Archive for November 2011

Emmanuel: God is with Us, and We Need to Be with God   1 comment

Above:  King Ahaz

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Isaiah 7:10-16 (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. But Ahaz said,

I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.

Then Isaiah said:

Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19 (New Revised Standard Version):

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,

you who lead Joseph like a flock!

You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth

before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.

Stir up your might,

and come to save us!

Restore us, O God;

let your face shine, that we may be saved.

O LORD God of hosts,

how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?

You have fed them with the bread of tears,

and given them tears to drink in full measure.

You make us the scorn of our neighbors;

our enemies laugh among themselves.

Restore us, O God of hosts;

let your face sine, that we may be saved.

But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand,

the one whom you made strong for yourself.

Then we will never turn back from you;

give us life, and we will call on your name.

Restore us, O LORD God of hosts;

let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Romans 1:1-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Matthew 1:18-25 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,

Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,

and they shall name him Emmanuel,

which means,

God is with us.

When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

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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Here is the historical background of the reading from Isaiah:

The Kings of Aram (or Syria) and Israel (the northern Hebrew kingdom) planned to create an alliance of states to oppose the Assyrian Empire, a major power in 735 B.C.E.  When King Ahaz of Judah did not join this effort the forces of Aram and Israel attempted to overthrow him and to place a more compliant monarch on the throne.  This situation concerned Ahaz (understandably so), and he turned to Assyria, not God, for protection.  Ahaz put on airs of righteousness, making a show of not asking God for a sign.  Yet, as Isaiah stated, God would send a sign anyway.  An almah, or young woman of marriageable age (married or not, virgin or not left undefined) would give birth to a healthy baby boy, and the kingdom would be out of immediate danger by the time the child could able to “reject the bad and choose the good.”

Thus the birth of a child became a sign of deliverance from certain death.

Confronting and dealing with Assyria was foolish.  The Assyrian Empire conquered Aram, deprived Israel of much territory, and made Judah a dependency.  Trusting in God would have been a better choice.

That is a timeless lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 2, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF REINHOLD NIEBUHR, UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF LYONS, A.K.A. SAINT BLANDINA AND HER COMPANIONS

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Adapted from this post:

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

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Posted November 18, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Isaiah 7, Matthew 1, Psalm 80, Romans 1

Tagged with

God-Bearers   1 comment

Above:  The Visitation, with the Magnificat in Latin

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THE FIRST READING

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,

because the LORD has anointed me;

he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,

to bind up the brokenhearted,

to proclaim liberty to the captives,

and release to the prisoners;

to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,

and the day of vengeance of our God;

to comfort all who mourn;

to provide for those who mourn in Zion–

to give them a garland instead of ashes,

the oil of gladness instead of mourning,

the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,

the planting of the LORD, to display his glory.

They shall build up the ancient ruins,

they shall raise up the former devastations;

they shall repair the ruined cities,

the devastations of many generations.

For I the LORD love justice,

I hate robbery and wrongdoing;

I will faithfully give them their recompense,

and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.

Their descendants shall be known among the nations,

and their offspring among the peoples;

all who see them shall acknowledge

that they are a people whom the LORD has blessed.

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD,

my whole being shall exult in my God;

for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,

he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,

as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,

as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

For as the earth brings forth its shoots,

and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,

so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise

to spring up before the nations.

THE TWO OPTIONS FOR THE RESPONSE

Psalm 126 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,

then were we like those who dream.

2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter,

and our tongue with shouts of joy.

3 Then they said among the nations,

“The LORD has done great things for them.”

The LORD has done great things for us,

and we are glad indeed.

5 Restore our fortunes, O LORD,

like the watercourses of the Negev.

6 Those who sowed with tears

will reap with songs of joy.

7 Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed,

will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

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.

THE SECOND READING

1 Thessalonians 5 (New Revised Standard Version):

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.

May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

THE GOSPEL READING

John 1:6-8, 19-28 (New Revised Standard Version):

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him,

Who are you?

He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed,

I am not the Messiah.

And they asked him,

What then? Are you Elijah?

He said,

I am not.

[They asked,]

Are you the prophet?

He answered,

No.

Then they said to him,

Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?

He said,

I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord,” as the prophet Isaiah said.

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him,

Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?

John answered them,

I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.

This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

The Collect:

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Third Sunday of Advent, Year A:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/fifteenth-day-of-advent-third-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/

1 Thessalonians 5:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/week-of-proper-17-tuesday-year-1/

Luke 1 (Magnificat):

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/advent-devotion-for-december-22/

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/

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There is a cliche:  The Lord moves in mysterious ways.  Many statements become cliched because they are true, as is the case for this one.  In these readings we read of the divine mandate for us to establish justice, especially that of the economic variety.  We read also of the humility of John the Baptist, forerunner of our Lord, and of Mary, who became Mother of God.  (Follow the logic:  Jesus was God incarnate.  Mary was his mother.  Therefore she was the Mother of God.)

My Eastern Orthodox brethren refer to Mary of Nazareth as the Theotokos, or God-bearer.  That she was, indeed.  Through her God chose to become incarnate, to become one of us, and therefore to set into motion redemptive plans while affirming human dignity.  It is a great mystery, one I choose to savor, not try to explain away or dismiss.

So I invite you, O reader, to echo the words of the Magnificat and to say the Hail Mary.  And, I hope that, regardless of the state of your mariology (assuming that you have one) , that you will recognize yourself and all other human beings as God-bearers, then treat yourself and all others accordingly.  Much justice will flow from that attitude.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 4, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN XXIII, BISHOP OF ROME

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

Adapted from this post:

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

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Posted November 18, 2011 by neatnik2009 in 1 Thessalonians 5, Isaiah 61, John 1, Luke 1, Psalm 126

Tagged with

There Are No Illegitimate Children   1 comment

Above: Mary and Child Jesus, by Pierre Mignard, 1640

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JEREMIAH 23:5-8 (REVISED ENGLISH BIBLE):

The days are coming,

says the LORD,

when I shall make a righteous Branch spring from David’s line,

a king who will rule wisely,

maintaining justice and right in the land.

In his days Judah will be kept safe,

and Israel will live undisturbed.

This will be the name given to him:

The LORD our Righteousness.

Therefore the time is coming,

says the LORD,

when people will no longer swear “by the life of the LORD who brought the Israelites up from Egypt”; instead they will swear “by the life of the LORD who brought the descendants of the Israelites back from a northern land and from all the lands to which he had dispersed them’; and they will live on their own soil.

PSALM 72:12-17 (REVISED ENGLISH BIBLE):

For he will rescue the needy who appeal for help,

the distressed who have no protector.

He will have pity on the poor and the needy,

and deliver the needy from death;

he will redeem them from oppression and violence

and their blood will be precious in his eyes.

May the king live long!

May gifts of gold from Sheba be given him.

May prayer be made for him continually;

blessings be his all the day long.

May there by grain in plenty throughout the land,

growing thickly over the heights of the hills;

may its crops flourish like Lebanon,

and the sheaves be plenteous as blades of grass.

Long may the king’s name endure,

may it remain for ever like the sun;

then all will pray to be blessed as he was;

all nations will tell of his happiness.

MATTHEW 1:18-25 (REVISED ENGLISH BIBLE):

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.  His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; before their marriage she found she was going to have a child through the Holy Spirit.  Being a man of principle, and at the same time wanting to save her from exposure, Joseph made up his mind to have the marriage contract quietly set aside.  He had resolved on this, when an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,

Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home with you to be your wife.  It is through the Holy Spirit that she has conceived.  She will bear a son; and you shall give him the name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

All this happened in order to fulfill what the Lord declared through the prophet:

A virgin will conceive and bear a son, and he shall be called Emmanuel,

a name which means

God is with us.

When he woke Joseph did as the angel of the Lord had directed him; he took Mary home to be his wife, but he had no intercourse with her until her son was born.  And he named the child Jesus.

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 birth of Jesus was a great scandal, one which persisted for decades.  The question of his paternity was a matter of whisper campaigns until the end of his life, at least.  I admit freely that I have major doubts relative to the virgin birth, so I cannot say with intellectual honesty that I believe it.  Yet that matter is trivial, and let us not become caught up in trivia.

Human societies have labels for children conceived outside wedlock.  These are allegedly “illegitimate” people.  And the males are “bastards.”  This more, which has some well-founded roots in family structures and inheritance laws, helps explain the term “son of a gun,” also.  Do not misunderstand me; I do not support indiscriminate sexual contact and conception of children.  There are vital matters of morality and family order to consider.  Yet there are no illegitimate people, for all of us bear the image of our divine Father, regardless of which male contributed half of our DNA.

Neither should people resort to threatening the life of the mother when paternity is in question.  This is a current issue in certain traditional societies in contemporary times.  Barbarous behavior is not an appropriate answer to alleged sexual immorality; two wrongs do not make a right.

This is an unlikely origin story for a king, but Jesus was no ordinary monarch.  No, he was much, much more.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 2, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF REINHOLD NIEBUHR, UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF LYONS, A.K.A. SAINT BLANDINA AND HER COMPANIONS

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/advent-devotion-for-december-18/

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Posted November 18, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Jeremiah 23, Matthew 1, Psalm 72

Jesus, Our Sovereign with a Mixed Heritage   1 comment

Above: The Jesse Tree Window at Chartres Cathedral, Chartres, France

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GENESIS 49:2, 8-10 (REVISED ENGLISH BIBLE):

Gather round me and listen, you sons of Jacob;

listen to Israel your father.

Judah, your brothers will praise you;

your hand will be on the neck of your enemies.

Your father’s sons will bow to you in homage.

Judah, a lion’s whelp,

you have returned from the kill, my son;

you crouch and stretch like a lion,

like a lion no one dares rouse.

The sceptre will not pass from Judah,

nor the staff from heaven his feet,

until he receives what is his due

and the obedience of the nations is his….

PSALM 72:1-7 (REVISED ENGLISH BIBLE):

God, endow the king with our own justice,

his royal person with your righteousness,

that he may govern your people rightly

and deal justly with your oppressed ones.

May hills and mountains provide your people

with prosperity in righteousness.

May he give judgment for the oppressed among the people

and help to the needy;

may he crush the oppressor.

May he fear you as long as the sun endures,

and as the moon throughout the ages.

May he be like rain falling on early crops,

like showers watering the earth.

In his days may righteousness flourish,

prosperity abound until the moon is no more.

MATTHEW 1:1-17 (REVISED ENGLISH BIBLE):

The genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham.

Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac of Jacob, Jacob of Judah and his brothers, Judah of Perez and Zarah (their mother was Tamar), Perez of Hezron, Hezron of Ram, Ram of Amminadab, Amminadab or Nahshon, Nahshon of Salmon, Salmon of Boaz (his mother was Rahab), Boaz of Obed (his mother was Ruth), Obed of Jesse; and Jesse was the father of King David.

David was the father of Solomon (his mother had been the wife of Uriah), Solomon of Rehoboam, Rehoboam of Abijah, Abijah of Asa, Asa of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat of Joram, Joran of Uzziah, Uzziah of Jotham, Jotham of Ahaz, Ahaz of Hezekiah, Hezekiah of Manasseh, Manasseh of Amon, Amon of Josiah; and Josiah was the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

After the deportation Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel of Abiud, Abiud of Eliakim, Eliakim of Azor, Azor of Zadok, Zadok of Achim, Achim of Eliud, Eliud of Eleazar, Eleazar of Matthan, Matthan of Jacob, Jacob of Joseph, the husband of Mary, who gave birth to Jesus called Messiah.

There were thus fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David until the deportation to Babylon, and fourteen from the deportation until the Messiah.

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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At this juncture the Episcopal Church’s Advent lectionary begins its final phase:  readings grouped according to date.  The final countdown to Christmas Day commences.

The Book of Genesis begins with mythical tales of divine creation then continues with stories of human procreation–hence genealogies.  Creation is the theme running through the early chapters of that book.  Matthew, the most Jewish of the canonical Gospels, opens with a genealogy of Jesus.  This is no accident, but a profoundly significant fact.  It indicates the dawn of a new age in history.  Along the way, one reads about kings (both good and bad), whose names establish Jesus’ credentials as a member of the House of David.  And one reads about Bathsheba (who cheated on her husband, Uriah, with King David), Ruth (a foreigner), Rahab (a prostitute), and Tamar (a young widow who pretended to be a sacred prostitute so she could trick Judah, her father-in-law, to impregnate her).

What are we supposed to make of all this?

Jesus, our Lord and Savior, the incarnate Son of God, was descended genetically from upright men and women, shady characters, kings, commoners, adulterers, at least one adulteress, a prostitute, a Gentile, and a widow who had to resort to deception to become pregnant and establish security for herself in a patriarchal society without a social safety net.  Jesus’ pedigree was not entirely socially respectable.  And that fact was ultimately irrelevant to his greatness.  He was much more than the sum of his ancestry.

So I invite everyone to look upon others for what is inside them, not for their origins.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 2, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF REINHOLD NIEBUHR, UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF LYONS, A.K.A. SAINT BLANDINA AND HER COMPANIONS

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/advent-devotion-for-december-17/

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Posted November 18, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Genesis 49, Matthew 1, Psalm 72

The Universality of God, Part I   1 comment

Above: The Earth in 1972, Courtesy of Apollo 17

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Isaiah 56:1-8 (Revised English Bible):

These are the words of the LORD:

Maintain justice, and do what is right;

for my deliverance is close at hand,

and my victory will soon be revealed.

Happy is the person who follows these precepts

and holds fast to them,

who keeps the sabbath unprofaned,

who keeps his hand from all wrongdoing!

The foreigner who has given his allegiance to the LORD must not say,

The LORD will exclude me from his people.

The eunuch must not say,

I am naught but a barren tree.

These are the words of the LORD:

The eunuchs who keep my sabbaths,

who choose to do my will

and hold fast to my covenant,

will receive from me something better than sons and daughters,

a memorial and a name in my own house and within my walls;

I shall give them everlasting renown,

an imperishable name.

So too with the foreigners who give their allegiance to me,

to minister to me and love my name

and become my servants,

all who keep the sabbath unprofaned

and hold fast to my covenant:

these I shall bring to my holy hill

and give them joy in my house of prayer.

Their offerings and sacrifices

will be acceptable on my altar;

for my house will be called

a house of prayer for all nations.

This is the word of the Lord GOD,

who gathers those driven out of Israel:

I shall add to those who have already been gathered.

Psalm 67 (Revised English Bible):

May God be gracious to us and bless us,

may he cause his face to shine on us,

that your purpose may be known on earth,

your saving power among all nations.

Let the peoples praise you, God;

let all peoples praise you.

Let nations rejoice and shout in triumph;

for you judge the peoples with equity

and guide the nations of the earth.

Let all the peoples praise you, God;

let all the peoples praise you.

The earth has yielded its harvest.

May God, our God, bless us.

God grant us his blessing,

that all the ends of the earth may fear him.

John 5:33-36 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus said,]

You [certain Jews] sent messengers to John and he has testified to the truth.  Not that I rely on human testimony, but I remind you of it for your salvation.  John was a brightly burning lamp, and for a time you were ready to exult in his light.  But I rely on a testimony higher than John’s: the work my Father has given me to do and to finish, the very work I have in hand, testifies that the Father has sent me.

The Collect:

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

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Peter began:  “I now understand how true it is that God has no favourites, but that in every nation those who are god-fearing and do what is right are acceptable to him.”–Acts 10:34-35 (Revised English Bible)

This quote from the Apostle Peter fits nicely with the designated readings for this day.  We read that God welcomes righteousness from anyone, not just members of a select population.  So the message of God is for all people, but not all accept it, of course.  Nevertheless, all whose lives reveal godliness are acceptable to God.  In God there are no outsiders.  To borrow a line from a hymn, “In Christ there is no east or west.”  In Christ there is no longer male or female, Jew or Gentile, domestic or foreign, citizen or alien, heterosexual or homosexual, “White” or African descent or First Nations, et cetera.

Yet we mortals insist on making such distinctions, often out of good intentions (yet sometimes out of prejudice).  Yet with God the standard is different:  it is active love of God, others, and self, manifested in one’s life.  And that rule excludes prejudices.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 2, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF REINHOLD NIEBUHR, UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF LYONS, A.K.A. SAINT BLANDINA AND HER COMPANIONS

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/third-week-of-advent-friday/

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God’s Purpose for Us   1 comment

Above: Westminster Abbey (as in the Westminster Confession of Faith and accompanying Catechisms)

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Isaiah 54:1-10 (Revised English Bible):

Sing, barren woman who never bore a child;

break into a shout of joy, you that have never been in labour;

for the deserted wife will have more children

than she who lives with her husband,

says the LORD.

Enlarge the space for your dwelling,

extend the curtains of your tent to the full;

let out its ropes and drive the tent-pegs home;

for you will spread from your confines right and left,

your descendants will dispossess nations

and will people cities now desolate.

Fear not, you will not be put to shame;

do not be downcast, you will not suffer disgrace.

It is time to forget the shame of your younger days

and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood;

for your husband is your Maker;

his name is the LORD of Hosts.

He who is called God of all the earth,

the Holy One of Israel, is your redeemer.

The LORD has acknowledged you a wife again,

once deserted and heart-broken;

your God regards you as a wife still young,

though you were once cast off.

For a passing moment I forsook you,

but with a tender affection I shall bring you home again.

In an upsurge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment;

but now have I pitied you with never-failing love,

says the LORD, your Redeemer.

For this to me is like the days of Noah;

as I swore that the waters of Noah’s flood

should never again pour over the earth,

so now I swear to you

never again to be angry with you or rebuke you.

Though the mountains may move and the hills shake,

my love will be immovable and never fall,

and my covenant promising peace will not be shaken,

says the LORD in his pity for you.

Psalm 30 (Revised English Bible):

I shall exalt you, LORD;

you have lifted me up

and have not let my enemies be jubilant over me.

LORD my God, I cried to you and you healed me.

You have brought me up, LORD, from Sheol,

and saved my life as I was sinking into the abyss.

Sing a psalm to the LORD, all you his loyal servants;

give thanks to his holy name.

In his anger is distress, in his favour there is life.

Tears may linger at nightfall,

but rejoicing comes in the morning.

I felt secure and said,

I can never be shaken.

LORD, by your favour you made my mountain strong;

when you hid your face, I was struck with dismay.

To you, LORD, I called

and pleaded with you for mercy:

“What profit is there in my death,

in my going down to the pit?

Can the dust praise you?

Can it proclaim your truth?

Hear, LORD, and be gracious to me;

LORD, be my helper.

You have turned my laments into dancing;

you have stripped off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,

that I may sing psalms to you without ceasing.

LORD my God, I shall praise you for ever.

Luke 7:24-30 (Revised English Bible):

After John’s messengers had left, Jesus began to speak about him to the crowds:

What did you go into the wilderness to see?  A reed swaying in the wind?  No?  Then what did you go out to see?  A man dressed in finery?  Grand clothes and luxury are to be found in palaces.  But what did you go out to see?  A prophet?  Yes indeed, and far more than a prophet.  He is the man of whom scripture says,

Here is my herald, whom I send ahead of you,

and he will prepare your way before you.

I tell you, among all who have been born, no one has been greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he is.

When they heard him, all the people, including the tax-collectors, acknowledged the goodness of God, for they had accepted John’s baptism; but the Pharisees and lawyers, who had refused his baptism, rejected God’s purpose for themselves.

The Collect:

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

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What is the chief and highest end of man?

“Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.”

–The Westminster Larger Catechism (1646), Question #1, from The Book of Confessions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

The above quote summarizes the greatest human destiny well.  Each of us is on this planet to fill positive roles, thereby leaving our environs and those in them better than we found them, for the glory of God and the benefit of others.  And, along the way, we are called to enjoy God.

Once I heard a proposal for how to live spiritually.  It held that we are supposed to engage in a daring dance with God, laying aside dourness and rigid orthodoxies.  This image appeals to me, for I an neither dour nor rigidly orthodox.  The most important aspect of the metaphor is that God be the dancing partner.  And I suspect that the dance is not necessarily respectable ballroom dancing.  Maybe it is the Charleston, tango, or lambada.  Let the dance begin, or continue.

Yet many of our fellow human beings do not choose a positive path.  They opt for a life of violence and hatred.  From time to time, when I house and pet sit (for I have opted to live without cable television), I watch MSNBC programs about prisons.  I see profiles of some people who lead truly vile lives.  As a law-abiding citizen I am glad that authorities keep them away from people such as me.  I know also that these individuals did not have to become who they did and come to live where they do.  And I realize that they do not live beyond the reach of grace, for grace is available everywhere.

We humans make choices.  Often we must lie in the beds we have made.  This fact, however, does not mean that we have to keep making these beds.  Also, history contains stories of people whom God has converted from violent lives to peaceful, righteous ones.  There is always hope through God.

May we embrace this hope and glorify and enjoy God forever.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, APOLOGIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/third-week-of-advent-thursday/

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The One and Only   2 comments

Above: “YHWH” in Hebrew

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Isaiah 45:5-8, 18-25 (Revised English Bible):

I am the LORD, and there is none other;

apart from me there is no god.

Though you have not known me I shall strengthen you,

so that from east to west

all may know there is none besides me:

I am the LORD, and there is none other;

I make the light, I create the darkness;

author alike of well-being and woe,

I, the LORD, do all these things.

Rain righteousness, you heavens,

let the skies above pour it down,

let the earth open for it

that salvation may flourish

with righteousness growing beside it.

I, the LORD, have created this.

Thus says the LORD, the Creator of the heavens,

he who is God,

who made the earth and fashioned it

and by himself fixed it firmly,

who created it not as a formless waste

but as a place to be lived in:

I am the LORD, and there is no other.

I did not speak in secret, in realms of darkness;

I did not say to Jacob’s people,

Look for me in the formless waste.

I the LORD speak what is right, I declare what is just.

Gather together, come, draw near,

you survivors of the nations,

who in ignorance carry wooden idols in procession,

praying to a god that cannot save.

Come forward and urge your case, consult together:

who foretold this in days of old,

who stated it long ago?

Was it not I, the LORD?

There is no god but me,

none other than I, victorious and able to save.

From every corner of the earth

turn to me and be saved;

for I am God, there is none other.

By my life I have sworn,

I have given a promise of victory,

a promise that will not be broken;

to me every knee will bow,

to me every tongue will swear,

saying,

In the LORD alone

are victory and might.

All who defy him

will stand ashamed in his presence,

but all Israel’s descendants will be victorious

and will glory in the LORD.

Psalm 85:8-13 (Revised English Bible):

Let me hear the words of God the LORD:

he proclaims peace to his people and loyal servants;

let them not go back to foolish ways.

Deliverance is near to those who worship him,

so that glory may dwell in our land.

Love and faithfulness have come together;

justice and peace have embraced.

Faithfulness appears from earth

and justice looks down from heaven.

The LORD will grant prosperity,

and our land will yield its harvest.

Justice will go in front of him,

and peace on the path he treads.

Luke 7:18-23 (Revised English Bible):

When John [the Baptist] was informed of all this (Jesus working miracles] by his disciples, he summoned two of them and sent them to the Lord with this question:

Are you the one who is to come, or are we to expect someone else?

The men made their way to Jesus and said,

John the Baptist has sent us to ask you, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to expect someone else?’

There and then he healed many sufferers from diseases, plagues, and evil spirits; and on many blind people he bestowed sight.  Then he gave them this answer:

Go and tell John what you have seen and heard:  the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers and made clean, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, the poor are brought good news–and happy is he who does not find me an obstacle to faith.

The Collect:

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

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There is one deity:  God, whom Judaism and Christianity describe.  The God of the Bible is the only god.  Any statement to the contrary is false.

And Jesus is the incarnation of God.  John the Baptist, who identified him, sent emissaries with a question which reflected doubt, and received and answer.  The Judeo-Christian God demands social justice, sole adoration, and obedience to rules which exist for excellent reasons.  Freedom can exist only within rules, and God’s laws liberate us to become what we need to be.

I add one note of caution, however.  To attempt to establish a new, presumably divinely-sanctioned social order by force leads to injustice and theocracy.  New England Puritans of the colonial era hanged Quakers (Quakers!) in the name of God.  Today the leaders (whom I presume believe in their cause and perceive it as righteous–wrong though they are) of the Islamic Republic of Iran persecute dissidents.  And, over a thousand years ago, the Byzantine Empire engaged in Iconoclastic controversies, which entailed persecuting monks who protected sacred images.  Nobody can impose righteousness by force, and the effort is oxymoronic.

Rather, righteousness grows and spreads by consent, hopefully become a privileged concept.  The United States has never been a Christian nation, but it has been more Christian than it is today.  And it can become more Christian via the changing of minds.  Yet one must not mistake Christianity for reactionary, regressive politics, namely misogyny, racism, homophobia, and contentment with lip service for economic reform to help the poor.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, APOLOGIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/third-week-of-advent-wednesday/

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