Archive for November 2011

Who Was Really Paralyzed?   1 comment

Above:  Jesus and the Paralytic at Capernaum

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Isaiah 35:1-10 (Revised English Bible):

Let the wilderness and the parched land be glad,

let the desert rejoice and burst into flower.

Let it flower with fields of asphodel,

let it rejoice and shout for joy.

The glory of Lebanon is given to it,

the splendour too of Carmel and Sharon;

these will see the glory of the LORD,

the splendour of our God.

Brace the arms that are limp,

steady the knees that give way;

say to the anxious,

Be strong, fear not!

Your God comes to save you

with his vengeance and his retribution.

Then the eyes of the blind will be opened,

and the ears of the deaf will like deer,

and the dumb shout aloud;

for water will spring up in the wilderness

and torrents flow in the desert.

The mirage will become a pool,

the thirsty land bubbling springs;

instead of reeds and rushes, grass will grow

in country where wolves have their lairs.

And a causeway will appear there;

it will be called the Way of Holiness.

No one unclean will pass along it;

it will become a pilgrim’s way,

and no fool will trespass on it.

No lion will come there,

no savage beast go by;

not one will be found there.

But by that way those the LORD  has redeemed will return.

The LORD’s people, set free, will come back

and enter Zion with shouts of triumph,

crowned with everlasting joy.

Gladness and joy will come upon them,

while suffering and weariness flee away.

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 5:17-26 (Revised English Bible):

One day as he [Jesus] was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting round him.  People had come from every village in Galilee and from Judaea and Jerusalem, and the power of the Lord was with him to heal the sick.  Some men appeared carrying a paralyzed man on a bed, and tried to bring him in and set him down in front of Jesus.  Finding no way to do so because of the crowd, they went up onto the roof and let him down through the tiling, bed and all, into the middle of the company in front of Jesus.  When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man,

Your sins are forgiven you.

The scribes and Pharisees began asking among themselves,

Who is this fellow with his blasphemous talk?  Who but God alone can forgive sins?

But Jesus knew what they were thinking and answered them:

Why do you harbour these thoughts?  Is it easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven you,” or to say, “Stand up and walk”?  But to convince you that the Son of Man has the right on earth to forgive sins

–he turned to the paralyzed man–

I say to you, stand up, take your bed, and go home.

At once the man rose to his feet before their eyes, took up the bed he had been lying on, and went home praising God.  They were all lost in amazement and praised God; filled with awe they said,

The things we have seen today are beyond belief!

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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God seeks to be gracious to us.  We read this message in both the Old Testament and the New Testament and we see it in the life of Jesus.  This theme permeates the three readings for this day in Advent.

In Luke 5:17-26 Jesus extends graciousness and healing to a very fortunate paralytic.  This man has good friends who lower him from a roof because that is the only way to get him to Jesus.  And our Lord and Savior heals the man with faithful friends.

I propose that the man was merely a bodily paralytic and that the critics of Jesus were spiritual paralytics.  The Sweet Hereafter is one of my favorite movies.  It depicts a small town of able-bodied yet emotionally crippled people after a school bus crash in which all but one of the students dies.  The survivor, Nicole, is paralyzed from the waist down.  Yet she is not crippled emotionally.  She is, in fact, the most whole person in the town.  In the healing story the true paralytics are the critics of Jesus, for their fear and preconceptions prevented them from following the path of righteousness.  They could not walk in the light because of their attachments to their traditions and status.

It is a rare and fortunate person who lacks any inner paralysis–emotional, psychological, or spiritual.  May we welcome God’s healing.  May we want God to make us well and whole.

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/ninth-day-of-advent/

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The Approaching Kingdom of God   1 comment

Above:  The Tomb of St. John the Baptist, Lower Egypt

Image Source = Lollylolly 78

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

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Isaiah 11:1-10 (New Revised Standard Version):

A shoot will come from the stump of Jesse,

and a branch will grow out of his roots.

The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him,

the spirit of wisdom and understanding,

the spirit of counsel and might,

the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,

or decide by what his ears hear;

but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,

and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;

he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,

and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,

and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

The wolf shall live with the lamb,

the leopard shall lie down with the kid,

the calf and the lion and the fatling together,

and a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze,

their young shall lie down together;

and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,

and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.

They will not hurt or destroy

on all my holy mountain;

for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD

as the waters cover the sea.

On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19 (New Revised Standard Version):

Give the king your justice, O God,

and your righteousness to the a king’s son.

May he judge your people with righteousness,

and your poor with justice.

May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,

and the hills, in righteousness.

May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,

give deliverance to the needy,

and crush the oppressor.

May he live while the sun endures,

and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.

May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,

like showers that water the earth.

In his days may righteousness flourish

and peace abound, until the moon is no more.

Blessed by the LORD, the God of Israel,

who alone does wondrous things.

Blessed be his glorious name forever;

may his glory fill the whole earth.

Amen and Amen.

Romans 15:4-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,

Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles,

and sing praises to your name;

and again he says,

Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people;

and again,

Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,

and let all the peoples praise him;

and again Isaiah says,

The root of Jesse shall come,

the one who rises to rule the Gentiles;

in him the Gentiles shall hope.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 3:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming,

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.

This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,

The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:

“Prepare the way of the Lord,

make his paths straight.”

Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them,

You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.

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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St. John the Baptist was one of a line of prophets who spoke of the coming Kingdom of God on earth.  John, however, spoke of the short-term arrival of this kingdom.  And one of the concepts embedded in the canonical Gospels is that the Kingdom of God was present within and around people; God was active on the earth.  In historical context this constituted, among other things, a strong (and justified) criticism of the Roman imperial order.  Rome occupied the Jewish homeland, maintained order with fear, and encouraged slavery and economic inequity–even exploitation.  Much of this sounds contemporary, does it not?

Jesus was born, lived, died, rose again, and ascended.  And yet the Roman imperial order persisted.  So understandings of the Kingdom of God changed, becoming more abstractly spiritual than concerned with the present tense.  Yet I find the older understanding powerful; I cannot dismiss it.  If the Kingdom of God was present when Jesus walked the face of the earth, is it not still here?  Could it have faded away after the Ascension?  I think not.

So I leave you, O reader, with this:  How is the Kingdom of God an indictment of your society and government, perhaps even the dominant form of organized religion in your society?  And, when you have your answer(s), what ought you to do with this (these) realization(s)?  It cost Jesus his life, and St. John the Baptist before him.  What will it cost you?

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/eighth-day-of-advent-second-sunday-of-advent-year-a/

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Posted November 12, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Isaiah 11, Matthew 3, Psalm 72, Romans 15

Tagged with

Expectations Versus Reality   1 comment

Above:  Saint Joseph with the Infant Jesus, by Guido Reni, Circa 1635

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Isaiah 64:1-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,

so that the mountains would quake at your presence–

as when fire kindles brushwood

and the fire causes water to boil–

to make your name known to your adversaries,

so that the nations might tremble at your presence!

When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect,

you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.

From ages past no one has heard,

no ear has perceived,

no eye has seen any God besides you,

who works for those who wait for him.

You meet those who gladly do right,

those who remember you in your ways.

But you were angry, and we sinned;

because you hid yourself we transgressed.

We have all become like one who is unclean,

and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.

We all fade like a leaf,

and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

There is no one who calls on your name,

or attempts to take hold of you;

for you have hidden your face from us,

and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.

Yet, O LORD, you are our Father;

we are the clay, and you are our potter;

we are all the work of your hand.

Do not be exceedingly angry, O LORD,

and do not remember iniquity forever.

Now consider, we are your people.

Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock;

shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim.

2  In the presence of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh,

stir up your strength and come to help us.

3  Restore us, O God of hosts;

show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

4  O LORD God of hosts,

how long will you be angered

despite the prayers of your people?

5  You have fed them with the bread of tears;

you have given them bowls of tears to drink.

6 You have made us the derision of our neighbors,

and our enemies laugh us to scorn.

7  Restore us, O God of hosts;

show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

16  Let your hand be upon the man of your right hand,

the son of man you have made so strong for yourself.

17  And so will we never turn away from you;

give us life, that we may call upon your Name.

18  Restore us, O LORD God of hosts;

show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

1 Corinthians 1:3-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

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

I give thanks to my God for you because of the grace of God that has been given to you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind–just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you–so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Mark 13:24-37 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said to his disciples,

In those days, after that suffering,

“the sun will be darkened,

and the moon will not give its light,

and the stars will be falling from heaven,

and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.”

Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake– for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.

The Collect:

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

First Sunday of Advent, Year A:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/first-day-of-advent-first-sunday-of-advent-year-a/

Luke 21 (Similar to Mark 13):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/week-of-proper-29-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/week-of-proper-29-friday-year-1-and-week-of-proper-29-saturday-year-1/

1 Corinthians 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/second-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

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Many science fiction movies and television shows depict human-like aliens who, oddly enough, speak Earth languages fluently.  This is, of course, a conceit made necessary for a long time due to limited special effects technology and budgets, the fact that actors are humans, and that many audience members dislike reading subtitles.  This also reflects the fact of our frame of reference when pondering extraterrestrial life; we seek life as we know it.  But what if life as we know it is rare and life as we do not know it is more plentiful?

Let us apply that principle to Messianic expectations.  It is natural to seek a spectacular display of divine power and presence, especially when one lives under foreign occupation or when the troubles of life seem too difficult to bear.  But what did we get?  The picture I placed at the top of this post says it all:  a baby.  He grew up, died, and rose again.  In fact, I write this post on the Feast of the Ascension in 2011.  With that departure came the promise of a Second Coming, but when?

Many of the earliest Christians, including St. Paul, thought that the Second Coming was soon.  That was, of course, nearly two thousand years ago.  After Paul, the canonical Gospels, written after the First Jewish War, reflected expectations that Jesus would be back any day now.  That was nearly two thousand years ago.  Over a century and a half ago, William Miller predicted more than one date for the Second Coming.  He was mistaken.  More recently, Colin Hoyle Deal, writing in the late 1970s, thought that Jesus would return by 1988.  He had 101 reasons for this.  (I have a copy of his book.)  Hal Lindsey, also writing in the 1970s, thought that Jesus would come back before 2000.  And Harold Camping has issued more than one faulty date for the end of times.

Jesus has not kept the schedules some people have calculated for him.

God will tend to the details of time quite well without our predictions; may we tend to our earthly vocations and not waste time getting in over our heads.  We are called to be agents of God and faces of Christ to those to whom God sends us.  This is our reality.  So I ask you, O reader, some questions:  Whom has God sent to you?  To whom has God sent you?  And how often did any of this not match your expectations?  What lessons have you learned from the discrepancy between your expectations and your reality?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 2, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF REINHOLD NIEBUHR, UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF LYONS (A.K.A. BLANDINA AND HER COMPANIONS)

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Published originally at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on June 2, 2011

Adapted from this post:

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

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Awe of God   1 comment

Above:  “He clothes the hills with grass.” (Psalm 147:8, REB)

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Isaiah 30:19-26 (Revised English Bible):

People of Zion, dwellers in Jerusalem, you will weep no more.  The LORD will show you favour and answer you when he hears your cry for help.  The Lord may give you bread of adversity and water of affliction, but he who teaches  you will no longer keep himself out of sight, but with your own eyes you will see him.  If you stray from the path, whether to the right or to the left, you will hear a voice from behind you sounding in your ears saying,

This is the way; follow it.

You will treat as things unclean in silver-plated idols; you will loathe them like a foul discharge and call them filth.

The Lord will give rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and as you sow in the ground, and as the produce of your soil he will give you heavy crops.  When that day comes your cattle will graze in broad pastures; the oxen and donkeys that plough the land will be fed with well-seasoned fodder, winnowed with shovel and fork.  On every high mountain and lofty hill streams of water will flow, on the day of massacre when fortresses fall.  The moon will shine as brightly as the sun, and the sun with seven times its wonted brightness, like seven days’ light in one, on the day when the LORD binds up the broken limbs of his people and heals the wounds inflicted on them.

Psalm 147:1-11 (Revised English Bible):

Praise the LORD.

How good it is to sing psalms to our God!

How pleasant and right to praise him!

The LORD rebuilds Jerusalem;

he gathers in the scattered Israelites.

It is he who heals the broken in spirit

and binds up their wounds,

who numbers the stars one by one

and calls each by name.

Mighty is our LORD and great his power;

his wisdom is beyond all telling.

The LORD gives support to the humble

and brings evildoers to the ground.

Sing to the LORD a song of thanksgiving,

sing psalms to the lyre in honour of our God.

He veils the sky in clouds

and provides rain for the earth;

he clothes the hills with grass.

He gives food to the cattle

and to the ravens when they cry.

The LORD does not delight in the strength of a horse

and takes no pleasure in a runner’s fleetness;

his pleasure is in those who fear him,

who wait for his steadfast love.

Matthew 9:35-10:8 (Revised English Bible):

So Jesus went round all the towns and villages teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, curing every kind of illness and infirmity.  The sight of the crowds moved him to pity; they were like sheep without a shepherd, harassed and helpless.  Then he said to his disciples,

The crop is heavy, but the labourers too few; you must ask the owner to send labourers to bring in the harvest.

Then he called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out unclean spirits and to cure every kind of illness and infirmity.

These are the names of the twelve apostles:  first Simon, also called Peter, and his brother, Andrew; James, son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax-collector, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the man who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions:

Do not take the road to gentile lands, and do not enter any Samaritan town; but go rather to the lost sheep  of the house of Israel.  And as you proclaim the message:  ‘The kingdom of heaven is upon you.’  Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons.  You received without out cost; give without charge.

The Collect:

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The word “fear” in relation to God appears often in English translations of the Bible.  This is an unfortunate fact, for the better word is “awe.”  Fear, as most of understand that concept, is not what the Biblical writers meant when writing in the original languages.  I worship God, who, as the author of Psalm 147 wrote poetically, clothes the hills with grass.  My relationship with God is personal.  Often I make short comments to God.  These vary from dark and anguished expressions of frustration to short comments about how lovely a cloud formation is or pleasant a breeze is.  All these statements are honest and rooted in the belief that I can say anything to God.

So I have no difficulty becoming awestruck by God, and therefore extending due respect to the deity.  From this spiritual state flows an understanding of certain obligations.  What ought I to do with this?  I am, as Jesus said, to give without charge, for I have received without cost.  Each of us has received generously from the hand of God; we need to share with others that which we have to contribute.  I think of the model from the Acts of the Apostles:  we Christians should live in community, give as we are able, and receive as we have need, so that nobody will lack anything he or she needs.  And, as the example of St. Laurence of Rome reminds me, the poor are the real treasures of the church.

This is a matter of priorities.

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/2010/09/14/seventh-day-of-advent/

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Posted November 12, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Isaiah 30, Matthew 9, Psalm 147

Tagged with ,

Wholeness in God, Part I   1 comment

Above:  “Shalom” in Hebrew

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Isaiah 29:17-24 (Revised English Bible):

In but a very short time

Lebanon will return to garden land

and the garden land will be reckoned

as common as scrub.

On that day the deaf will hear

when a book is read,

and the eyes of the blind will see

out of inpenetrable darkness.

The lowly will once again rejoice in the LORD,

and the poor exult in the Holy One of Israel.

The ruthless will be no more,

the arrogant will cease to exist;

those who are quick to find mischief,

those who impute sins to others,

or lay traps for him who brings the wrongdoer into court,

or by falsehood deny justice to the innocent–

all these will be cut down.

Therefore these are the words of the LORD, the deliverer of Abraham, about the house of Jacob:

This is no time for Jacob to be shamed,

no time for his face to grow pale;

for his descendants will hallow my name

when they see what I have done in their midst.

They will hold sacred the Holy One of Jacob

and regard Israel’s God with awe;

they confused will gain understanding,

and the obstinate accept instruction.

Psalm 27:1-4, 13-14 (Revised English Bible):

The LORD is my light and my salvation;

whom should I fear?

The LORD is the stronghold of my life;

of whom then I should go in dread?

When evildoers close in on me to devour me,

it is my adversaries, my enemies,

who stumble and fall.

Should an army encamp against me,

my heart would have no fear;

if armed men should fall upon me,

even then I would be undismayed.

One thing I ask of the LORD,

it is the one thing I seek;

that I may dwell in the house of the LORD

all the days of  my life,

to gaze on the beauty of the LORD

and to seek him in his temple.

Well I know that I shall see the goodness of the LORD

in the land of the living.

Wait for the LORD; be strong and brave,

and put your hope in the LORD.

Matthew 9:27-31 (Revised English Bible):

As he went on from there Jesus was followed by two blind men, shouting,

Have mercy on us, Son of David!

When he had gone indoors they came to him, and Jesus asked,

Do you believe that I have the power to do what you want?

They said,

We do.

Then he touched their eyes, and said,

As you have believed, so let it be;

and their sight was restored.  Jesus told them sternly,

See that no one hears about this.

But as soon as they had gone out they talked about him all over the region.

The Collect:

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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As I typed the lessons I remembered part of Richard Elliott Friedman’s introduction of Genesis, from his Commentary on the Torah.  Consider the following, from page 4 of that book:

There is also a theological point:  this was a new say to conceive of a God.  The difference between the Torah’s conception of God and the pagan world’s conception is not merely arithmetic: one versus many.  The pagan deities were known through their functions in nature: The sun god, Shamash, was the sun.  If one wanted to know the essence of Shamash, the thing to do was to contemplate the sun.  If you wanted to know the essence of the grain deity Dagon, you contemplated wheat.  To know Yamm, contemplate the sea.  But the God of the Torah was different, creating all of nature–and therefore not knowable or identifiable through any one element of nature.  One could learn no more about this God by contemplating the sea than by contemplating grain, sky, or anything else.  The essence of this God remains hidden.  One does not know God through nature but by the divine acts in history.  One never finds out what God is, but rather what God does–and what God says.  This conception, which informs all of biblical narrative, did not necessarily have to be developed at the very beginning of the story, but it was.  Parashat Bereshit establishes this by beginning with accounts of creation an by then following through the first ten generations of humankind.  (Those “begat” lists are thus more important than people generally think.)

The Torah’s theology is thus inseparable from its history and from its literary qualities.  Ultimately, there is no such thing as the “The Bible as Literature” or “The Bible as History” or “The Bible as…anything.”  There is: the Bible.

Taking a cue from Dr. Friedman, I focus on what God said and did in Isaiah and what Jesus said and did in Matthew.  Jesus, of course, was the incarnate form of God.  So what he said and did reflects God without depriving us of the glorious mystery which is divine nature.  This day’s readings tell of God restoring those who are not whole to a state of wholeness, or to taking them to that condition for the first time.  From this I conclude that God wants us to be whole.  How God defines wholeness, of course, might not conform to our standards.  And that is fine.

Yet one should not treat God (or Jesus) merely as a miracle worker or cosmic bellboy.  It is crucial to move beyond merely self-serving attitudes when approaching God.  This, I suspect, helps explain why Jesus preferred that many people not tell of his miracles; his words and life mattered, too.  And when one reads many of the healing stories in the canonical Gospels one should notice that someone (not necessarily the one healed) has faith at a successful healing event.  Coming to wholeness entails a human element, too.

And why does God makes us whole? First, God loves us and wants the best for us.  Yet there is another reason:  we exist for each other and to glorify God. Human life at its fullest is in community and for the common good.  In this context efforts to help one self at the expense of others has no place.  Neither does exploitation in any form.  And, as the Westminster catechisms remind us in the first question and answer, the chief end of human beings is to glorify and enjoy God.  May we do both habitually.

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/2010/09/14/sixth-day-of-advent/

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Posted November 12, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Isaiah 29, Matthew 9, Psalm 27

Tagged with

Jesus, Our Rock   1 comment

Above:  Bedrock at Caithness, Scotland

Image Source = Mike Norton

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rockhead1.jpg.JPG)

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Isaiah 26:1-6 (Revised English Bible):

On that day this song will be sung in Judah:

We have a strong city

with walls and ramparts built for our safety.

Open the gates!  Let a righteous nation enter,

a nation that keeps faith!

LORD, you keep those of firm purpose

untroubled because of their trust in you.

Trust in the LORD for ever,

for he is an eternal rock.

He has brought low

all who dwell high in a towering city;

he levels it to the ground

and lays it in the dust,

so that the oppressed and the poor

may tread it underfoot.

Psalm 118:19-24 (Revised English Bible):

Open to me the gates of victory;

I shall go in by them and praise the LORD.

This is the gate of the LORD;

the victors will enter through it.

I shall praise you, for you have answered me

and have become my deliverer.

The stone which the builders rejected

has become the main corner-stone.

This is the LORD’s doing;

it is wonderful in our eyes.

This is the day on which the LORD has acted,

a day for us to exult and rejoice.

Matthew 7:21-27 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus said,]

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only those who do the will of my heavenly Father.  When the day comes, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, when did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name perform many miracles?’  Then I will say to them plainly, ‘I never knew you.  Out of sight; your deeds are evil!’

So whoever hears these words of mine and acts on them is like a man who had the sense to build his house on rock.  The rain came down, the floods rose, and winds blew, and beat upon that house; but it did not fall, because its foundations were on rock.  And whoever hears these words of mine and does not act on them is like a man who was foolish enough to build his house on sand.  The rain came down, the floods rose, the winds blew and battered against that house; and it fell with a great crash.

When Jesus had finished this discourse the people were amazed at his teaching; unlike their scribes he taught them with a note of authority.

The Collect:

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Certain childhood memories tarry.  For me one of these is the collection of Arch Books I had.  Arch Books were small paperback volumes from the Concordia Press.  Each book told one Bible story, mostly with illustrations, as is the style of most volumes for young children.  The Arch Book which I remember most vividly after the passage of time is The House on the Rock.  To this day I recall illustrations depicting the sober-minded man who took enough time to build a house on a rock, as well as a party at the house built on sand.  Alas, the latter gentleman engaged in short-term thinking alone, and his joy was short-lived.

Anyhow, the meaning of the parable is clear:  Jesus is the rock.  We who call ourselves Christians, if we are intellectually honest, build our spiritual houses on the life, teachings, and person of Jesus of Nazareth, maturing in faith over time.  We will not get every detail correct, of course, for we are mere mortals.  Yet we can trust in God, whose grace will empower us to succeed in this endeavor.

One more detail of the Gospel reading stands out in my mind.  Jesus taught with authority.  The usual pattern was for religious teachers to refer to other authorities, such as deceased and revered rabbis.  Yet Jesus taught with authority, and this fact amazed people.  Indeed, he is a worthy rock.

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/2010/09/14/fifth-day-of-advent/

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Posted November 12, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Isaiah 26, Matthew 7, Psalm 118

Divine Abundance, Part I   1 comment

Above:  Loaves and Fishes Floor Mosaic, Church of the Multiplication, Tabgha, Israel

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Isaiah 25:6-9 (Revised English Bible):

On this mountain the LORD of Hosts will prepare

a banquet of rich fare for all the peoples,

a banquet of wines well matured,

richest fare and well-matured wines strained clear.

On this mountain the LORD will destroy

that veil shrouding all the peoples,

the pall thrown over all the nations.

He will destroy death for ever.

Then the LORD God will wipe away the tears

from every face,

and throughout the world

remove the indignities from his people.

The LORD has spoken.

On that day the people will say:

See, this is our God;

we have waited for him and he will deliver us.

This is the LORD for whom we have waited;

let us rejoice and exult in his deliverance.

Psalm 23 (Revised English Bible):

The LORD is my shepherd; I lack for nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,

he leads me to water where I may rest;

he revives my spirit;

for his name’s sake he guides me to the right paths.

Even were I to walk through a valley of deepest darkness

I should fear no harm, for you are with me;

your shepherd’s staff and crook afford me comfort.

You spread a table for me in the presence of my enemies;

you have richly anointed me head with oil,

and my cup brims over.

Goodness and love unfailing will follow me

all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD

throughout the years to come.

Matthew 15:29-39 (Revised English Bible):

After leaving that region Jesus took the road by the sea of Galilee, where he climbed a hill and sat down.  Crowds flocked to him, bringing with them the lame, blind, dumb, and crippled, and many other sufferers; they put them down at his feet, and he healed them.  Great was the amazement of the people when they saw the dumb speaking, the crippled made strong, the lame walking, and the blind with their sight restored; and they gave praise to the God of Israel.

Jesus called out his disciples and said to them,

My heart goes out to these people; they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat.  I do not want to send them away hungry; they might faint on the way.

The disciples replied,

Where in this remote place can we find bread enough to feed such a crowd?

Jesus asked,

How many loaves have you?

They replied,

Seven, and a few small fish.

So he ordered the people to sit down on the ground; then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and after giving thanks to God he broke them and gave them to his disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.  They ate it and were satisfied; and seven baskets were filled with what was left over.  Those who were fed numbered four thousand men, not counting women and children.  After dismissing the crowd, he got into a boat and went to the neighbourhood of Magadan.

The Collect:

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Most of us have experienced periods of anxiety.  We have had certain needs–not mere desires, but necessities–and have been uncertain about how we will obtain them.  Such has been my reality.  Yet, as I reflect on the past and present, I know that I have never gone to bed hungry, never been homeless, and have always had everything I have needed.  I recall once, when in junior high school, my parents went through a phase during which they tried a diet with a great amount of chicken meat in it.  For as long as they were on that diet I was on that diet.  I came to despise chicken, and shunned it for a while after the diet ceased, but at least I ate until I was full.  So I had what I needed, even if I did not like my limited options.

Sometimes we need to play a part in helping to fulfill our needs.  Depending on our circumstances, we might need to apply for employment, tell others our problems, and lay aside false and culturally conditioned pride.  Our friends and neighbors, as capable as they might be, are probably not telepathic.  We might not have because we have not asked, or maybe we asked for the wrong thing or in the wrong way or for the wrong reason.

I reject Prosperity Theology, which the examples of Jesus and his surviving Apostles refute.  Yet I believe in the abundance of God, who transform little into more than enough.  In God we have more than we need, but not necessarily all that we want.  This is fine, for often what we want is destructive at worst or merely unnecessary at best.  It is better to have what we need, to recognize this reality, and to thank God for it.

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/2010/09/14/fourth-day-of-advent/

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Posted November 12, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Isaiah 25, Matthew 15, Psalm 23

Tagged with ,

Divine Justice, Part I   1 comment

Above:  Lascaux Caves Lions

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Isaiah 11:1-10 (Revised English Bible):

Then a branch will grow from the stock of Jesse,

and a shoot will spring from his roots.

On him the spirit of the LORD will rest:

a spirit of wisdom and understanding,

a spirit of counsel and power,

a spirit of knowledge and fear of the LORD;

and in the fear of the LORD will be his delight.

He will not judge by outward appearances

or decide a case on hearsay;

but with justice he will judge the poor

and defend the humble in the land with equity;

like a rod his verdict will strike the ruthless,

and with his word he will slay the wicked.

He will wear the belt of justice,

and truth will be his girdle.

Then the wolf will live with the lamb,

and the leopard lie down with the kid;

the calf and the young lion will feed together,

with a little child to tend them.

The cow and the bear will be friends,

and their young will lie down together;

and the lion will eat straw like cattle.

The infant will play over the cobra’s hole,

and the young child dance over the viper’s nest.

There will be neither hurt nor harm in all my holy mountain,

for the land will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD,

as the waters cover the sea.

On that day a scion from the root of Jesse

will arise like a standard to rally the peoples;

the nations will resort to him,

and his abode will be glorious.

Psalm 72:1-7 (Revised English Bible):

God, endow the king with your 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 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.

Luke 10:21-24 (Revised English Bible):

At that moment Jesus exulted in the Holy Spirit and said,

I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things from the learned and wise, and revealing them to the simple.  Yes, Father, such was your choice.  Everything is entrusted to me by my Father; no one knows who the Son is but the Father, or who the Father is but the Son, and those to the Son chooses to reveal him.

The Collect:

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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As a student of history, I know that we human beings, especially those in positions of power and prestige, assume that the status quo represents the will of God.  Such an assumption is quite convenient for those who benefit from their social positions, providing them with many benefits.  And if these people can convince those whom they exploit that the status quo represents the will of God, social injustice perseveres.  Perhaps these privileged people lie to themselves before they deceive others.

Yet I cannot grasp how anyone can read the words of the Hebrew Prophets then examine current events and not see social injustice.  How many of those who perpetuate economic injustice speak publicly of their faith, at least when campaigning?  Are they blind to this sin, or do they mock God?  This judgment resides with God alone, but the cries and pleas of the oppressed echo down the corridors of time, into the present day.

The justice of God overturns many, if not most, of our assumptions.  It establishes a new social order, converts enemies into friends and allies, makes the first last and the last first, exalts the humble and causes those who live by hubris to stumble.  It is a leveling force, for God does not regard us as we think of ourselves and each other.

The purpose of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the 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/2010/09/14/third-day-of-advent/

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Posted November 12, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Isaiah 11, Luke 10, Psalm 72

Tagged with ,

Human Faith and Divine Mercy   1 comment

Above:  A Roman Centurion

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First Reading for Year A:  Isaiah 4:2-6 (Revised English Bible):

On that day the plant that the LORD has grown will become glorious in its beauty, and the fruit of the land will be pride and the splendour of the survivors of Israel.

Then those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, every one whose survival in Jerusalem was decreed will be called holy.  When the Lord washes away the filth of the women of Zion and cleanses Jerusalem from bloodstains by a spirit of judgment burning like fire, he will create a cloud of smoke by day and a bright flame of fire by night over the whole building on Mount Zion and over all her assemblies; for his glory will be a canopy over all, a cover giving shade by day from the heat, a refuge and shelter from storm and rain.

First Reading for Years B and C:  Isaiah 2:1-5 (Revised English Bible):

This is the message which Isaiah son of Amon received in a vision, about Judah and Jerusalem.

In days to come

the mountain of the Lord’s house

will be set over all other mountains,

raised high above the hills.

All the nations will stream towards it,

and many peoples will go and say,

Let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,

to the house of the God of Jacob,

that he may teach us his ways

and that we may walk in his paths.

For instruction comes from Zion,

and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

He will judge between the nations

as arbiter among many peoples.

They will beat their swords into mattocks

and their spears into pruning-knives;

nation will not lift up sword against nation

nor ever again be trained for war.

Come, people of Jacob,

let us walk in the light of the LORD.

Psalm 122 (Revised English Bible):

I rejoiced when they said to me,

Let us go to the house of the LORD.

Now we are standing

within your gates, Jerusalem:

Jerusalem, a city built

compactly and solidly.

There the tribes went up, the tribes of the LORD,

the duty laid on Israel.

For there the thrones of justice were set,

the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:

May those who love you prosper;

peace be within your ramparts

and prosperity in your palaces.

For the sake of these my brothers and my friends,

I shall say,

Peace be within you.

For the sake of the house of the LORD our God

I shall pray for your well-being.

Matthew 8:5-13 (Revised English Bible):

As Jesus entered Capernaum a centurion came up to ask his help.

Sir,

he said,

my servant is lying at home paralyzed and racked with pain.

Jesus said,

I will come and cure him.

But he centurion replied,

Sir, I am not worthy to have you under my roof.  You need only say the word, and my servant will be cured.  I know, for I am myself under orders, with soldiers under me.  I say to one, “Go,”and he goes; to another, “Come here,” and he he comes; and to my servant, “Do this,’ and he does it.”

Jesus heard him with astonishment, and said to the people who were following him,

Truly I tell you: nowhere in Israel have I found such faith.  Many, I tell you, will come from east to west to sit with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of Heaven.  But those who were born to the kingdom will be thrown out into the dark, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

Then Jesus said to the centurion,

Go home, as you have believed, so let it be.

At that very moment the boy recovered.

The Collect:

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The two Old Testament options speak of what God will establish on earth.  God, we read, will create peace and justice on the planet at an unspecified time.  Then, in the psalm, we find mention of peace in Jerusalem (That would be nice.) and human devotion toward God.  Yet such faith is not restricted to Hebrews, as the lection from Matthew makes clear.  The centurion was an officer of the Roman army, the military force occupying the Jewish homeland.  He was the face of the enemy, and he had more faith in Jesus than did many of Jesus’ countrymen.

During Advent we Christians are supposed to prepare for Christmas.  So may we let Jesus gestate liturgically until late December 24.  News of the approaching birth of the incarnate Word of God is joyous indeed, and it is for all–Jews and Gentiles alike–who have active faith in it.  Ethnicity and race do not matter; neither do social status nor national origin nor politics.  As I have written on this blog and will certainly write again, grace can be scandalous.  It is like the wind and the Holy Spirit; it goes where it will.

As we take these early steps in our Advent pilgrimage may we embrace the scandal of grace and extend it to others, as we have opportunity.

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/2010/09/14/second-day-of-advent/

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Posted November 12, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Isaiah 2, Isaiah 3-4, Matthew 8, Psalm 122

Tagged with ,

God With Us, Part I   1 comment

Above:  The Swords into Plowshares Statue at the United Nations

Image Source = Melesse

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

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Isaiah 2:1-5 (New Revised Standard Version):

The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

In days to come

the mountain of the LORD’s house

shall be established as the highest of the mountains,

and shall be raised above the hills;

all the nations shall stream to it.

Many people shall come and say,

Come let us go up tot he mountain of the LORD,

to the house of the God of Jacob;

that he may teach us his paths.

For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,

and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

He shall judge between the nations,

and shall arbitrate for many peoples;

they shall beat their swords into plowshares,

and their spears into pruning hooks;

nation shall not lift up sword against nation,

neither shall they learn war any more.

O house of Jacob,

come, let us walk

in the light of the LORD!

AND

Psalm 122 (New Revised Standard Version):

I was glad when they said to me,

Let us go to the house of the LORD!

Our feet are standing

within your gates, O Jerusalem.

Jerusalem–built as a city

that is bound firmly together.

To it the tribes go up,

the tribes of the LORD,

as was decreed for Israel,

to give thanks for the name of the LORD.

For there the thrones of judgment were set up,

the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:

May they prosper who love you.

Peace be within your walls,

and security within your towers.

For the sake of my relatives and friends

I will say,

Peace be within you.

For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,

I will seek your good.

AND

Romans 13:11-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

You know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

AND

Matthew 24:36-44 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said to the disciples,

But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

The Collect:

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Happy New Year!  The First Sunday of Advent opens the Western Christian Year.  (The Eastern Orthodox churches keep a different schedule.)  About four weeks from the First Sunday of Advent falls Christmas day.  So, in Western Christian sacred time, this is a time to begin preparing for Christmas, much as Lent is a time of preparation for Easter.  I encourage you, O reader, to give Advent its full due attention, not rushing to Christmas Day.  In fact, I prefer to hold off on “Merry Christmas” greetings until about December 24.  The rest of the time I wish people a “Holy Advent.”

The name “Emmanuel” means “God with us.”  This summarizes the readings for this day.  They speak of the God who is present with us, what this deity will do at some unspecified time, and the responsibilities the faithful must execute in this context.  These lessons tell us that God loves us, expects us to behave ourselves, and will establish justice on the earth in the future.

No mere mortal can predict the future with perfect accuracy.  Science fiction scenarios look dated with the passage of time.  Think about the computer technology in 2001:  A Space Odyssey (1968), for example.  The computers are SO BIG compared to what they were in 2001, much less 2010.  And since shortly after the time Jesus walked the earth people have predicted his return many times, often with specific dates.  One of my favorite thrift store finds is a small paperback book, Christ Returns by 1988:  101 Reasons Why, by Colin Hoyle Deal.  I feel safe in claiming that 1988 came and went without Jesus returning.

Let us not become so preoccupied with reading the news in hopes of identifying the Antichrist or other apocalyptic indicators that we give short shrift to or ignore signs of God’s actual  activity around us.  Alleged Antichrists have come and gone; they are ranged from Adolf Hitler to Joseph Stalin to Ronald Wilson Reagan–the latter for having three names, each with six letters–666.  All politics aside, I propose that to become caught up prophesy is a fool’s errand, and that we Christians need to focus on the present constructively.  God is active all around us; do we not see it.  If we look with spiritual eyes we will see Jesus in friends, strangers, and even in those we dislike.  We will witness divine activity in places we expect the least or do anticipate at all.  So we will know more deeply that God is with us and will remain with us, and that this fact makes certain demands upon us.

As for the rest, the details will be what they will be.  And any of us could be wrong about our predictions.  Sometimes a belief that Jesus’ Second Coming is near has become a reason not to seek social justice or not to conserve part of the natural world.  Yet we humans have a mandate to care for creation and to seek social justice.  So let us live faithfully in the present tense, leaving the future 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/2010/09/14/first-day-of-advent-first-sunday-of-advent-year-a/

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Posted November 12, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Isaiah 2, Isaiah 38, Matthew 24, Psalm 122, Romans 13

Tagged with