Archive for November 2011

Hearing and Doing   1 comment

Above: Grapes (as in the father’s vineyard from the Gospel reading)

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Zephaniah 3:1-13 (Revised English Bible):

Woe betide the tyrant city,

filthy and foul!

She heeded no warning voice,

took no rebuke to heart;

she did not put her trust in the LORD,

nor did she draw near to her God.

The leaders within her were roaring lions,

her rulers wolves of the plain

that left nothing over till morning.

Her prophets were reckless and perfidious;

her priests profaned the sanctuary

and did violence to the law.

But the LORD in her midst is just;

he does no wrong;

morning after morning he gives his judgment,

every day without fail;

yet the wrongdoer knows no shame.

I have wiped out this arrogant people;

their bastions are demolished.

I have destroyed their streets;

no one walks among them.

Their cities are laid waste,

abandoned and unpeopled.

I said,

Surely she will fear me;

and will take my instruction to heart,

all the commands I laid on her

that her dwelling-place might escape destruction.

But they hastened all the more

to perform their evil deeds.

Therefore wait for me, says the LORD,

wait for the day when I stand up to accuse you;

I have decided to gather nations

and assemble kingdoms,

in order to pour my wrath on them,

all my burning anger;

the whole earth will be consumed

by the fire of my jealousy.

Then I shall restore pure lips to all peoples,

that they may invoke the LORD by name

and serve him with one accord.

My worshipers, dispersed beyond the rivers of Cush,

will bring offerings to me.

On that day, Jerusalem,

you will not be put to shame for any of the deeds

by which you have rebelled against me,

because I shall rid you then

of your proud and arrogant citizens,

and never again will you flaunt your pride

on my holy mountain.

I shall leave a remnant in you,

lowly and poor people.

The survivors in Israel will find refuge in the LORD’s name.

They will do no wrong, nor speak lies;

no words of deceit will pass their lips;

they will feed and lie down

with no one to terrify them.

Psalm 34:1-8 (Revised English Bible):

I shall bless the LORD at all times;

his praise will be ever on my lips.

In the LORD I shall glory;

the humble will hear and be glad.

Glorify the LORD with me;

let us exult his name together.

I sought the LORD’s help; he answered me

and set me free from all my fears.

They who look to him are radiant with joy;

they will never be put out of countenance.

Here is the one who cried out in his affliction;

the LORD heard him and saved him from all his troubles.

The angel of the LORD is on guard

round those who fear him, and he rescues them.

Taste and see that the LORD is good.

Happy are those who find refuge in him!

Matthew 21:28-32 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus said,]

But what do you think about this?  There was a man who had two sons.  He went to the first, and said, ‘My son, go and work today in the vineyard.’  ‘I will, sir,’ the boy replied; but he did not go.  The father came to the second and said the same.  ‘I will not,’ he replied; but afterwards he changed his mind and went.  Which of the two did what the father wanted?

They replied,

The second.

Then Jesus said,

Truly I tell you: tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.  For when John came to show you the right way to live, and you did not believe him, but the tax-collectors and the prostitutes did; and even when you had seen that, you did not change your minds and believe him.

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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It is not enough to hear what God.  No, one must listen in that way which leads to action.

I suspect that much disobedience to God flows from misunderstanding, not purposeful evasion.  In the name of God people have embarked on Crusades, Inquisitions, and religious wars.  In the name of God people continue to slaughter others and/or lay heavy and needless burdens on their fellow human beings, not recognizing the equality which flows from the image of God each of us bears and from the Holy Spirit, which respects no human-defined boundaries.  Often many of we mere mortals accept as proper the reality in which we socialize.

Yet the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

Actually, deeds reveal creeds.  Talk is cheap, but actions tell the truth.  So repentant tax collectors (Roman collaborators and tax thieves) and prostitutes were better off spiritually than certain members of the religious respectable class.

As the prophet Samuel said when he anointed the young David, God looks inward; people look at the outside.

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-tuesday/

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Posted November 18, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Matthew 21, Psalm 34, Zephaniah 3

Tagged with

The Authority of Jesus, Part I   1 comment

Above: A Catacombs Image of Jesus

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Numbers 24:1-7, 15-17a (Revised English Bible):

But now that Balaam knew that the LORD wished him to bless Israel, he did not go and resort to divination as before.  He turned towards the desert, and before his eyes he saw Israel encamped tribe by tribe; and, the spirit of God coming on him, he uttered his oracle:

The word of Balaam son of Beor,

the word of the man whose sight is clear,

the word of him who hears the words of God,

who with opened eyes sees in a trance

the vision from the Almighty;

Jacob, how fair are your tents,

Israel, your encampments,

like long palm groves,

like gardens by a river,

like aloe trees planted by the LORD,

like cedars beside the waters!

The water in his vessels shall overflow,

and his seed shall be like great waters,

so that his king may be taller than Agag,

and his kingdom lifted high….

Then he uttered his oracle:

The word of Balaam son of Beor,

the word of the man whose sight is clear,

the word of him who hears the words of God,

who shares the knowledge of the Most High,

who with opened eyes sees in a trance

the vision from the Almighty:

I see him, but now now;

I behold him, but not near:

a star will come forth out of Jacob,

a comet will arise from Israel….

Psalm 25:1-7 (Revised English Bible):

LORD my God, to you I lift up 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 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 offences of my youth,

but remember me in your unfailing love,

in accordance with your goodness, LORD.

Matthew 21:23-27 (Revised English Bible):

He [Jesus] entered the temple, and, as he was teaching, the chief priests and elders of the nation came up to him and asked:

By what authority are you acting like this?  Who gave you this authority?

Jesus replied,

I also have a question for you.  If you answer it, I will tell you by what authority I act.  The baptism of John:  was it from God, or from men?

This set them arguing among themselves:

If we say, ‘From God,’ we will say, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’  But if we say, ‘From men,’ we are afraid of the people’s reaction, for they all take John for a prophet.

So they answered,

We do not know.

And Jesus said,

Then I will not tell you either by what authority I act.

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 was no separation of religion and state in First Century C.E. Judea.  The Roman Empire occupied the Jewish homeland, and competing Jewish sects assumed positions relative to collaborating with the Imperium.  The Temple at Jerusalem was the seat of collaboration, and next door a Roman fortress towered over that complex.  The politics of architecture was impossible to miss.

So Jesus maneuvered a political minefield for years.  (His crucifixion occurred in this historical and social context.)   The Gospels record that religious authority figures asked Jesus questions designed to entrap him and thereby to get him in trouble with the common people or the Roman imperial government.  Yet Jesus, being intelligent and perceptive, understood these facts and answered artfully.  This day’s Gospel reading tells of such an occasion.

The authority of Jesus came from God, of course.  This authority is unassailable, a fact that has not prevented people from attacking it.  Yet the good news is this:  God has won.  God wins.  God will continue to win.

Thanks be to God!

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-monday/

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Posted November 18, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Matthew 21, Numbers 22-26, Psalm 25

Tagged with

Stir-Up Sunday   1 comment

Above:  The Visitation, from an Illustrated Manuscript

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FIRST READING:  Isaiah 35:1-10 (New Revised Standard Version):

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,

the desert shall rejoice and blossom;

like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,

and rejoice with joy and singing.

The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,

the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.

They shall see the glory of the LORD,

the majesty of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands,

and make firm the feeble knees.

Say to those who are of a fearful heart,

Be strong, do not fear!

Here is your God.

He will come with vengeance,

with terrible recompense.

He will come and save you.

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,

and the ears of the deaf unstopped;

then the lame shall leap like a deer,

and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.

For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,

and streams in the desert;

the burning sand shall become a pool,

and the thirsty ground springs of water;

the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,

the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

A highway shall be there,

and it shall be called the Holy Way;

the unclean shall not travel on it,

but it shall be for God’s people;

no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray.

No lion shall be there,

nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;

they shall not be found there,

but the redeemed shall walk there.

And the ransomed of the LORD shall return,

and come to Zion with singing;

everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;

they shall obtain joy and gladness,

and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

RESPONSE (TWO OPTIONS):

Psalm 146 (New Revised Standard Version):

Praise the LORD!

Praise the LORD, O my soul!

I will praise the LORD as long as I live;

I will sing praises to my God all my life long.

Do not put your trust in princes,

in mortals, in whom there is no help.

When their breath departs, they return to the earth;

on that very day their plans perish.

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,

whose help is the LORD their God,

who made heaven and earth,

the sea, and all that is in them;

who keeps faith forever;

who executes justice for the oppressed;

who gives food to the hungry.

The LORD sets the prisoners free;

the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.

The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;

the LORD loves the righteous.

The LORD watches over the strangers;

he upholds the orphan and the widow,

but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

The LORD will reign forever,

your God, O Zion, for all generations.

Praise the LORD!

Canticle 15 (The Magnificat), from The Book of Common Prayer, page 91:

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.

SECOND READING:  James 5:7-10 (New Revised Standard Version):

Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

GOSPEL:  Matthew 11:2-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him,

Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?

Jesus answered them,

Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John:

What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written,

See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,

who will prepare your way before you.

Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

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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The Third Sunday of Advent is Stir-Up Sunday, from the opening words of the collect.  The prayer asks to God to send divine power among us , to help and deliver us, who cannot perform either task on our own behalf.  The readings for this Sunday tell of what happens when God’s power is unleashed:  deserts bloom, the mighty fall, the humble are exalted, and exiles return home.  All this is wonderful, except from the vantage point of the mighty whom God has cast down from their thrones.

When I ponder these readings, especially the Magnificat, I cannot help but wonder how certain politicians and pundits with whom I disagree profoundly might handle the content.  Might they accuse the texts of engaging in class warfare?  Well, class welfare is part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  For that matter, an unregulated or barely regulated corporate economy contradicts the teachings of the Old and New Testaments, from the Hebrew Prophets to Jesus.  I cannot escape the fact that the Bible teaches nothing less than Christian Socialism.

Here I stand; I can do no other.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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Adapted from this post:

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

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We Wait…   1 comment

Above:  The Roman Colosseum in Early Morning

It is neither dark nor light; the light will come.

Image Source = Diliff

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Colosseum_in_Rome,_Italy_-_April_2007.jpg)

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Isaiah 40:1-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

Comfort, O comfort my people,

says your God.

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,

and cry to her

that she has served her term,

that her penalty is paid,

that she has received from the LORD’s hand

double for all her sins.

A voice cries out:

In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD,

make straight in desert a highway for our God.

Every valley shall be lifted up,

and every mountain and hill be made low;

the uneven ground shall become level,

and the rough places a plain.

Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,

and all people shall see it together,

for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

A voice says,

Cry out!

And I said,

What shall I cry?

All people are grass,

their consistency is like the flower of the field.

The grass withers, the flower fades,

when the breath of the LORD blows upon it;

surely the people are grass.

The grass withers, the flower fades;

but the word of our God will stand for ever.

Get up to a high mountain,

O Zion, herald of great tidings;

lift up your voice with strength,

O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,

lift it up, do not fear;

say to the cities of Judah,

Here is your God!

See, the LORD God comes with might,

and his arm rules for him;

his reward is with him,

and his recompense before him.

He will feed his flock like a shepherd;

he will gather the lambs in his arms,

and carry them in his bosom,

and gently lead the mother sheep.

Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  You have been gracious to your land, O LORD,

you have restored the good fortune of Jacob.

2  You have forgiven the iniquity of your people

and blotted out all their sins.

8  I will listen to what the LORD God is saying,

for he is speaking peace to his faithful people

and to those who turn their hearts to him.

9  Truly, his salvation is very near to those fear him,

that his glory may dwell in our land.

10  Mercy and truth have met together;

righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

11  Truth shall spring up from the earth,

and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

12  The LORD will indeed grant prosperity,

and our land will yield its increase.

13  Righteousness shall go before him,

and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

2 Peter 3:8-15a (New Revised Standard Version):

But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day.  The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.

Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire?  But, in accordance with his promise, we waiting for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.

Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.

Mark 1:1-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,

See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,

who will prepare the way;

the voice of one crying out in the wilderness;

“Prepare the way of the Lord,

make his paths straight.’”

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.  Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.  He proclaimed,

The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals.  I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.

The Collect:

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Second Sunday of Advent, Year A:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/eighth-day-of-advent-second-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/

Isaiah 40:

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

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Waiting is hard.  I do not refer to pacing and foot-tapping while wondering what is taking somebody so long, although that is difficult.  No, I mean purposeful, patient waiting.  The conquered and exiled Jews living within the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire had to wait for the Persian army of Cyrus the Great.  These being Advent readings, however, most waiting is for the coming of the Messiah.  In the meantime, people near Jerusalem listened to an eccentric ascetic.  And, a few decades later, members of a nascent faith called Christianity awaited the return of Jesus, with advice to live at peace with God and each other.  Time, the author of 2 Peter writes, works differently for God than for us, so we ought not to become impatient.

Listen to a really good and chanted version of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”  The haunting  sense of longing will be evident there, as will confidence that Emmanuel will come, and God will indeed be with us in a different way than is true now.  Until then, we need to hang on.

This requires stillness.   But we cannot be still while rushing and flitting about from shopping trip to shopping trip and Christmas party (office, neighborhood, church group, etc.) to Christmas party.  December is a hectic time for many people.  Yet this is the time that the Church, in its wisdom, has set aside as Advent, a time of faithful preparation for Christmas.

I write these words in early June 2011, a very hot time in northern Georgia, U.S.A.  Slowing down long enough to type the readings and to ponder them, and hopefully to grasp the spirit of them, is a valuable exercise.  During this time I have played a variety of YouTube videos of Advent carols in the background, to get into the proper frame of mind.  Focusing on these readings has been a great blessing for me this day, and I hope that they are for you, too.

Dominus tecum.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 3, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF UGANDA

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Published originally at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on June 3, 2011

Adapted from this post:

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

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Posted November 12, 2011 by neatnik2009 in 2 Peter 3, Isaiah 40, Mark 1, Psalm 85

Tagged with

Jesus: In Continuity with the Prophets   3 comments

Above:  The Prophet Elijah and the Widow of Zarapheth

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Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 48:1-11 (Revised English Bible):

Then there arose Elijah, a prophet like fire,

whose word blazed like a torch.

He brought famine on the people,

and in his zeal reduced them in number.

By the word of the Lord he shut up the sky,

and three times he called down fire from heaven.

How glorious you were, Elijah, in your miracles!

Who else can boast such deeds?

By the word of the Most High

you raised a corpse from death and the grave.

You sent kings and famous men

from their sick-beds down to destruction.

You heard a rebuke at Sinai,

a sentence of doom at Horeb.

You anointed kings for retribution,

and a prophet to succeed you.

You were taken up to heaven in a fiery whirlwind,

in a chariot drawn by horses of fire.

Scripture records that you are to come at the appointed time

to allay the divine wrath before it erupts in fury,

to reconcile father and son,

and to restore the tribes of Jacob.

Happy are those who see you,

happy those who have fallen asleep in love!

(For we also shall certainly live.)

Psalm 80:1-3, 14-19 (Revised English Bible):

Hear us, Shepherd of Israel,

leading Joseph like a flock.

Shine forth, as you sit enthroned on the cherubim,

Leading Ephraim, Benjamin, Manasseh,

rouse your might and come to our rescue.

God, restore us,

and make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.

God of hosts, turn to us, we pray;

look down from heaven and see.

Tend this vine,

this stock which your right hand has planted.

May those who set it on fire and cut it down

perish before your angry look.

Let your hand rest on the one at your right side,

the one whom you have made strong for your service.

Then we shall not turn back from you;

grant us new life, and we shall invoke you by name.

LORD God of Hosts, restore us,

and make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.

Matthew 17:9-13 (Revised English Bible):

(This reading is set immediately after the Transfiguration.)

On their way down the mountain, Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone of the vision until the Son of Man had been raised from the dead.  The disciples put a question to him:

Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?

He replied,

Elijah is to come and set everything right.  But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they failed to recognize him, and did to him as they wanted; in the same way the Son of Man must suffer at their hands.

Then the disciples understood that he meant John the Baptist.

The Collect:

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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I am a Christian.  By this simple statement I mean that I am a partisan of Christ, one who follows Jesus of Nazareth.  As such I affirm the humanity, divinity, life, death, resurrection, and teachings of the Lord and Savior.  Jesus is the incarnation of God, in line with the Prophets, the last of which was John the Baptist, and the ultimate expression of what a human life can be and can be worth.

I grew up in southern Georgia, the buckle of the Baptist Belt.  There the dominant church culture places great stress of verbal confessions of faith–too much, I think, often at the expense of a quieter, lived, non-verbal orthodoxy.  My faith runs deeply, but rarely in Baptist-style vocalizations.  So, for example, very little of my prayer life is oral, especially in public.  From time to time I have had negative encounters with earnest Baptists and other Protestants who have not understood my faith and approach to it.  And I felt no obligation to justify myself to them.  I still don’t.

Growing up in southern Georgia, I was a relative heretic.  (Not that anything is wrong with that, to borrow a phrase from a Seinfeld episode.)  Nevertheless, I am actually more orthodox than many people might suspect.  Seldom do I get into this with people, for God, not they, is my judge.

Anyway, I make these points at this time and in this place because they fit the readings.  I am writing these words on Memorial Day 2010, but the stated occasion is the Fourteenth Day of Advent, in December.  (I like to write ahead of time.) These readings indicate that Jesus stands in line with the Prophets of Yahweh while one of them foreshadows his death and resurrection.  In the midst of expectation we find a mention of the dark side of the narrative.

So, while the countdown to Christmas continues, let us remember the rest of the story.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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Adapted from this post:

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

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An Oasis in Libya

Image Source = Sfivat

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Oasis_in_Lybia.JPG)

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Isaiah 48:17-19 (Revised English Bible):

Thus says the LORD your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:

I am the LORD your God:

I teach you in the way of your own well-being

and lead you in the way you should go.

If only you had listened to my commands,

your prosperity would have rolled like a river,

your success like the waves of the sea;

your children would have been like the sand in number,

your descendants countless as its grains;

their name would never be erased or blotted from my sight.

Psalm 1 (Revised English Bible):

Happy is the one

who does not take the counsel of the wicked for a guide,

or follow the path that sinners tread,

or take his seat in the company of scoffers.

His delight is in the law of the LORD;

it is his meditation day and night.

He is like a tree planted beside water channels;

it yields its fruit in season

and its foliage never fades.

So he too prospers in all he does.

The wicked are not like this;

rather they are like chaff driven by the wind.

When judgment comes, therefore, they will not stand firm,

nor will sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

The LORD watches over the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked is doomed.

Matthew 11:16-19 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus said,]

How can I describe this generation?  They are like children sitting in the market-place and calling to each other,

“We piped for you and you would not dance.

We lamented, and you would not mourn.”

For John came, neither eating nor drinking, and people say, “He is possessed”; the Son of Man came, eating and drinking, and they say, “Look at him!  A glutton and a drinker, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!”  Yet God’s wisdom is proved right by its results.

The Collect:

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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First, a joke:  An Episcopal congregation welcomed its first female priest.  Yet two men in the church were weary of having a woman as their pastor.  They invited her to go fishing with them.  The priest agreed.  When the three of them were in a boat in a lake, the priest realized that she had left her fishing gear on the ground.  So she excused herself and walked across the water to collect what she needed to begin fishing.  One man turned to the other and said, “See, she can’t even swim.”  As a sign I own says, “FOR EVERY ACTION THERE IS AN EQUAL AND OPPOSITE CRITICISM.”

Yet, as this day’s readings remind us, results matter.  We should know this, for this conclusion is intuitive.  During this life many of those who lie, cheat, and steal shamelessly and habitually succeed for a long time, perhaps until they die.  Meanwhile, numerous honest and devout people struggle to make ends meet and to provide adequately for their families and themselves.  Banditry of certain varieties is legal on Wall Street, so a relative prosper because of their immorality while they place others at a disadvantage.  This is an old story.

Yet there is justice with God.  We know trees by their fruit, and we reap what we sow.  If we sow justice, we reap the common good.  If we sow love, we reap a good society.  Yet if we sow fear, we reap hatred.  And if we sow injustice, we reap social discord and economic inequality.  In the end God, who by grace labels all who follow him “acceptable,” does not excuse injustice.

The purpose of the Gospel is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.  Thanks be to God!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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Adapted from this post:

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

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“The Old Eternal Rocks”   2 comments

Above:  Great Smoky Mountains

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Isaiah 41:13-20 (Revised English Bible):

For I, the LORD your God,

take you by the right hand

and say to you, Have no fear;

it is I who help you.

Have no fear, Jacob you worm and Israel you maggot.

It is I who help you, declares the LORD;

your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.

See, I shall make of you a sharp threshing-sledge,

new and studded with teeth;

you will thresh mountains and crush them to dust

and reduce the hills to chaff;

you will winnow them; the wind will carry them away

and a gale will scatter them.

Then you will rejoice in the LORD

and glory in the Holy One of Israel.

The poor and the needy look for water and find none;

their tongues are parched with thirst.

But the LORD shall provide for their wants;

I, the God of Israel, shall not forsake them.

I shall open rivers on the arid heights,

and wells in the valleys;

I shall turn the desert into pools

and dry land into springs of water;

I shall plant cedars in the wilderness,

acacias, myrtles, and wild olives;

I shall grow pines on the barren heath

side by side with fir and box tree,

that everyone may see and know,

may once and for all observe and understand

that the LORD himself has done this:

it is the creation of the Holy One of Israel.

Psalm 145:1-4, 8-13 (Revised English Bible):

I shall extol you, my God and King,

and bless your name for ever and ever.

Every day I shall bless you

and praise your name for ever and ever.

Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;

his greatness is beyond all searching out.

One generation will commend your works to the next

and set forth your mighty deeds.

The LORD is gracious and compassionate,

long-suffering and ever faithful.

The LORD is good to all;

his compassion rests upon all his creatures.

All your creatures praise you, LORD,

and your loyal servants bless you.

They talk of the glory of your kingdom

and tell of your might,

to make known to mankind your mighty deeds,

the glorious majesty of your kingdom.

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,

and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

Matthew 11:7-15 (Revised English Bible):

(This reading occurs after Jesus has received envoys from the imprisoned John the Baptist, who experienced doubts that Jesus was what John had claimed him to be.)

When the messengers were on their way back, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John:  “What was the spectacle that drew you to the wilderness?  A reed swaying in the wind?  No?  Then what did you go out to see?  A man dressed in finery?  Fine clothes are to be found in palaces.  But why 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.

Truly I tell you:  among all who have ever been born, no one has been greater than John the Baptist, and yet the least in the kingdom of Heaven is greater than he.

Since the time of John the Baptist the kingdom of God has been subjected to violence and violent men are taking it by force.  For until John, all the prophets and the law foretold things to come; and John is the destined Elijah, if you will but accept it.  If you have ears, then hear.”

The Collect:

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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When I was a United Methodist “preacher’s kid”  growing up within the South Georgia Annual Conference my family had contact with a missionary organization called Lifeline Ministries.  I recall their yellow signs printed on heavy paper suitable for placing on desks or on refrigerator doors.  These signs features their motto, “GOD IS GREATER THAN ANY PROBLEM I HAVE.”

Our problems are real; let us never question that reality.  Doubts arise and we experience stress, but God answers our questions when we ask them.  And God is greater than any problem we have.  So let us take comfort, have well-placed faith in God, listen to and obey God, and avoid worrying.  To worry is to engage in total waste, for this exercise will bring us no closer to resolving our genuine issues.  No, it is better to focus on finding, identifying, and executing solutions.

When I became an Episcopalian I learned a new hymnody, one superior to that with which I grew up in Southern rural United Methodism.  Among the greatest hymns I learned after converting is “I Bind Unto Myself Today,” with words by Saint Patrick.  Reading this day’s lections while I typed them called two verses of that hymn to mind:

I bind unto myself today

the virtues of the starlit heaven

the glorious sun’s life-giving ray,

the whiteness of the moon at even,

the flashing of the lightning free,

the whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,

the stable earth, the deep salt sea,

around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today

the power of God to hold and lead,

his eye to watch, his might to stay,

his ear to hearken to my need;

the wisdom of my God to teach,

his hand to guide, his shield to ward;

the word of God to give me speech,

his heavenly host to be my guard.

Indeed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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Adapted from this post:

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

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