoid those things that are contrary to their profession,

and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same;

through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 169-170

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Numbers 22:1-21

Psalms 121 and 123:1-3a

Revelation 3:1-6

John 16:12-22

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Appearances deceive sometimes.  Consider, O reader, the case of the church at ancient Sardis at the time of the writing of Revelation.  We read that, despite its reputation, the congregation was spiritually dead.  There was still hope, however, we read.

After all, one purpose of pronouncing judgment is to convince people to repent, so that condemnation ill no longer is necessary.

Do the right thing, we read.  God will help you to do it, we read as we continue.  God is faithful, the readings tell us.

Do we believe that?  The beginning of evil is the rejection of all the above.  When we think that God does not exist or does not care, at least, we conclude that we can and must do everything on our own.  Then we slip into amorality; the ends justify the means, we tell ourselves.

Trusting in the faithfulness of God liberates us to grow into our best spiritual selves, thereby leaving the world better than we found it.

May we trust in God, or continue to do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 7, 2020 COMMON ERA

TUESDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF SAINT TIKHON OF MOSCOW, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT GEORGE THE YOUNGER, GREEK ORTHODOX BISHOP OF MITYLENE

THE FEAST OF JAY THOMAS STOCKING, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MONTFORD SCOTT, EDMUND GENNINGS, HENRY WALPOLE, AND THEIR FELLOW MARTYRS, 1591 AND 1595

THE FEAST OF RANDALL DAVIDSON, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

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Son of Encouragement   1 comment

Above:  St. Barnabas

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:

Acts 11:19-30

Psalm 23

1 Thessalonians 2:9-20

Luke 14:15-24

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A few themes converge in this set of readings.  Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.  Only divine love may pursue the faithful in Psalm 23, but the enemies have pronounced judgment on themselves.  Indeed, one may understand the wrath of God as proverbial chickens to roost.  Accepting an invitation to the divine banquet then making bad excuses for not attending is a bad option.  On the other hand, encouraging others in the faith, as St. Joseph Barnabas did to and with St. Paul the Apostle, is a wise course of action.

“Barnabas” means “Son of Encouragement.”  That is a fitting name for the saint.

May each of us be a ____ of encouragement–a son, daughter, brother, sister, uncle, father, mother, neighbor, friend, et cetera–of encouragement.  The emphasis  belongs on “of encouragement.”  May we encourage each other in Christ, so that we all may achieve our full stature in Christ, not pronounce judgment on ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 7, 2020 COMMON ERA

TUESDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF SAINT TIKHON OF MOSCOW, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT GEORGE THE YOUNGER, GREEK ORTHODOX BISHOP OF MITYLENE

THE FEAST OF JAY THOMAS STOCKING, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MONTFORD SCOTT, EDMUND GENNINGS, HENRY WALPOLE, AND THEIR FELLOW MARTYRS, 1591 AND 1595

THE FEAST OF RANDALL DAVIDSON, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2020/04/07/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-of-easter-year-c-humes/

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Good and Bad Shepherds, Part IV   Leave a comment

Above:  The New Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Second Sunday after Easter, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty God, who hast given thine only Son to be unto us

both a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life;

give us grace that we may always most thankfully receive his inestimable benefit,

and also daily endeavor ourselves to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life;

through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 168

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Ezekiel 34:11-16

Psalm 148

Revelation 21:10-14, 21-27

John 21:15-25

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The pericope from Ezekiel 34, read narrowly, condemns bad Hebrew monarchs–shepherds, figuratively–who tended themselves, not the flock (the people).  Read broadly, the passage condemns all political and religious leaders who have or still do tend themselves, not the flock.  In John 21 we read of Jesus telling St. Simon Peter to

feed my sheep.

In Revelation 21 we read of God finally displacing the bad shepherds, fulfilling the promise of Ezekiel 34.

One function of stating an ideal in prophecy is to establish a high standard, thereby pointing to to all who fall short of that standard.  In our time this is what much the Apocalypse of John (Revelation) does effectively.  The current world order falls far short of the divine order’s high standard.  Corruption and deceit persist.  God must act because, too often, many people acquiesce or cooperate instead of doing their duty.

On the level short of international, national, or state/provincial politics, much less denominational leadership, I know of congregations that have disbanded because that was the only feasible option after a person or a few people (usually lay members) in positions of influence or authority have tended themselves, not to flock.  This predatory shepherding is detrimental to the flock.  On the rational level, such negative behavior makes no sense.  Why act out of perceived self-interest and thereby damage, destroy, and soil one’s own nest?  The answer, of course, is that these malefactors are irrational and do not know what they are really doing.

May all shepherds be good shepherds.  May they tend their flocks, not themselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 6, 2020 COMMON ERA

MONDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 413

THE FEAST OF BENJAMIN HALL KENNEDY, GREEK AND LATIN SCHOLAR, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF DANIEL G. C. WU, CHINESE-AMERICAN EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF EMIL BRUNNER, SWISS REFORMED THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF MILNER BALL, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, LAW PROFESSOR, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS, AND HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT NOKTER BALBULUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Not Standing in God’s Way   1 comment

Above:  St. Simon Peter

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:

Acts 11:1-18

Psalm 30

1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

Luke 24:36-53

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The four assigned readings share the context of an uneasy situation.  We read a prayer of thanksgiving of a person who has recovered from a potentially fatal illness in Psalm 30.  The slime in the pit of Sheol will not praise God, but a living person does.  We also read of St. Simon Peter defending his actions (from Acts 10) to his fellow Jewish Christians, whom he persuades.  We read of past suffering in 1 Thessalonians 2.  And we read of Jesus comforting and empowering frightened Apostles in Luke 24.

My keynote for this post comes from Acts 11:17b:

How could I stand in God’s way?

The Revised English Bible (1989)

When God refuses to fit into or respect the categories that provide psychological comfort to us and reinforce our defense mechanisms, how do we respond or react?  Do we respond or do we react?  (Yes, those words have different definitions.)  Many of us, regardless of where we fall on the liberal-conservative scale overall and on each issue, identify ourselves as insiders and others as outsiders.  Outsiders exist, of course, but God’s criteria for defining insiders and outsiders differ from ours.  And what if one who imagines oneself to be an insider is actually an outsider?

No devout person tries to stand in God’s way, I suppose.  Yet many do, sometimes.  We humans frequently mistake our standards for those of God.  We may do our best, according to what we know or think we know, but we can and do err.

May we, by grace, never stand in God’s way.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 6, 2020 COMMON ERA

MONDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 413

THE FEAST OF BENJAMIN HALL KENNEDY, GREEK AND LATIN SCHOLAR, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF DANIEL G. C. WU, CHINESE-AMERICAN EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF EMIL BRUNNER, SWISS REFORMED THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF MILNER BALL, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, LAW PROFESSOR, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS, AND HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT NOKTER BALBULUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2020/04/06/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-of-easter-year-c-humes/

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Going Forward With Christ   Leave a comment

Above:  The Miraculous Catch of 153 Fish

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday after Easter, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty God, who hast brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ,

the glorious Prince of Salvation, with everlasting power over hell and the grave;

grant unto us power, we beseech thee, to rise with him to newness of life,

that we may overcome the world with the victory of faith,

and have part at last in the resurrection of the just;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 165-166

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Job 19:25-27

Psalm 103

Romans 6:1-14

John 21:1-14

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For my analysis of Job 19:25-27, O reader, follow the “Job 19” tag.

Psalm 103 speaks of the balance of divine judgment and mercy.  God has realistic standards for us.  God knows that we are, proverbially, clay and dust, and that our days are, poetically, likes those of grass and flowers.  Moral perfectionism is an impossible and spiritually toxic standard, as well as a heresy.  We still need to be dead to sin, though, as we read in Romans 6.  We have access to divine grace, fortunately.

The main idea I gleaned from the New Testament readings is “no turning back.”  After Jesus, nothing is the same.  Even if we try to to, in the words of Tom Wolfe, “go home again,” we cannot.  If home still exists, it has changed since we left it.  There is no going back; we must go forward.

I cannot tell you, O reader, what going forward with Christ means, with regard to details, for you.  The principle is timeless, but circumstances are variable.  Regardless of the circumstances, may you go forward with Christ, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 5, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SUNDAY OF THE PASSION:  PALM SUNDAY, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF ANDRÉ, MAGDA, AND DANIEL TROCMÉ, RIGHTEOUS GENTILES

THE FEAST OF EMILY AYCKBOWM, FOUNDRESS OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE SISTERS OF THE CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIANO DE LA MATA APARICIO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY AND EDUCATOR IN BRAZIL

THE FEAST OF PAULINE SPERRY, MATHETMATICIAN, PHILANTHROPIST, AND ACTIVIST; AND HER BROTHER, WILLARD LEAROYD SPERRY, CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, ETHICIST, THEOLOGIAN, AND DEAN OF HARVARD LAW SCHOOL

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM DERHAM, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND SCIENTIST

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Posted April 5, 2020 by neatnik2009 in Job 19, John 21, Psalm 103, Romans 6

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Regarding Faith and Reason III   1 comment

Above:  Supper at Emmaus, by Caravaggio

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:

Acts 10:1-20

Psalm 150

1 Thessalonians 1

Luke 24:13-25

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Easter is a season with eight Sundays, the last one being Pentecost.  Take heart, O reader; we have much more Easter to celebrate.

One theme in this Sunday’s readings is that the Jewish-Christian God is the universal deity, not a tribal god.  Yes, Gentiles are welcome at the party of salvation, too.  That salvation is possible because of the other theme, the resurrection of Jesus.  In the context of Luke 24, this is a truth two small groups of people announced to St. Simon Peter in one day.  Furthermore, these two groups had not coordinated their stories, as criminals rehearse the false alibis.

We who live nearly two millennia after these events have a challenge first-hand witnesses lacked.  We either accept the resurrection on faith or we reject it on lack of faith.  We can neither prove nor disprove it.  I choose to accept it.

This is not as big a leap of faith for me as it is for many others.  Yes, I embrace reason and accept science.  I recognize much merit in the Enlightenment, which influences how I think.  I am a modernist, not a postmodernist.  I also know from experience that Enlightenment and scientific categories, as we usually define them, do not account for everything.  Reason is a gift from God.  I, as a practicing Episcopalian, incorporate reason into my faith.  I also understand that reason takes me far, but not all the way to the empty tomb.  Reason is a tool in my toolbox of faith; it is not an idol.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 5, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SUNDAY OF THE PASSION:  PALM SUNDAY, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF ANDRÉ, MAGDA, AND DANIEL TROCMÉ, RIGHTEOUS GENTILES

THE FEAST OF EMILY AYCKBOWM, FOUNDRESS OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE SISTERS OF THE CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIANO DE LA MATA APARICIO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY AND EDUCATOR IN BRAZIL

THE FEAST OF PAULINE SPERRY, MATHETMATICIAN, PHILANTHROPIST, AND ACTIVIST; AND HER BROTHER, WILLARD LEAROYD SPERRY, CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, ETHICIST, THEOLOGIAN, AND DEAN OF HARVARD LAW SCHOOL

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM DERHAM, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND SCIENTIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2020/04/05/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-of-easter-year-c-humes/

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Regarding Faith and Reason II   2 comments

Above:  Icon of the Resurrection

Image in the Public Domain

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For Easter Sunday, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty God, who through the resurrection of thine only begotten Son Jesus Christ,

hast overcome death and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life;

assist and support us, we beseech thee, the aspirations of thy heavenly grace,

that dying unto sin always, and living unto righteousness,

we may at last triumph over death and the grave, in the full image of our risen Lord:

to whom, with thee and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 163

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Isaiah 25:1-9

Psalm 118:14-29

1 Corinthians 15:12-28

John 20:1-10

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If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied.  But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

–1 Corinthians 15:19-20, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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I am, to a great extent, a product of the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment.  I make no apologies for this; I value science, evidence, objective reality, liberty of conscience, constitutional government, human reason, the separation of powers, and the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and dissent.  Call me a radical, if you wish, O reader.  I call myself an Episcopalian.  I get to believe in Jesus and accept fossil records, rock layers, geological time, dinosaurs, and evolution.  I am a modernist in both the Enlightenment and late nineteenth-century meanings of that word.

I do not pretend, however, that my intellectual categories are sufficient for all circumstances.  My scientific, Enlightenment, and historical categories prove helpful most of the time.  As I age, however, I find, much to my surprise, that mysticism is becoming a more prominent component of my spirituality.

I also understand the difference between faith and proof.  I need no faith to accept that which I can prove.  I can also disprove many subjective claims by citing objective evidence.  Faith his how believes that which is true yet one can neither prove nor disprove.

I know that human nature is corrupted (despite what certain Enlightenment philosophers argued) because I study the past and have something of a grasp of current events.  I have as much of a grasp of current events as I can without crossing the line into my spiritual and psychological detriment.  I have as much of a grasp of current events as possible without risking turning into General George Patton’s ideal man–one who can swear profanely for three minutes consistently without repeating any word.  Human depravity is a certainty–a fact–for me; it is not an article of faith for me.  On the other hand, I accept the existence of God on faith.  In fact the I reject the possibility of proving the existence of God logically.

Likewise, I believe (trust, literally) in the resurrection of Jesus.  I do so by faith.  I do not know that the resurrection is true; I believe (trust) that it is.  I stake everything on it being true.  I know that Jesus was a historical figure, but I believe that he was the incarnate Son of God, crucified and resurrected.

The resurrection of Jesus is one of the relatively few Christian doctrines one must accept to be a Christian.  The Virgin Birth is an optional doctrine, for example, but the Incarnation is not.  One may also choose to accept or reject the Immaculate Conception of St. Mary of Nazareth and be a Christian either way.  (Yes, I understand the difference between the Immaculate Conception and the Virgin Birth.  The first sets the stage for the second.)  As I was writing, the resurrection of Jesus, like the Incarnation, is mandatory for inclusion in the Christian faith.  Without the resurrection, we have a dead Jesus, who cannot save anyone from any sins and their consequences.  The resurrection completes the atonement, according to the Classic Theory of the Atonement, or Christus Victor.

The resurrection also contradicts and violates most of my intellectual categories.  So be it.

Happy Easter!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 4, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT THE AFRICAN, FRANCISCAN FRIAR AND HERMIT

THE FEAST OF ALFRED C. MARBLE, JR., EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF MISSISSIPPI THEN ASSISTING BISHOP OF NORTH CAROLINA

THE FEAST OF ERNEST W. SHURTLEFF, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., U.S. CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER, AND MARTYR, 1968

THE FEAST OF SIDNEY LOVETT, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND CHAPLAIN OF YALE UNIVERSITY

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