Archive for August 2012

Sacramental Time   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, October 31, 2010

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

(https://picasaweb.google.com/114749828757741527421/BishopWhitmoreVisitsStGregorySAthens#5534662562033783586)

The regular worship schedule at St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, my parish, includes a Wednesday 6:00 P.M. Holy Eucharist and healing service.  This week the priest could not be present, so the duty of leading the midweek service fell eventually to me.  I learned of this duty a few moments before the 10:30 Sunday morning service.  That afternoon I began to make plans.  I decided that, although the bulletin listed the Wednesday service as Evening Prayer, I would use the rite to which regular attendees of the midweek service had become accustomed.  So the service would come from Enriching Our Worship, not The Book of Common Prayer (1979).  I would lop off the Eucharist, for lay presidency seems to be a peculiarity of the Diocese of Sydney, Australia, and omit the use of chrism oil.  But we lay people, by the fact of our baptism, may baptize others in emergency situations.  So we can always pray for each other in normal circumstances.

I made the oral announcement at the 10:30 service that I would lead the service and retain the healing prayers element. My purpose was to encourage the regular quorum to attend.  They did not.  The only other person present was a retired gentleman–an excellent listener, by the way–who had not been present Sunday morning.  He, a regular attendee of the midweek service, shared the time and ministered grace to me.  As I came to realize almost immediately, two was the proper number that evening.

One practice during the midweek service is to pray for others.  Each week I bring a prayer (usually from a book of worship) or a concern from the news.  This week I prayed for malnourished Africans.  It is better to give thanks for one’s blessings and to pray for the needs of others than to carp endlessly about one’s own woes, no matter how severe they might be.  And interceding does take one beyond oneself–surely a useful spiritual exercise.

While asking for intercession for a friend to whom I have had a deep emotional attachment I shared my own emotional struggles in trying to help her through her troubles and in coming to terms with my own emotional turmoil relative to her.  I needed to talk, so I did.  And my fellow parishioner, a retired counselor,  listened and offered some useful advice.

We concluded the ritual.  He went on his way.  I remained, for I had choir practice afterward.  The two of us had shared something sacramental for God had been present.

Q:  Who are the ministers of the Church?

A:  The ministers of the Church are lay persons, bishops, priests, and deacons.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 855

Lay persons come first in that list, as we should.  There are more of us than clergymen and clergywomen.  So we ought to do most of the work of the Church, not overload religious professionals.  One act of ministry we can perform is to be present for each other.

Q:  What are the sacraments?

A:  The sacraments are outward and visible signs of inward grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 857

Listening and sharing are not among the seven sacraments of Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, but they can be just as sacramental as the recognized sacraments:  Baptism, Eucharist, Confession, Confirmation, Anointing, Ordination, and Marriage.  May we never forget that.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 16, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY WOMEN OF THE OLD TESTAMENT

THE FEAST OF BROTHER ROGER OF TAIZE, FOUNDER OF THE TAIZE COMMUNITY

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Receive the Holy Spirit, Part I   1 comment

Above:  The Holy Spirit as a Dove

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Isaiah 43:1-7 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob,

he who formed you, O Israel:

Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by name, you are mine.

When you pass through the waters I will be with you;

and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;

when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,

and the flame shall not consume you.

For I am the LORD your God,

the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

I give Egypt as your ransom,

Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.

Because you are precious in my eyes,

and honored, and I love you,

I give men in return for you,

peoples in exchange for your life.

Fear not, for I am with you;

I will bring your offspring from the east,

and from the west I will gather you;

I will say to the north, Give up,

and o the south, Do not withhold;

bring my sons from afar

and my daughters from the end of the earth,

every one who is called by my name,

whom I have created for my glory,

whom I formed and made.

Psalm 29 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Ascribe to the LORD, you gods,

ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;

worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.

3 The voice of the LORD is upon the waters;

the God of glory thunders;

the LORD is mighty upon the waters.

4 The voice of the LORD is a powerful voice;

the voice of the LORD is a voice of splendor.

The voice of the LORD breaks the cedar trees;

the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon;

6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,

and Mount Hermon like a young wild ox.

The voice of the LORD splits the flames of fire;

the voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness;

the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

The voice of the LORD makes the oak trees writhe

and strips the forest bare.

9 And in the temple of the LORD

all are crying, “Glory!”

10 The LORD sits enthroned above the flood;

the LORD sits enthroned as King for evermore.

11 The LORD shall give strength to his people;

the LORD shall give his people the blessing of peace.

Acts 8:14-17 (Revised English Bible):

When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent off Peter and John, who went down there and prayed for the converts, asking that they might receive the Holy Spirit.  Until then the Spirit had not come upon any of them, they had been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus, that and nothing more.  So Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

As the people were in expectation, all men questioned in their hearts concerning John, whether perhaps he were the Christ.  John answered them all,

I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming; the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form, as a dove, and a voice came from heaven,

You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.

The Collect:

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Baptism of Jesus:  Prayers:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/baptism-of-jesus-prayers/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/12/22/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-first-sunday-after-epiphany-the-baptism-of-our-lord/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/12/22/prayer-of-confession-for-the-first-sunday-after-epiphany-the-baptism-of-our-lord/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/12/22/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-first-sunday-after-epiphany-the-baptism-of-our-lord/

When Jesus Came to Jordan:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/11/19/when-jesus-came-to-jordan/

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Water can be threatening.  People have drowned in it.  Sometimes water has flooded, causing great devastation.  Yet water is essential to life; those who dwell in the desert know this well.  An insufficient supply of drinkable water causes death, but too much water can have the same effect.  Yet just enough is healthy.

And water played a vital role in the history of the Jews.  The passage through the Sea of Reeds during the Exodus from Egypt marked the birth of the Hebrew nation.  Episcopal baptismal rituals refer to the Exodus, for in water we have a potent symbol of life, physical and spiritual.

…and the flame will not consume you,

we read in the context of promised divine protection in Isaiah 43:2b.  Fire is also an image for the Holy Spirit, said (in lovely poetic language) to have descended upon Jesus

in bodily form like a dove

(Luke 3:22a).  Fire is also either helpful or harmful, depending on the context.  But the proverbial fire of the Holy Spirit is positive.  As a High Churchy Episcopalian I understand the Holy Spirit differently than do Pentecostals and Charismatics, so I will try to express my concept clearly.  The Holy Spirit, one third of the Trinity (however that works) is how God works on Earth in the here and now.  It is how God speaks to us today.  And God speaks to many people in different ways.

However God speaks to each of us, may all of us receive the Holy Spirit. And, if or when one manner of receiving it differs  from another, so be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZACHARY, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF EDMUND MUSKIE, UNITED STATES SENATOR AND SECRETARY OF STATE

THE FEAST OF SAINT LOUISE DE MARILLAC, COFOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF CHARITY

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/15/first-sunday-after-the-epiphany-the-baptism-of-our-lord-year-c/

Who Are Our Shepherds?   1 comment

Above:  A Shepherd

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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:

Ezekiel 33:1-20 (January 11)

Ezekiel 34:1-24 (January 12)

Psalm 51 (Morning–January 11)

Psalm 104 (Morning–January 12)

Psalms 142 and 65 (Evening–January 11)

Psalms 118 and 111 (Evening–January 12)

Romans 3:1-18 (January 11)

Romans 3:19-31 (January 12)

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Some Related Posts:

Ezekiel 33:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/12/proper-18-year-a/

Ezekiel 34:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/29/proper-29-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/07/week-of-proper-15-wednesday-year-2/

Romans 3:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/proper-4-year-a/

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

O Thou Who Art the Shepherd:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/10/20/o-thou-who-art-the-shepherd/

Shepherd of Tender Youth:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/shepherd-of-tender-youth/

Very Bread, Good Shepherd, Tend Us:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/very-bread-good-shepherd-tend-us/

Shepherd of Souls:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/07/shepherd-of-souls-by-james-montgomery/

The King of Love My Shepherd Is:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/01/the-king-of-love-my-shepherd-is/

Litany of the Good Shepherd:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/litany-of-the-good-shepherd/

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God’s saving justice was witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, but now it has been revealed altogether apart from law:  God’s saving justice given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.

–Romans 3:21-22, The New Jerusalem Bible

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I Myself will graze my flock, and I Myself will let them lie down–declares the Lord GOD.  I will look for the lost, and I will bandage the injured, and I will sustain the weak; and the fat and the healthy ones I will destroy, and I will tend them rightly.

–Ezekiel 34:15-16, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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I have written one post to cover material for two days because, after having written many devotional blog entries, I do not know what else to say about the January 11 content.  The texts, I think, make their points succinctly.  Yet the January 12 content does lend itself to my comments.

Pauline theology holds that the Law of Moses served its purpose in its time.  Yet now that Jesus has arrived on the scene, a new stage of salvation history has begun.  That is a simplification, but hopefully not an excessive one.  Linking Romans 3:19-31 with Ezekiel 34:1-24  works well, for the prophet, channeling God, condemned false and bad shepherds, such as certain kings.  A good and divine shepherd, identified as God, would step in, set matters right, and find the stray sheep.  And, of course, the Good Shepherd is an image for Jesus in the Gospels.

We modern readers, especially those not in frequent contact with sheep or shepherds, need to recall that shepherds were not highly respected people in the times of Ezekiel, Jesus, and Paul.  Shepherds were necessary, but they were not respectable.  They were, in fact, smelly.  Yet this profession provided imagery for God (Yahweh/Adonai) and Jesus.  One might draw several useful points from this fact, but I focus on one here.  Channeling an attitude from Ezekiel 34, we ought not to look down upon those among us who perform necessary work we might deem undesirable.  The job titles vary from place to place.  In Georgia, my home, the “shepherds” are Latin American migrants who work mostly on farms.  These individuals merit our respect, not our disdain.

Each of us bears the image of God; may we think of and treat each other accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZACHARY, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF EDMUND MUSKIE, UNITED STATES SENATOR AND SECRETARY OF STATE

THE FEAST OF SAINT LOUISE DE MARILLAC, COFOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF CHARITY

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/15/devotion-for-january-11-and-12-lcms-daily-lectionary/

The Spirit of the Law   1 comment

Above:  Moses with the Ten Commandments, by Rembrandt van Rijn

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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:

Ezekiel 18:1-4, 19-32

Psalm 97 (Morning)

Psalms 16 and 62 (Evening)

Romans 2:17-29

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Some Related Posts:

 Ezekiel 18:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/ninth-day-of-lent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/15/proper-21-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/week-of-proper-14-saturday-year-2/

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 Be assured, O House of Israel, I will judge each one of you according to his ways–declares the Lord GOD.  Repent and turn back from your transgressions, let them not be a stumbling block of guilt for you.  Cast away all the transgressions by which you have offended, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit, that you may not die, O House of Israel.  For it is not My desire that anyone shall die–declares the Lord GOD.  Repent, therefore, and live!

–Ezekiel 18:29-32, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Circumcision was a mark signifying that owed everything–including one’s existence–to God.  Therefore it was supposed to remind one of the necessity and appropriateness of responding favorable to God.  Such a response entailed how one treated one’s fellow human beings.  That was in the Law of Moses.

The Law of Moses is fascinating.  It is simultaneously compassionate (calling for loving one’s neighbor as oneself) and violent (calling for stoning for many offenses).  It treats men and women as well as the rich and the poor equally sometimes yet subordinates women at others.  It also declares all the blends in my wardrobe to be unlawful, prohibits touching the skin of a pig (so much for footballs and some foods!) and permits slavery.  I do not know what to make of the Law of Moses sometimes.

Our Lord, quoting the Law itself, summarized it well overall, channeling Rabbi Hillel (died 10 CE) and saying to love God fully and to love one’s neighbor as oneself.  As Rabbi Hillel continued,

Everything else is commentary.  Go and learn it.

Certain provisions of the Law are specific to geographical, economic, historical, and cultural conditions.  In such instances, I look to the spirit, not the letter, of certain laws.  Yet slavery is always wrong; I stand by that statement.  I do not know what to make of the Law of Moses sometimes.

So be it.

Ezekiel and Paul called people back to the spirit of the Law; love God fully and love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself.  May we human beings inspire each other to do that and to do it better and more often.

And I plan to ask God about the slavery and stoning provisions one day.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 14, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATHILDA, QUEEN OF GERMANY

THE FEAST OF KEREOPA AND MANIHERA OF TARANAKI, ANGLICAN MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF PAVEL CHESNOKOV, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF PETER GRAVES, ACTOR

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/14/devotion-for-january-10-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Posted August 15, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Ezekiel 18, Psalm 62, Psalm 97, Romans 2

Tagged with , ,

Constructive Criticism   1 comment

Above:  A U-Turn

Image Source = Smurrayinchester

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:U-turn.svg)

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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:

Ezekiel 3:12-27

Psalm 89:1-18 (Morning)

Psalms 1 and 33 (Evening)

Romans 2:1-16

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Some Related Posts:

Confession of Sin, 1662:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/20/confession-of-sin-1662/

Romans 2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/week-of-proper-23-wednesday-year-1/

Yom Kippur Litany of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/yom-kippur-litany-of-confession/

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For the ones that God will justify are not those who have heard the Law but those who have kept the Law.

–Romans 2:13, The New Jerusalem Bible

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In the same way faith, if good deeds do not go with it, is quite dead….You see now that it is by deeds, not only by believing that someone is justified.

–James 2:17, 24, The New Jerusalem Bible

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The mission of Ezekiel involved dispensing constructive criticism for the purpose of granting one an opportunity to repair one’s ways.  That is repentance–turning around, changing one’s mind.  Often I hear and read examples of people misusing and misunderstanding that word, and I tire of having to define it properly.  This should not be necessary for clarity!  But it is, sadly.

Repentance and the opportunity to engage in it indicates hope.  If one is already condemned irreversibly, there is no point in making that offer.  And the theme of repentance occurs in Romans 2:1-16.  God is abundantly good.  Such generosity calls for human gratitude, not rejection.  Love ought to lead to more love in response.

Then Peter addressed them, “I now really understand, ” he said, “that God has no favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”

–Acts 10:34-35, The New Jerusalem Bible

Paul, like Peter, came to recognize that God spoke to Jews and Gentiles.  Certain Gentiles, Paul indicated, did a better job of obeying parts of the Law than did some Jews.  Those disobedient Jews had no excuse, for it was their Law.  And the Gentiles did not know of the Law, other than the one “engraved on their hearts” (Romans 2:15).

Consider the scandal of this:  Alleged heathens can outmatch some of God’s chosen people in holiness.  As a Gentile, I like the thought.  Yet, as a churchy person, I wonder if I am among the chosen when I analyze the situation to today.  Faith was inherently active for Paul and mainly intellectual for Jams, but both of them agreed that deeds were crucial.  Many times I have struggled to commit good deeds or have avoided them out of selfish motives.  Sometimes I read a passage of scripture and find constructive criticism.  Then I know that I need to repent.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 14, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATHILDA, QUEEN OF GERMANY

THE FEAST OF KEREOPA AND MANIHERA OF TARANAKI, ANGLICAN MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF PAVEL CHESNOKOV, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF PETER GRAVES, ACTOR

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/14/devotion-for-january-9-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Whether They Listen Or Not   1 comment

Above:  The Prophet Ezekiel

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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:

Ezekiel 2:1-3:11

Psalm 42 (Morning)

Psalms 102 and 133 (Evening)

Romans 1:18-32

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Some Related Posts:

Ezekiel 2-3:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/proper-9-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/week-of-proper-14-tuesday-year-2/

Romans 1:

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One of the surest ways to misread a text–especially one from the Bible–is to read anachronistic assumptions into it.  The modern psychiatric category of homosexual orientation is modern, so it could not have been an issue for Paul.  So, what was “unnatural” sexual  behavior?  One aspect could have been the impossibility of conceiving a child.  If we accept this explanation, what about the sexual lives of older couples?  And, if we read the text from Romans as referring to homosexual acts yet not orientation, then those acts are unnatural for the people involved.

I chose to address that aspect of Romans 1 first because I wanted to get it out of the way and move my focus to the main idea which links the Romans and Ezekiel lessons.  God commanded the prophet to speak divine pronouncements regardless of  whether people listened or not, “for they are rebellious” (Ezekiel 2:7).  And, in Romans, those who have rejected God behave in ways (mostly non-sexual; read the list) destructive of themselves and others.  Their rebellious deeds flowed from their rejection of God; those deeds did not separate them from God.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God.  Sometimes divine love becomes tough love, but is love nevertheless.  My prayer for you, O reader, and for myself is that we–you and I–will not try the love of God very often.  May we reciprocate instead.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 14, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATHILDA, QUEEN OF GERMANY

THE FEAST OF KEREOPA AND MANIHERA OF TARANAKI, ANGLICAN MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF PAVEL CHESNOKOV, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF PETER GRAVES, ACTOR

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/14/devotion-for-january-8-lcms-daily-lectionary/

And the Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed   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 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:

Ezekiel 1:1-14, 22-28

Psalm 5 (Morning)

Psalms 84 and 29 (Evening)

Romans 1:1-17

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Some Related Posts:

Ezekiel 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/week-of-proper-14-monday-year-2/

Romans 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/proper-4-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/week-of-proper-23-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/week-of-proper-23-tuesday-year-1/

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For I see no reason to be ashamed of the gospel; it is God’s power for the salvation of everyone who has faith–Jesus first, but Greeks as well–for in it is revealed the saving justice of God:  a justice based on faith and addressed to faith.  As it says in scripture:  Anyone who is upright through faith will live.

–Romans 1:16-17, The New Jerusalem Bible

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Ezekiel struggled with the questions of why God had allowed the destruction of the First Temple, Jerusalem, and the Kingdom of Judah.  The situation looked grim.  It was grim.  Yet, the prophetic book said, God’s promises are sure and the divine work of transforming the world and its social orders and arrangements will come to fruition for the benefit of people and the glory of God.

Judaism survived the cataclysm of the Babylonian Exile and a new Temple came to occupy space where the original one had stood.  And so it happened that, in the first century CE, Christianity began to emerge from Judaism.  The message of salvation by faith via Jesus, Paul wrote, was for the Jews first but also for Gentiles.

This faith is inherently active, leading to deeds.  It cannot be any other way, for such as we think, so we are.  And this faith, which comes from God without cost to us, requires much–a positive response–from us.  This theme of faith recurs in the epistle and frames much of that letter’s content.

Think about it:  After destruction comes rebuilding.  The light is for all people, not just the designated (self- or otherwise) spiritual elites.  There is always reason for hope in grace.  And nobody is part of the riff-raff in a grace-filled context.  A positive faith response to God requires us to, among other things, lay aside human categories and barriers which make us feel good about ourselves yet label others as “unclean” and “unworthy.”  All of us are actually unworthy, so who are we to judge each other?

May we recognize the glory of God in each other and in ourselves then act accordingly.  We are God’s, not our own.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 12, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THE GREAT, BISHOP OF ROME

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/devotion-for-january-7-lcms-daily-lectionary/