Archive for November 2011

Epiphanies   1 comment

Above:  Magi

What do we see?

A young child?

A king?

God incarnate?

The Messiah?

The Savior?

A martyr?

A sage?

A revolutionary?

A threat?

A promise?

How do we understand what we see?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 7, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANCOIS FENELON, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CAMBRAI

THE FEAST OF JULIUS WELLHAUSEN, BIBLE SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUCIAN OF ANTIOCH, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/06/epiphanies/

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Posted November 29, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Matthew 2

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The Journey   1 comment

Above:  The Journey of the Magi

Image Source = Nina-No

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Magi_(1).jpg)

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Traveling far and for many months

To a foreign land

To seek a king

Whose sign is in the sky

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Traveling across the desert

Leaving the comforts of home behind

To embark on a sacred quest

And a storied journey

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Traveling abroad

At great physical risk

To visit a young king

And present him gifts

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 29, 2009 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF SAINT THOMAS BECKET, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY 

THE FEAST OF JOSIAH CONDER, ABOLITIONIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF AUSTIN FARRER, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/06/the-journey/

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Posted November 29, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Matthew 2

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Piercing the Darkness   1 comment

Midnight Sun, Nordkapp, Norway

Image Source = Yan Zhang

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Midnight_sun.jpg)

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In the midst of

The darkness

Of night

And

Of human brokenness,

Divine light

Burst forth

To bridge the gap

Between

Humankind

And

God.

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Reconciliation

And

Atonement

Began–

Yet in the shadow in of

Another darkness–

Death.

Yet even that darkness

Fell

(In Time)

To Divine Intervention.

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The light shines in the darkness,

And frightens us,

For the darkness is familiar.

God comes to us,

And we turn away,

Out of fear,

Or willfulness,

or misplaced certainty.

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God challenges our traditions,

So we choose the familiar path,

The road well-traveled.

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Yet

The narrative can be different.

We can–

We must–

Follow the light,

Walk out of our cave,

And

Embrace the way of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2009 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARIA STEWART, EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB, FOUNDER OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT OLYMPIAS, DEACONESS

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/06/piercing-the-darkness/

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Posted November 26, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Luke 2, Matthew 2

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Nativity   1 comment

Above:  Relief of the Nativity, St. Peter’s Cathedral, Worms, Germany

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God incarnate

In full humanness

Vulnerable

Yet mighty

A mystery

To venerate

Not to attempt to understand

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 21, 2009 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THOMAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/06/nativity/

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Posted November 26, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Luke 2, Matthew 2

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Love Descended   2 comments

Above:  The Traditional Site of the Birth of Jesus, at the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, Israel

DECEMBER 25:  CHRISTMAS DAY IN THE WESTERN CHURCH

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The Collect:

O God, you make us glad by the yearly festival of the birth of your only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that we, who joyfully receive him as our Redeemer, may with sure confidence behold him when he comes to be our Judge; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The Revised Common Lectionary lists three sets of readings for Christmas Day.

Set One:

Isaiah 9:2-7

Psalm 96

Titus 2:11-14

Luke 2:1-14, (15-20)

Set Two:

Isaiah 62:6-12

Psalm 97

Titus 3:4-7

Luke 2:(1-7), 8-20

Set Three:

Isaiah 52:7-10

Psalm 98

Hebrews 1:1-4, (5-12)

John 1:1-14

I choose to list the scriptural citations for Christmas Day and proceed to my thoughts.

Part One:

December 25 is the first day of Christmas; January 5 is the last.  There are twelve days of Christmas.  So I encourage everyone to think in terms of this sacred time, not commercial time.  I live in North America, where many retailers put out their Christmas displays before Halloween.  History tells me that many Evangelicals over time have either ignored Christmas (as too Roman Catholic) or preferred it as a secular, commercial celebration of the family, or complained about excessive commercialization.  (They have correct in this matter only in the last example.  For more details, follow this link.

So I hope you, O reader, will keep a sacred Christmas season without falling into crankiness about crass commercialism.  Life is too short to be habitually irritated.  Let us enjoy God instead.

I refer you also to this post.

Part Two:

We bore the image of God yet disregarded God, gave God inadequate attention, mistreated each other, institutionalized injustice, and misunderstood divine demands.

So God spoke through the Prophets.

Yet we persisted in our misguided ways.

So Love descended, became one of us (yet much more), and demonstrated righteousness.

We murdered Love.

Yet God raised Love from the dead.

We persist in our misguided ways.

And God is still speaking.

Are we listening?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 4, 2010 (THE FEAST OF JOHN XXIII, BISHOP OF ROME)

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/first-day-of-christmas-christmas-day/

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“It Came Upon the Midnight Clear….”   1 comment

Above:  Constellation Perseus (February 1, 2011)

Image Source = Jet Propulsion Laboratory

(http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=PIA13458)

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Wisdom of Solomon 18:14-16; 19:6-9 (Revised English Bible):

(Context = The Exodus from Egypt, beginning with the last plague)

All things were lying in peace and silence, and night in her swift course was half spent, when your all-powerful word leapt from your royal throne in heaven like a relentless warrior, bearing the sharp sword of your inflexible decree; with his head touching the heavens and his feet on earth he stood and spread death everywhere.

The whole creation, with all its elements, was refashioned in subservience to your commands, in order that your servants might be preserved unscathed.  They gazed at the cloud that overshadowed the camp, at dry land emerging where before was only water, at an open road leading out of the Red Sea, and a grassy plain in place of stormy waves, across which the whole nation passed under the protection of your hand, after witnessing amazing portents.  They were like horses at pasture, like skipping lambs as they praised you, O Lord, by whom they were rescued.

Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name;

make known his deeds among the peoples.

2 Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of his marvelous works.

Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

Search for the LORD and his strength;

continually seek his face.

Remember the marvels he has done;

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O childrenof Jacob his chosen.

37 He led out his people with silver and gold;

in all their tribes there was not one that stumbled.

38 Egypt was glad of their going,

because they were afraid of them.

39 He spread out a cloud for a covering,

and a fire to give light in the night season.

40 They asked, and quails appeared,

and he satisfied them with bread from heaven.

41 He opened the rock, and water flowed,

so the river ran in dry places.

42 For God remembered his holy word

and Abraham his servant.

43 So he led forth his people with gladness,

his chosen with shouts of joy.

44 He gave his people the lands of the nations,

and they took the fruit of others’ toil,

45 That they might keep his statutes

and observe his laws.

Hallelujah!

Luke 18:1-8 (Revised English Bible):

Jesus told them a parable to show that they should keep on praying and never lose heart.

In a certain city there was a judge who had no fear of God or respect for man, and in the same city there was a widow who kept coming before him to demand justice against her opponent.  For a time he refused; but in the end he said to himself, “Although I have no fear of God or respect for man, yet this widow is so great a nuisance that I will give her justice before she wears me out with her persistence.”  The Lord said, “You hear what the unjust judge says.  Then will not God give justice to his chosen, to whom he listens day and night?  I tell you, he will give them justice soon enough.  But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?

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The Collect:

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Tradition holds that Jesus was born at midnight, hence Christmas Eve midnight masses.  Indeed, these are lovely services, and Christmas for me lacks something crucial without having attended one.  The midnight timeframe comes from a conflation of the Wisdom of Solomon 18:14-16, which speaks of the angel of death leaving to kill firstborn Egyptian sons, with the Lukan version of the birth narrative of Jesus.

“It Came Upon the Midnight Clear,” the great Christmas carol, features the traditional timeframe in its title.  This hymn dates to 1849, when Edmund Hamilton Sears, a U.S. Unitarian pastor who believed in the deity of Jesus, wrote the words.  (He published them the following year.)  Reverend Sears, who opposed recently-completed U.S.-Mexican War, included an antiwar message in the hymn:

And man, at war with man, hears not

The tidings which they bring;

O hush the noise, ye men of strife,

And hear the angels sing!

Focusing on this Christmas carol is appropriate here, due to the timing of this devotional–one day before Proper 28 and eight days prior to the First Sunday of Advent.  And, after Advent comes Christmas, of course.

The God of the Exodus and the Incarnation is active in human history.  This is the God who cares.  Psalm 14, in most English translations, states that a fool says, “There is no God.”  Yet TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures, the current translation from the Jewish Publication Society, renders that text to say that the fool states that “God does not care.”  I have concluded that caring is part of the divine character.  But, you might ask, why the difference in translations?  The rabbinical notes in The Jewish Study Bible mention that atheism was quite rare in the ancient Near East.  And a Presbyterian minister I know has mentioned to me the difficulty in translating much Hebrew.  ”Translating Hebrew is a bear,” he said.

And God cares very much in the reading from Luke 18.  The judge was corrupt, rendering verdicts in response to bribes.  But the woman got her justice by merely threatening him with violence.  Jesus says, however, that we need not worry about whether God cares about us and will listen to us.  Indeed, the fact of our Lord’s existence in human form (the Incarnation) constitutes evidence of divine caring.  Maybe God says “no” or “not yet,” answers we might not like, but there is an answer.  Nevertheless, good things happen to good people.  The reality of the existence of God does not change that fact, but neither does it change the reality that God cares, that for God to exist is for God to care.

One of the major effects of prayer is to change the one who prays.  And prayer, of course, is far more than “talking to God;” it is also listening to God and acting according to divine commands.  In other words, prayer is responding positively to God.  Some years ago I heard an interview with a Roman Catholic priest on National Public Radio.  The good Father had taken Jesus at his word; the priest decided to visit a man in prison.  The priest chose to visit a death row inmate, a violent man who, in time, died by the authority of the state.  The inmate was just as violent and vile on the day he died as he was when the priest began to visit him, but the priest was a much better person for the visits.  He had followed his Lord.

Jesus breaks into our lives in ways and at times we might not expect.  We might not get a choir of angels, but, if we are sufficiently perceptive, we will hear and know the voice of God speaking.  God has not ceased to speak, and we ought to listen more often than we do.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 23, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS COPERNICUS, SCIENTIST

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on May 23, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/23/week-of-proper-27-saturday-year-1/

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O Blessed Mother   1 comment

The Madonna in Sorrow, by Sassoferrao, 17th Century

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O Blessed Mother,

How did you feel when

You learned you were pregnant

Outside of wedlock?

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O Blessed Mother,

How did you feel when

The anonymous, thronging crowds

Ignored you in your hour of need in Bethlehem?

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O Blessed Mother,

How did you feel when

You experienced birth pangs,

As well as the stresses of parenthood?

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O Blessed Mother,

How did you feel when

Your eldest son confused you,

Then seemed to reject you?

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O Blessed Mother,

How did you feel when

You watched your eldest son die?

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O Blessed Mother,

How did you feel when

You buried your eldest son?

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O Blessed Mother,

How did you feel when

You discovered your resurrected son?

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O Blessed Mother,

How did you feel when

You ascended and became

Queen of Heaven?

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O Blessed Mother,

Strong and humble,

Faithful and human,

Intercede for us.

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 30, 1997 COMMON ERA

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Adapted from this post:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/o-blessed-mother/

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Posted November 18, 2011 by neatnik2009 in John 15, John 2, Luke 1, Luke 2, Luke 24, Mark 15, Mark 16, Matthew 27, Matthew 28

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Nothing is Impossible with God   1 comment

Above:  The Annunciation, by El Greco

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THE FIRST READING

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now when the king [David] was settled in his house, and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan,

See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.

Nathan said to the king,

Go, do all that you have in mind; for the LORD is with you.

But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan:

Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the LORD: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the LORD of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.

THE TWO OPTIONS FOR THE RESPONSE

Canticle 15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

(The Magnificat plus the Trinitarian formula)

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;

for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:

the Almighty has done great things for me,

and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him

in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,

he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,

and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel,

for he has remembered his promise of mercy,

The promise he made to our fathers,

to Abraham and his children for ever.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

as it was in the beginning is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Your love, O LORD, for ever will I sing;

from age to age my mouth will proclaim your faithfulness.

For I am persuaded that your love is established for ever;

you have set your faithfulness firmly in the heavens.

“I have made a covenant with my chosen one;

I have sworn an oath to David my servant;

‘I will establish your line for ever,

and preserve your throne for all generations.’”

19  You spoke once in a vision and said to your faithful people:

“I have set the crown upon a warrior

and have exalted one chosen out of the people.

20  I have found David my servant;

with my holy oil have I anointed him.

21  My hand will hold him fast

and my arm will make him strong.

22  No enemy shall deceive him,

nor any wicked man bring him down.

23  I will crush his foes before him

and strike down those who hate him.

24  My faithfulness and love shall be with him,

and he shall be victorious through my Name.

25  I shall make his dominion extend

from the Great Sea to the River.

26  He will say to you, ‘You are my Father,

my God, and the rock of my salvation.’

THE SECOND READING

Romans 16:25-27 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith– to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen.

THE GOSPEL READING

Luke 1:26-38 (New Revised Standard Version):

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said,

Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.

But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her,

Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.

Mary said to the angel,

How can this be, since I am a virgin?

The angel said to her,

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.

Then Mary said,

Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.

Then the angel departed from her.

The Collect:

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year A:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/fourth-sunday-of-advent-year-a/

First Sunday of Advent, Year B:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/02/first-day-of-advent-first-sunday-of-advent-year-b/

Second Sunday of Advent, Year B:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/03/eighth-day-of-advent-second-sunday-of-advent-year-b/

Third Sunday of Advent, Year B:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/04/fifteenth-day-of-advent-third-sunday-of-advent-year-b/

O Blessed Mother:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/o-blessed-mother/

The Hail Mary:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/25/the-hail-mary/

Romans 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/week-of-proper-26-saturday-year-1/

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“What is really going on here?”  That was the question a spiritual mentor of mine in the early-middle 1990s asked himself when he approached any passage from the Bible.  Let us apply it to the readings for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B.

“Nothing is impossible with God.”  We read this in the Gospel lesson.  How does an obscure young woman become the mother not only of the Messiah, but of God incarnate?  And how does a shepherd, the runt of his family, become a great king and the founder of a dynasty?  God makes such things happen.  Let us appreciate the mystery, not quarrel about divine tactics.

“Nothing is impossible with God.”  When we examine our own lives and those of the people closest to us, do we believe that nothing is impossible with God?  Have we become so jaded that we have lost hope that God can and will act wondrously and beyond our expectations?  I hope not.

To what spectacular wonders is God preparing to give birth in you and in others?  Time will tell.  By faith and grace, may we look forward to the blessed events.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 5, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ROBERT FRANCIS KENNEDY, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL AND SENATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONIFACE OF MAINZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Published originally at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/05/fourth-sunday-of-advent-year-b/

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Posted November 18, 2011 by neatnik2009 in 2 Samuel 7, Luke 1, Psalm 89, Romans 16

Tagged with

Here Ends Our Advent Journey   1 comment

Above:  John the Baptist, by Titian, 1542

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2 Samuel 7:1-16 (Revised English Bible):

Once the king was established in his palace and the LORD had given him security from his enemies on all sides, he said to Nathan the prophet,

Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the Ark of God is housed in a tent.

Nathan answered,

Do whatever you have in mind, for the LORD is with you.

But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan:

Go and say to David my servant, This is the word of the LORD:  Are you to build me a house to dwell in?  Down to this day I have never dwelt in a house since I brought Israel up from Egypt; I lived in a tent and a tabernacle.  Wherever I journeyed with Israel, did I ever ask any of the judges whom I appointed shepherds of my people Israel why they had not built me a cedar house?

Then say this to my servant David:  This is the word of the LORD of Hosts:  I took you from the pastures and from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel.  I have been with you wherever you have gone, and have destroyed all enemies in your path.  I shall bring you fame like the fame of the great ones of the earth.  I shall assign a place for my people Israel; there I shall plant them to dwell in their own land.  They will be disturbed no more; never again will the wicked oppress them as they did in the past, from the day when I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I shall give you peace from all your enemies.

The LORD has told you that he would built up your royal house.  When your life ends and you rest with your forefathers, I shall set up one of your family, one of your own children, to succeed you, and I shall establish his kingdom.  It is he who is to build a house in honour of my name; and I shall establish his royal throne for all time.  I shall be a father to him, and he will be my son.  When he does wrong, I shall punish him as a father might, and not spare the rod.  But my love will never be withdrawn from him as I withdrew it from Saul, whom I removed from your path.  Your family and your kingdom will be established for ever in my sight; your throne will endure for all time.

Psalm 89:1-4, 19-29 (Revised English Bible):

I shall sing always of the loving deeds of the LORD;

throughout every generation I shall proclaim your faithfulness.

I said:  Your love will stand firm for ever;

in the heavens you have established your faithfulness.

I have made a covenant with the one I have chosen,

I have sworn an oath to my servant David:

“I shall establish your line for ever,

I shall make your throne endure for all generations.”

A time came when you spoke in a vision,

declaring to your faithful servant:

I have granted help to a warrior;

I have exalted one chosen from the people.

I have found David my servant

and anointed him with my sacred oil.

My hand will be ready to help him,

my arm to give him strength.

No enemy will outwit him,

no wicked person will oppress him;

I shall crush his adversaries before him

and strike down those who are hostile to him.

My faithfulness and love will be with him

and through my name he will hold his head high.

I shall establish his rule over the sea,

his dominion over the rivers.

He will say tome, “You are my father,

my God, my rock where I find safety.”

I shall give him the rank of the firstborn,

highest among the kings of the earth.

I shall maintain my love for him for ever

and be faithful in my covenant with him.

I shall establish his line for ever

and his throne as long as the heavens endure.

Luke 1:67-79 (Revised English Bible):

And Zechariah his [John’s] father was filled with the Holy Spirit and uttered this prophecy:

Praise to the Lord, the God of Israel!

For he has turned to his people and set them free.

He has raised for us a strong deliverer

from the House of his servant David.

So he promised: age to age he proclaimed

by the lips of his holy prophets,

that he would deliver us from our enemies,

out of the hands of all who hate us;

that, calling to mind his solemn covenant,

he would deal mercifully with our fathers.

This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham,

to rescue us from enemy hands and set us free from fear,

so that we might worship in his presence

in holiness and righteousness our whole life long.

And you, my child, will be called Prophet of the Most High,

for you will be the Lord’s forerunner, to prepare his way

and lead his people to a knowledge of salvation

through the forgiveness of their sins:

for in the tender compassion of our God

the dawn from heaven will break upon us,

to shine on those who live in darkness, under the shadow of death,

and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

The Collect:

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Saint John the Baptist (or Baptizer or Immerser) was the forerunner of Jesus, Son of God, Son of Man, and heir to the House of David.  John identified Jesus, baptized him, and died before Jesus did.

As I have typed these texts and pondered them I have played a recording of the Christmas Oratorio of Johann Sebastian Bach.  It is a glorious work, a product of Bach’s deep Lutheran faith.  One fact about it stands out in mind:  The Christmas Oratorio contains the music to which I am used to singing the great Good Friday hymn, “O Sacred Head, Sore Wounded.”  The liner notes to the two-CD set give the following English translation to the German text of the chorale:

How can I fitly greet Thee,

how rightly Thee extol?

Of Man the best Beloved,

thou treasure of my soul!

O Lord, I pray Thee carry

the torch to light my way,

that I may know thy treasure

and serve Thee day by day!

That is an appropriate attitude for any day, especially that time when Advent transitions into Christmas.  Like John, may you decrease as Jesus increases.

Merry Christmas!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 4, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN XXIII, BISHOP OF ROME

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/advent-devotion-for-december-24/

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Posted November 18, 2011 by neatnik2009 in 2 Samuel 7, Luke 1, Psalm 89

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The Importance of a Name   1 comment

Above:  Zechariah

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Malachi 3:1-5 (Revised English Bible):

I am about to send my messenger to clear a path before me.  Suddenly the Lord whom you seek will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight is here, here already, says the LORD of Hosts.  Who can endure the day of his coming?  Who can stand firm when he appears?  He is like a refiner’s fire, like a fuller’s soap; he will take his seat, testing and purifying; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver, and so they will be fit to bring offerings to the LORD.  Thus the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as they were in former days, in days long past.  I shall appear before you in court, quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers, and perjurers, against those who cheat the hired labourer of his wages, who wrong the widow and the fatherless, who thrust the alien aside and do not fear me, says the LORD of Hosts.

Psalm 25:1-15 (Revised English Bible):

LORD my God, to you I lift my heart.

In you I trust: do not let me be put to shame,

do not let my enemies exult over me.

No one whose hope is in you is put to shame;

but shame comes to all who break faith without cause.

Make your paths known to me, LORD;

teach me your ways.

Lead me by your faithfulness and teach me,

for you are God my saviour;

in you I put my hope all day long.

Remember, LORD, your tender care and love unfailing,

for they are from of old.

Do not remember the sins and offences of my youth,

but remember me in your unfailing love,

in accordance with your goodness, LORD.

The LORD is good and upright;

therefore he teaches sinners the way they should go.

He guides the humble in right conduct,

and teaches them his way.

All the paths of the LORD are loving and sure

to those who keep his covenant and his solemn charge.

LORD, for the honour of your name

forgive my wickedness, great though it is.

Whoever fears the LORD

will be shown the path he should choose.

He will enjoy lasting prosperity,

and his descendants will inherit the land.

The LORD confides his purposes to those who fear him;

his covenant is for their instruction.

My eyes are ever on the LORD,

who alone can free my feet from the net.

Luke 1:57-66 (Revised English Bible):

When the time came for Elizabeth’s child to be born, she gave birth to a son.  Her neighbours and relatives heard what great kindness the Lord had shown her, and they shared her delight.  On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father, but his mother spoke up:

No!

she said,

He is to be called John.

They said,

But there is nobody in your family who has that name.

Then inquired of his father by signs what he would like him to be called.  He asked for a writing tablet and to everybody’s astonishment wrote,

His name is John.

Immediately his lips and tongue were freed and he began to speak, praising God.  All the neighbours were overcome with awe, and throughout the uplands of Judaea the whole story became common talk.  All who heard it were deeply impressed and said,

What will this child become?

For indeed the hand of the Lord was upon him.

The Collect:

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The countdown to Christmas Day draws very near to its end with this day in Advent.  Yet let us give each remaining day before December 25 its due.

The day had come for the circumcision and naming of the son of Elizabeth and Zechariah, the latter of which was still mute.  The ceremony was a community event, and custom contained a preference for naming a son after his father or grandfather, usually the grandfather.  Yet this child’s name was unique in his family tree.  The child was to be named John, or, in Hebrew, Jehohanan, which means, “God’s gracious gift.”

As British scholar G. B. Caird wrote in Saint Luke (Pelikan Books then Penguin Books, 1963, with reprints), a child’s name “was closely related to the character and nature of the bearer” and reflected his or her parents’ faith and aspirations for him or her in the Jewish culture of Judea in the late First Century B.C.E.  And while we ponder names, think about these facts:  Zechariah means “the LORD has recalled” and Elizabeth means “oath of God.”  I detect a congruency in these names coming together.

I am grateful to my parents for, among other things, giving me a name I have been able to carry well into adulthood.  That was a great kindness.  And it helps that “Kenneth” is the name of at least two saints–one of Scotland, the other of Wales.  Indeed, I have heard of some truly unfortunate names that have the effect of making it impossible for one to get a job interview, for, when pronounced, they sound like curse words.  (I am not referring to foreign names transliterated into English.)

It is common in some religious orders, when one joins, to receive a new name.  This is symbolic of becoming a new person.  And some indigenous cultures in North America change a person’s name after childhood, to reflect who this individual has become.  A name, I think, ought to be something noble, something into which to strive to grow then to continue to honor.  It is, after all, what we call ourselves and others call us.

“What is this child to become?” the neighbors asked themselves about the young John.  That child was literally “God’s gracious gift,” a statement I hope is true of all of us, for the benefit of others and the glory of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 4, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN XXIII, BISHOP OF ROME

REVISED ON MAY 19, 2011

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF KERMARTIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND ADVOCATE OF THE POOR

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/advent-devotion-for-december-23/

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Posted November 18, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Luke 1, Malachi 3, Psalm 25

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