Archive for July 2012

The Web of Humanity   1 comment

Above:  Credit Mobilier Scandal Editorial Cartoon from 1873

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 9:7/8-10:11 (depending on versification)

Psalm 122 (Morning)

Psalms 40 and 67 (Evening)

1 Peter 5:1-14

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Some Related Posts:

Isaiah 9-10:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/week-of-proper-10-wednesday-year-2/

1 Peter 5:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/forty-third-day-of-easter-seventh-sunday-of-easter-year-a/

Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/06/26/where-cross-the-crowded-ways-of-life/

Jerusalem:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/01/jerusalem-by-william-blake/

O Lord, You Gave Your Servant John:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/o-lord-you-gave-your-servant-john/

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Ha!

Those who write out evil writs

And compose iniquitous documents,

To subvert the cause of the poor,

To rob of their rights the needy of My people;

That widows may be their spoil,

And fatherless children their booty!

What will you do on the day of punishment,

when the calamity comes from afar?

To whom will you flee for help,

And how will you save your carcasses

From collapsing under [fellow] prisoners,

From falling beneath the slain?

Yet His anger has not turned back,

And his arm is outstretched still.

–Isaiah 10:1-4, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Humility towards one another must be the garment you all wear constantly, because God opposes the proud but accords his favour to the humble.  Bow down, then, before the power of God now, so that he may raise you up in due time; unload all your burdens on him, since he is concerned about you.

–1 Peter 5:5b-7, The New Jerusalem Bible

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The reading from Isaiah spells out doom for Israel (the northern kingdom), Judah (the southern kingdom), and the Assyrian Empire.  Embedded among that gloomy news is yet another condemnation of economic injustice.  If I seem to beat this drum often in my devotional posts, I do; so do the texts from which I write many devotions.  The repetition of this theme ought to tell us to pay attention, correct our ways, and reform our legal, economic, and political systems accordingly.

Each of us bears the image of God.  This, I am convinced, constitutes the best basis of equality and mutual respect and humility.  God cares for all of us, so we ought to care for each other, not to use each other for selfish goals.  As the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., reminded us,

…injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.

What happens to my brother or sister affects me, for my brother or sister and I, although physically distinct, are not as separate as we might seem.  We are all connected to others, so what affects one person has consequences for others.

May we, by grace, make them positive effects.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 3, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN OWEN SMITH, UNITED METHODIST BISHOP IN GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN ASIA

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-3-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Light in the Darkness, Part I   1 comment

Above:  A Candle Stump

Image Source = J. Samuel Burner

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

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 8:9-9:6/7 (depending on versification)

Psalm 24 (Morning)

Psalms 25 and 110 (Evening)

1 Peter 4:1-9

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Some Related Posts:

Isaiah 8-9:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

1 Peter 4:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/16/week-of-8-epiphany-friday-year-2/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/forty-third-day-of-easter-seventh-sunday-of-easter-year-a/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/fortieth-day-of-lent-holy-saturday/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/16/week-of-proper-3-friday-year-2/

Hope of the World:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/hope-of-the-world/

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There will be grave trouble for Judah one day, Isaiah said.  It might not happen soon, but that day will come.  And it did.  Yet, in the midst of that gloomy prediction, there was a second, happy one:  There will be a ruler through whom God will deliver the people.  Scholars debate what the vague references meant, and the reading assumes a certain character if one reads it outside of Christological interpretations, but none of that is germane to my purpose here, today.  My point is this:  There is hope in the darkest darkness, thanks to God.

Speaking of difficult times, the audience of 1 Peter knew suffering for the faith (4:12-19).  Yet God was with them, not only spiritually via the Holy Spirit, but also through each other.  We human beings ought to help each other to, in the words of 1 Peter 4:8,

preserve an intense love for each other (The New Jerusalem Bible)

and use our gifts from God for the common good.  What does Jesus look like?  Hopefully, he looks like you, O reader, like me, and like many other people.  As we prepare, to celebrate the arrival of Christ nearly two thousand years ago, may we first recognize those through whom Christ is present with us today.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 3, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN OWEN SMITH, UNITED METHODIST BISHOP IN GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN ASIA

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-2-in-advent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Posted July 28, 2012 by neatnik2009 in 1 Peter 4, Isaiah 8, Isaiah 9, Psalm 110, Psalm 24, Psalm 25

Tagged with

Blameless in the Sight of Our Lord and Father   1 comment

Above:  An Ocean Storm

Image Source = Mila Zinkova

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Jeremiah 33:14-16 (New Revised Standard Version):

The days are surely coming,

says the LORD,

when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.  In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.  In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell in safety.  And this is the name by which it will be called:  ”The LORD is our righteousness.”

Psalm 25:1-9 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;

my God, I put my trust in you;

let me not be humiliated,

nor let my enemies triumph over me.

2  Let none who look to you be put to shame;

let the treacherous be disappointed in their schemes.

3  Show me your ways, O LORD,

and teach me your paths.

4  Lead me in your truth and teach me,

for you are the God of my salvation;

in you have I trusted all the day long.

5  Remember, O LORD, your compassion and love,

for they are from everlasting.

6  Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions;

remember me according to your love

and for the sake of your goodness, O LORD.

7  Gracious and upright is the LORD;

therefore he teaches sinners in his way.

8  He guides the humble in doing right

and teaches his way to the lowly.

9  All the paths of the LORD are love and faithfulness

to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 (New Jerusalem Bible):

How can we thank God enough for you, for all the joy we feel before our God on your account?  We are earnestly praying night and day to be able to see you face to face again and make up any shortcomings in your faith.

May God our Father himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, make it easy for us to come to you.  May the Lord be generous in increasing your love and make you love one another and the whole human race as much as we love you.  And may he so conform your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless in the sight of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus Christ comes with all his saints.

Luke 21:25-31 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus continued:]

Portents will appear in sun and moon and stars.  On earth nations will stand helpless, not knowing which way to turn from the roar and surge of the sea.  People will faint with terror at the thought of what is coming upon the world; for the celestial powers will be shaken.  Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  When all this begins to happen, stand upright and hold your heads high, because your liberation is near.

Jesus told them a parable:

Look at the fig tree, or at any other tree.  As soon as it bud, you can see for yourselves that summer is near.  In the same way, when you see all this happening, you may know that the kingdom of God is near.

Truly I tell you:  the present generation will live to see it all.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

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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Advent is about what God has done, is doing, and will do.  God–in the form of Jesus–became human and dwelt among us.  God is present with us in the form of the Holy Spirit.  And we have the promise of a return of Christ.  Much of the New Testament reflects the unfulfilled expectation that he would return nearly 1,900 years ago.  Many times since then predicted dates for the Second Coming have passed without Jesus making a repeat appearance.  God’s timing is not ours.  So be it.

We who call ourselves Christians bear the responsibility to be salt and light in the world, to leave our part of it better than we found it.  We are at our best when we do that rather than slaughter each other over doctrinal disputes.  So may we be the best salt and the brightest light we can be, so that, regardless of what God’s timing turns out to be, we

may be blameless in the sight of our God and Father.  (1 Thessalonians 3:13, The New Jerusalem Bible).

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 3, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN OWEN SMITH, UNITED METHODIST BISHOP IN GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN ASIA

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/first-day-of-advent-first-sunday-of-advent-year-c/

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Posted July 28, 2012 by neatnik2009 in 1 Thessalonians 3, Jeremiah 33, Luke 21, Psalm 25

Tagged with

Hope and Fear   1 comment

Above:  The Harrowing of Hades

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 7:10-8:8

Psalm 90 (Morning)

Psalms 80 and 72 (Evening)

1 Peter 3:1-22

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Some Related Posts:

Isaiah 7-8:

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

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/advent-devotion-for-december-20/

1 Peter 3:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-sixth-day-of-easter-sixth-sunday-of-easter-year-a/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/24/first-sunday-in-lent-year-b/

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/when-i-survey-the-wondrous-cross/

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He [Jesus Christ] suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended to the dead.

On the third day he rose again.

–The Apostles’ Creed

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Christ himself died once and for all for sins, the upright for the sake of the guilty, to lead us to God.  In the body he was put to death, in the spirit he was raised to life, and in the spirit, he went to preach to the spirits in prison.  They refused to believe long ago, while God patiently waited to receive them…..

–1 Peter 3:18-20a, The New Jerusalem Bible

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The reading from Isaiah tells of the births of two boys.  Immanuel’s arrival marked hope that the Syro-Ephraimite threat to Judah would end soon.  It also contained a promise of divine judgment; read 7:17.  The arrival of Maher-shalal-hash-baz marked the doom of the Syro-Ephraimite thread at Assyria’s hands.  Hope and judgment, bound together, were part of the same message.  The author of the Gospel of Matthew read a different meaning into Isaiah 7, relating it to Jesus.  The combination of hope and judgment is also present there.  That is sound New Testament-based theology.

As much as judgment is potent, so is mercy.  1 Peter 3:19 is one basis (see also 1 Peter 4:6) for the line (from the Apostles’ Creed) about Jesus descending to the dead.  This passage indicates that Hell, at one time at least, had an exit.  And it might have one again.  There is always hope in God.  If God does not give up on us–as I suspect is true–may we extend each other the same courtesy.  Final judgment belongs to God, and I do not presume to a station higher than the one I occupy.  But I do propose that certain ideas we might have heard and internalized relative to divine judgment might be mistaken.  With God all things are possible; may we embrace that mystery.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 3, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN OWEN SMITH, UNITED METHODIST BISHOP IN GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN ASIA

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-1-in-advent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Subversive Compassion   1 comment

Above:  Christ with Beard

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 6:1-7:9

Psalm 102 (Morning)

Psalms 130 and 16 (Evening)

1 Peter 2:13-25

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Some Related Posts:

Isaiah 6-7:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/week-of-proper-9-saturday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/week-of-proper-10-tuesday-year-2/

A Prayer for Compassion:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/a-prayer-for-compassion/

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I have covered the reading from Isaiah already, so I refer you, O reader, to the labeled links for them.  At this time and place I choose to say the following:  A pressing question for many Christians in the latter portion of the first century C.E. was whether one could be both a good Christian and a good Roman.  Also, the author of 1 Peter assumed that Jesus would be back quite soon to sort out the world order.  As I write these words, our Lord has not returned. The world order is what we have made it; may we exercise our agency responsibly to improve it.  This does involve resisting authority sometimes, as in the case of tyrannical governments.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer plotted to assassinate Adolf Hitler.  Many faithful Christians–Protestants and Roman Catholics–sheltered Jews and resisted the Third Reich.  And, throughout church history, bishops have called monarchs to account.

We who read and interpret the Bible must be careful to read it as a whole, not to fixate so much on certain passages that we ignore inconvenient ones and distort the composite meaning of the texts.  There is something called confirmation bias, which means that we tend to pay attention to evidence which supports our opinions and ignore or dismiss that which does not.  I look for this in myself and try to safeguard against prooftexting, the confirmation bias method of misreading the Bible.

I keep returning to the example Jesus set.  (I am a professing Christian, literally a “partisan of Christ.”)  He violated many religious customs, some of them from the Law of Moses itself.  He seems to have favored compassion over any other factor when they came into conflict.  And he taught this ethic with his words.  So we have in our Lord the union of words and deeds favoring compassion above all else in guiding our actions toward others.  Compassion trumps all else.

As much as I disagree with those aspects of Christian traditions which deal favorably with tyrants and dictators, justify servitude, and smile upon gender inequality, I find Jesus to be the strong counterpoint to them.  Somewhere–very soon after our Lord’s time on the planet ended–the church began to accommodate itself–frequently in ways inconsistent with Christ–to the Roman Empire.  Jesus was a subversive.  I mean this as a compliment.  I follow the subversive, or at least I try to do so.  If I am to be an honest Christian, this is what I must do.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 3, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN OWEN SMITH, UNITED METHODIST BISHOP IN GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN ASIA

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http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-november-30-in-advent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Against Carping Criticism and Social Injustice   1 comment

Above:  A Vineyard

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Blessed Lord, who caused holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 5:1-25

Psalm 18:1-20 (Morning)

Psalms 126 and 62 (Evening)

1 Peter 2:1-12

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Some Related Posts:

Isaiah 5:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/proper-22-year-a/

1 Peter 2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/16/week-of-8-epiphany-thursday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/16/week-of-proper-3-thursday-year-2/

A Prayer to Be an Instrument of Social Justice:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/26/a-prayer-to-be-an-instrument-of-social-justice/

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Rid yourselves, then, of all spite, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and carping criticism….Always behave honourably among gentiles so that they can see for themselves what moral lives you lead, and when the day of reckoning comes, give thanks to God for the things which now make them denounce you as criminals.

–1 Peter 2:1, 11-12, The New Jerusalem Bible

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Put your trust in him [God] always, O people,

pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge.

–Psalm 62:9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Isaiah 5 speaks in allegorical terms of God as a farmer and Israel as a vineyard.  The farmer has done his best, yet the vineyard has yielded wild grapes.  In this allegory we read condemnations of wealthy landowners who have expanded their holdings at the expense of people of modest means, in violation of the Law of Moses.  The Bible speaks frequently about how much God condemns economic exploitation, a topic which deserves more attention than many Christians, lay or ordained, give it.  We also read in this allegory a condemnation of impious partying, such as the kind fueled by alcohol.  The common thread is misplaced priorities:  greed and dissipation distract one from what matters in Isaiah 5:  social justice as lived holiness.

Certainly we cannot work toward social justice as lived holiness if we engage in

spite, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and carping criticism,

can we?  Honorable behavior builds up society and the body of Christ.  It might also get us into trouble and even cost us as much as our lives.  That is not fair, obviously.  But, if we are to suffer, may we do so for the sake of righteousness.  May we also refrain from causing or permitting anyone to suffer for the sake of righteousness.

And may we check ourselves daily for bad behaviors, such as those 1 Peter 2:1 lists.  The New Jerusalem Bible translators for 1 Peter did a wonderful job with 2:1;

carping criticism

stood out in my mind the first time I read that verse in this translation.  Alternative renderings include

slander,

and

malicious talk

and

unkind words

but I prefer

carping criticism.

Unfortunately, congregations are frequently hotbeds of

carping criticism.

I grew up in a series of congregations I did not choose.  Their characters varied greatly, but I recall some mainly for the

carping criticism

which took place there.  I am ashamed that I have engaged in

carping criticism

of others, not that all criticism is out-of-bounds; the canonical gospels record critical words of Jesus.  But I have carped.  In so doing I have sinned.  And I am not alone in that reality.

May both social injustice and

carping criticism

decrease exponentially, by grace and human cooperation with it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 2, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHANNING MOORE WILLIAMS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP IN CHINA AND JAPAN

THE FEAST OF JOHN BROWN, ABOLITIONIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-november-29-in-advent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Loving Each Other Intensely from the Heart in God   1 comment

Above:  A Crucifix Outside a Church

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 2:1-22

Psalm 50 (Morning)

Psalms 14 and 16 (Evening)

1 Peter 1:13-25

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Some Related Posts:

Isaiah 2:

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

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/second-day-of-advent/

1 Peter 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/09/week-of-8-epiphany-tuesday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/12/week-of-8-epiphany-wednesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/09/week-of-proper-3-tuesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/12/week-of-proper-3-wednesday-year-2/

Lord, Whose Love Through Humble Service:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/09/04/lord-whose-love-through-humble-service/

Fill Our Hearts with Joy and Grace:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/07/11/fill-our-hearts-with-joy-and-grace/

O Christ, Who Called the Twelve:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/o-christ-who-called-the-twelve/

A Prayer for Compassion:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/a-prayer-for-compassion/

A Prayer to Embrace Love, Empathy, and Compassion, and to Eschew Hatred, Invective, and Willful Ignorance:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/a-prayer-to-embrace-love-empathy-and-compassion-and-to-eschew-hatred-invective-and-willful-ignorance/

An Advent Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/an-advent-prayer-of-confession/

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O House of Jacob!

Come, let us walk

By the light of the LORD.

–Isaiah 2:5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Since by your obedience to the truth you have purified yourselves so that you can experience the genuine love of brothers, love each other intensely from the heart….

–1 Peter 1:22, The New Jerusalem Bible

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Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and make good your vows to the Most High.

–Psalm 50:14, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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This day’s readings speak of the imperative of positive human responses to divine actions.

God will end the Babylonian Exile; get ready.

That is the essence of Isaiah 2.  Gratitude is in order of course.  But gratitude consists of more than saying, “Thank you!” or sending a note or card.  It is really a matter of attitude, which informs how we live.  1 Peter 1:22, set in the context of Christ’s sacrifice for us, tells us, in the lovely words of The New Jerusalem Bible, to

love each other intensely from the heart.

I like to listen to radio podcasts.  Recently I listened to an interview with Karen Armstrong on the topic of the Golden Rule.  She said that many of us prefer to be proved right than to live compassionately.  This statement rings true with me.  How often have I wanted to win an argument more than to live as a merely decent human being?  Too many times!  One instance is one time too many.

May we–you, O reader, and I–look around.  Whomever we see, may we love those individuals intensely from the heart.  That is what Jesus did.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 1, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST FROM NICHOLAS FERRAR, ANGLICAN DEACON

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHARLES DE FOUCAULD, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDMUND CAMPION, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIGIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-november-28-in-advent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Living Faith Versus Insincere Rituals and Ossified Doctrine   1 comment

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of eternal life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 1:1-28

Psalm 33 (Morning)

Psalms 85 and 91 (Evening)

1 Peter 1:1-12

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Some Related Posts:

Isaiah 1:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/twelfth-day-of-lent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/week-of-proper-10-monday-year-2/

1 Peter 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/week-of-8-epiphany-monday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/09/week-of-8-epiphany-tuesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/week-of-proper-3-monday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/09/week-of-proper-3-tuesday-year-2/

A Prayer for Proper Priorities:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/a-prayer-for-proper-priorities/

O Lord, You Gave Your Servant John:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/o-lord-you-gave-your-servant-john/

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Wash yourselves clean;

Put your evil things

Away from My sight.

Cease to do evil;

Learn to do good.

Devote yourselves to justice;

Aid the wronged.

Uphold the rights of the orphan;

Defend the cause of the widow.

–Isaiah 1:16-17a, TANAKH:   The Holy Scriptures

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For the word of the LORD is right,

and all his judgments are sure.

He loves righteousness and justice;

the loving-kindness of the LORD fills the whole earth.

–Psalm 33:4-5, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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This is a great joy to you, even though for a short time yet you must bear all sorts of trials; so that the worth of your faith, more valuable than gold, which is perishable even if it has been tested by fire, may be proved–to your praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.  You have not seen him, yet you love him, and still without seeing him you believe in him and so are already filled with a joy so glorious that it cannot be described; and you are sure of the goal of your faith, that is, the salvation of your souls.

–1 Peter 1:6-9, The New Jerusalem Bible

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Rituals can have great value and convey great meaning.  Yet a ritual without sincerity is like a special effect without a relevant plot point; it is meaningless and distracting.  And what constitutes sincerity in this setting?  Isaiah tells us that holiness is the essential element, and that the standard for holiness is objective:  love of one’s fellow human beings and pursuit of social justice.  After all, as we read in Genesis 1, each person bears the image of God.  Faith, when it is what it ought to be, in inherently active.  So Christian faith, rooted in following the example of Jesus, must entail reaching out to the marginalized, as our Lord did.

This devotion is for a fixed date (November 27), one which can fall in either Advent or the Season after Pentecost, depending on the day of the week on which December 25 falls. The readings work well on both sides of the seasonal boundary line.  An old name for the Season after Pentecost or the latter part thereof is Kingdomtide, with an emphasis on demonstrated righteousness.  And Advent, as a preparatory season for Christmas, contains a penitential element.

The take-away for today is this:  Are you, O reader, keeping rituals yet mocking God by not even trying to uphold human dignity?  If so, what will you do about that?  The Incarnation of Jesus affirms the dignity of human nature, does it not?  Faith ought to be about lived orthodoxy, not adherence to fossilized and ossified doctrine consisting mostly or entirely of words.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 1, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST FROM NICHOLAS FERRAR, ANGLICAN DEACON

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHARLES DE FOUCAULD, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDMUND CAMPION, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIGIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-november-27-in-advent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006) and Lutheran Service Book (2006)–Services   9 comments

Above:  The Luther Rose

Image Source = Daniel Csorfoly

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lutherrose.svg)

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As I continue my reviews of liturgies I come to North American Lutheran rites from 2006.  To prepare for this post I read germane parts of books about church history and worship, studied Lutheran service books going back to 1917, and explored the Lutheran blogosphere.  I approach the topic of Lutheran liturgy as one steeped in Episcopal Church worship patterns, so I refer you, O reader, to the Lutheran blogosphere and/or well-informed Lutherans for insider views.

My Prayer Book background helps me greatly in this task for more than one reason.  The shared history of Anglicanism and Lutheranism goes back to the 1500s.  Thomas Cranmer, who bequeathed to posterity the first Book of Common Prayer (1549), had spent time with German Lutherans, so German liturgical influences constitute part of the DNA of Anglican/Episcopal worship.  During the colonial period German-speaking Lutherans considered the Anglican Church their English-speaking counterpart in North America.  And, in 1888, the U.S. Lutheran Common Service, in English, borrowed from the Prayer Book often and imitated it much of the rest of the time.  And these days, of course, The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have entered into full communion.  I could support organic union, for what we have in common outweighs what we do not, and we are stronger together than apart.  Why not call it The Anglican Lutheran Church in the United States of America?  North of the Forty-Ninth Parallel there could come into being The Anglican Lutheran Church in Canada.  But I digress.

In 2006 the four major Lutheran bodies in North America published new worship books–combined prayer books and hymnals, per the Lutheran custom.  (This post does not address the hymnal sections.)  The books, listed in alphabetical order, are:

  • Evangelical Lutheran Worship (abbreviated ELW), of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, and
  • Lutheran Service Book (abbreviated LSB), of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and The Lutheran Church–Canada.

These liturgical resources have much in common for both derive from the Common Service (1888) and the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978).  The latter, which borrowed wholesale from The Book of Common Prayer (1979) and resources leading up to it in the 1970s, was an attempt to create one service book and hymnal for almost all North American Lutherans.  Yet the Missouri Synod, although it helped to create the LBW, never authorized it.  So Lutheran Worship, a conservative revision of LBW, debuted in 1982.  LW (1982) failed to satisfy many in the Missouri Synod, hence the retention in many places of The Lutheran Hymnal (1941).  That volume seems to be for many especially conservative Confessional Lutherans what the 1928 Prayer Book and 1940 Hymnal are for many Continuing Anglicans and reactionary Episcopalians:  the standard par excellance.

So it seems, based on what I have read on the Missouri Synod blogosphere, that Lutheran Service Book (2006) is a mostly successful attempt to please members of two camps:  pro-Lutheran Worship (1982) people and fans of The Lutheran Hymnal (1941).  Still, for some, anything other than the 1941 book is substandard.  Most of the complaints I have read do not address the absence of archaic language in Lutheran Service Book; no, the order of worship seems not to satisfy some because it is not exactly as the 1941 book has it.

Anyhow, I, as an Episcopalian steeped in the 1979 Prayer Book, read both 2006 Lutheran books and notice many parallels to what  do daily and each Sunday.  I also notice the differences–prayers original to Lutheranism.  They are quite nice; I would like to see many of them incorporated into the next U.S. Prayer Book, whenever it comes down the pike.

Both 2006 Lutheran books offer a variety of resources.  Each has an expanded calendar of saints.  ELW adds Pope John XXIII and Martin Luther King, Jr., among others, and  LSB continues LW‘s practice of broadening the range of the limited calendar from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) (abbreviated TLH).  The honoring of biblical characters beyond those from the New Testament in LSB is a nice touch.  June 14, for example, is the Feast of Elisha in the Missouri Synod.

The two books run parallel on the topic of lectionaries.  ELW uses the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) for Sundays and major feasts.  Then its daily lectionary centers on the RCL, building up Sunday’s readings Thursday though Saturday and reflecting on them Monday though Wednesday.  It does this for three years.  I have scheduled myself to begin using this lectionary next year.  LSB, however, provides two Sunday lectionaries.  One–not quite the RCL, but close–follows a three-year track.  The other track, a one-year plan, is similar to the 1941 lectionary, retaining the Trinity Season in lieu of the Season after Pentecost, which the three-year plan has.  The LSB daily lectionary, which  is independent of both Sunday lectionaries, runs for one year, beginning with Ash Wednesday.  I am following it now and finding it very helpful.

Psalters have become a topic of much discussion.  LSB uses the English Standard Version of the Book of Psalms.  ELW, in contrast, contains a revised version of the 1979 Prayer Book psalter, only rid of masculine pronouns for God as often as possible.  So “His” in the 1979 Prayer Book psalter becomes “God’s” in ELW.  This troubles some people yet not me, for I would have to condemn myself if I were to criticize the editors of the ELW psalter.  Masculine pronouns for God do not disturb me, but I prefer not to use them constantly.  In fact, in private I call God “You,” which is neither masculine nor feminine.

This brings up the topic of inclusive language.  There is a dearth of it in LSB, where God is “Father” throughout.  Yet, in ELW, we find prayers addressed to

Loving God

and to

God of tender care

and to

God of heaven and earth

and to

Almighty Creator and ever-living God,

et cetera.  Pastors baptize exclusively

…in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,

yet have the option of opening worship in the name of

the holy Trinity, one God.

This is fine, for our language of God is inherently and necessarily full of metaphors; the divine reality is far beyond them. I try not to get hung up on metaphors.

Both books contain more than one setting of the Holy Communion service–five in LSB and ten in ELW–and a service of the word.  Eucharist is not yet the default service it has been in The Episcopal Church since the 1970s.  And, in those Holy Communion services I notice three differences among the LSB and ELW versions of the Nicene Creed:

  1. “We believe….” in ELW; “I believe….” in LSB, except in one LSB musical setting, in which the congregation sings the creed in hymn form.  Both hymn options say “we,” not “I.”
  2. ELW retains the term “holy catholic church.”  LSB, like its predecessors, substitutes “Christian” for “catholic.”
  3. ELW provides the option of saying that Christ descended into Hell.  LSB does not.

I compared Christian Worship:  A Lutheran Hymnal (1993), of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, to LSB on this matter.  (The Wisconsin Synod makes the Missouri Synod look like a pack of liberals.)  The Wisconsin Synod hymnal version of the creed reads, “We believe…..”

Both ELW and LSB contain hundreds of prayers one may use to one’s spiritual profit.  Many are similar or identical, of course, due to the common liturgical DNA from which both books spring forth, but one does find variety using both books.

I notice that both books reflect a certain well-honed aesthetic sense.  This is not new in North American Lutheran service books, for the Common Service Book (1917) contains fine examples of calligraphy and geometric art.  LSB has nice front and back covers.  On the front cover a gold leaf cross attracts one’s attention.  To its left one finds depictions of an open Bible, baptism, and communion vessels.  The back cover features depictions of a hand, a cross, and a dove–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The front cover of ELW shows that book’s logo–a squarish cross with a flame in each of four corners.  That logo appears in gold leaf on the book’s spine and in red ink inside the volume.

The interior of ELW is more of a visual feast than that of LSB.  The latter has periodic examples of liturgical or theological terms, such as

Kyrie Eleison

and

Sola Scriptura

and

Nunc Dimittis

in fancy font with a cross above and the English translation below.  It is all very tasteful, and the placement is appropriate to what else is on that page.  ELW, however, has more pictures.  They separate sections and mark the beginnings of headings.  What I assume to be an African-style depiction the meal at Emmaus precedes the Holy Communion section.  And the first page of Holy Communion, Setting One, features a drawing of smoke from an altar candle rising to Heaven, where saints are standing around the glassy sea.  The book contains many other examples of appropriate art.  At least one of them depicts a person in a wheelchair.  Such inclusion is good.

Both volumes enrich my liturgical collection.  Perhaps they should do the same for you, O reader, if they do not do so already.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 1, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PAULI MURPHY, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF CATHERINE WINKWORTH, TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF HARRIET BEECHER STOWE, ABOLITIONIST

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