Archive for October 2012

Helping Those Who Cannot Reciprocate   Leave a comment

You received without payment; give without payment.

–Matthew 10:8b, New Revised Standard Version

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Recently two incidents from my past have been on my mind.

One weekend about twenty years ago, in Sumner, Georgia (in rural Worth County), Shadow, my mother’s cat, gave birth prematurely.  Only one kitten survived, however briefly.  I named that cat Sebastian.  (A cat deserves a good name, after all.)  Young Sebastian was doomed; even his mother refused to nurse him, consistent with her feline programming.  So we humans took over, doing our best to feed, hold, and sit with the little kitten.  Sadly, the inevitable death claimed Sebastian’s life on Sunday of that weekend.  I wrapped the kitten in a  hand towel, buried the little cat in the backyard, and spoke lines from the Latin Requiem Mass over the grave that evening.  Sebastian had been a creature of God; to God Sebastian had returned.

In June 2009 I met the woman who became the love of my life, at least until the present day.  Our relationship had its ups and downs; both of us were responsible at different times and occasionally the same times.  But she had her own problems which, hindsight tells me, were increasingly severe mental illness.  About this time this year I noticed that the fun and vibrant woman was almost gone and that a depressed female had taken her place.  She lost her job last December and spiraled deeper into mental illness.  Her birthday last January was a sad occasion despite my attempts to make it joyful.  And, one long night, I held her as she asked me to help her die.  I did this until I fell asleep out of exhaustion.

In February, in advance of a weekend with freezing temperatures, she stayed at my place.  The alternative would have been for her to spend those days in a house without a functional furnace.  Those three days–the first of thirty–shook me to my core, for I began to realize how devastated and delusional she was.  After a month I was emotionally exhausted.  My usual routine had ceased to exist as I attempted to cheer up someone whom it was almost impossible to keep cheerful.  There were some fun times, such as a Star Wars movie marathon, but those were few and far between.

Now she lives in a mental hospital; may she find what she needs and return to a healthy and functional state.

There is great value in helping or just trying to help those who cannot reciprocate; it changes one for the better.  Pure love does not require repayment.  No, it pours itself out to the point of self-sacrifice and in the face of certain futility.  And the exercise of pure love makes one a better person.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 31, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT WOLFGANG OF REGENSBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY BISHOP

ALL HALLOWS’ EVE

THE FEAST OF THE REFORMATION

THE VIGIL OF THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS

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Posted October 31, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Matthew 10

Tagged with , , , , ,

Discomfort and Holiness   1 comment

Above:  Historic American Sheet Music, “I’m goin’ to fight my way right back to Carolina”

Music B-633, Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library

Image Source = Duke University via the Library of Congress

(http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/h?ammem/dukesm:@field(NUMBER+@band(b0775)))

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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:

Zechariah 14:1-21

Psalm 103 (Morning)

Psalms 117 and 139 (Evening)

Titus 2:7-3:15

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Some Related Posts:

A Franciscan Blessing:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/a-franciscan-blessing/

Titus 2-3:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/week-of-proper-27-tuesday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-27-wednesdayyear-2/

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My discomfort with Zechariah and Titus continues.  (See http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/devotion-for-february-2-lcms-daily-lectionary/.)  As for the former, God’s reign of holiness arrives only after rapes, battles, and plagues.  And, in Titus, instructions for slaves to obey their masters coexist with a beautiful summary of God’s saving love.  When one thinks that Christ might return soon, reforming one’s society and emancipating slaves seems unimportant, I suppose.  But that was nearly 2,000 years ago.  History has rendered its verdict, has it not?

To be holy is to be “called out.”  In the name of being holy many people have committed and/or condoned violence.  In the name of being holy many people have looked down upon their neighbors.  In the name of being holy many people have obsessed over minor details–such as ritually pure pots, long skirts, and short hair–while ignoring social injustice, such as racism and economic exploitation.

The kindness and love of God our Saviour for humanity (Titus 3:4, The New Jerusalem Bible)

requires us to move, by grace, toward thinking of our fellow human beings in those terms.  Thus the length of a skirt or one’s hair ought to matter less than whether the courts are corrupt or economic exploitation is a current problem.    I think of Philip Yancey’s comments about the Bible college he attended in the 1960s.  Civil rights were not on the agenda, but his hair had to be short and women’s skirts had to be long.  And, judging from pictures of Jesus, the Lord’s haircut would have kept him out of the college.

Holiness ought to be a high standard, not a petty one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 12, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALFRED LEE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF ALAN PATON, NOVELIST AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS IN SOUTH AFRICA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIUS I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM OF OCKHAM, PHILOSOPHER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM SLOANE COFFIN, SOCIAL ACTIVIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/devotion-for-february-3-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Rejecting Agape   4 comments

Above:  The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.

Image Source = Library of Congress

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Jeremiah 1:1-10 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The words of Jeremiah, son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin.  The word of the LORD came to him in the days of King Josiah son of Amon of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign, and throughout the days of Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah, and until the end of the eleventh year of King Zedekiah son of Josiah son of Judah, when Jerusalem went into exile in the fifth month.

The word of the LORD came to me:

Before I created you in the womb, I selected you;

Before you were born, I consecrated you;

I appointed you a prophet concerning the nations.

I replied:

Ah, Lord GOD!

I don’t know how to speak,

For I am still a boy.

And the LORD said to me:

Do not say, “I am still a boy,”

But go wherever I send you

And speak whatever I command you.

Have no fear of them,

For I am with you to deliver them

–declares the LORD.

The LORD put out His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me:

Herewith I put My words into your mouth.

See, I appoint you this day

Over nations and kingdoms:

To uproot and to pull down,

To destroy and to overthrow,

To build and to plant.

Psalm 71:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  In you, O LORD, have I taken refuge;

let me never be ashamed.

2  In your righteousness, deliver me and set me free;

incline your ear to me and save me.

3  Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe;

you are my crag and my stronghold.

4  Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked,

from the clutches of the evildoer and the oppressor.

5  For you are my hope, O Lord GOD,

my confidence since I was young.

6  I have been sustained by you ever since I was born;

from my mother’s womb you have been my strength;

my praise shall be always of you.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (New American Bible):

If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.  And if I have the gift of prophecy, and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind.   It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.  If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.  For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.  When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.  At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face.  At present, I know partially; then I shall know fully as I am known.  So faith, hope, and love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Luke 4:21-30 (The Jerusalem Bible):

And he [Jesus] won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips.

They said,

This is Joseph’s son, surely?

But he replied,

No doubt you will quote the saying, “Physician, heal yourself” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own countryside.”

And he went on,

I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.

There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of those; he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town.  And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.

When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged.  They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-fourth-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-fourth-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/24/forgive-our-lack-of-love-prayer-of-confession-for-the-fourth-sunday-after-epiphan/

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Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,

Guilty of dust and sin.

But quickeyed Love, observing me grow slack

From my first entrance in,

Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,

If I lacked anything.

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“A guest,” I answered, “worthy to be here.”

Love said, “You shall be he.”

“I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,

I cannot look on thee.”

Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,

“Who made the eyes but I?”

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“Truth, Lord, but I have marred them.  Let my shame

Go where it doth deserve.”

“And know you not,” says Love,  ”who bore the blame?

My dear, then, I will serve.

You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”

So I did sit and eat.

–George Herbert (1633)

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The love in 1 Corinthians 13 is agape.  There are four types of love in the New Testament, with agape being the highest form.  For a description of agape I turn to Volume X (1953), page 167 of The Interpreter’s Bible:

Agape is another kind of love which roots in the undeserved goodness men have received in Christ.

Agape is a type of love which extends to one’s enemies, looks past mutual interests, and is not merely sentimental.  It is the love which God has for us.  Thus agape is crucial, greater even than faith and hope, which are also commendable and of God.

This was the love which qualified Jeremiah and kept him company on his difficult vocation, one fraught with rejection.  And this was the love which Jesus, also rejected, embodied in a unique way.  This was the love those who tried to kill him at Nazareth lacked.

Agape is hard for many people to practice, for we are flawed.  This statement applies to me.  But I like agape; I seek to come nearer to living it.  One poetic expression of the essence of agape is the George Herbert poem I have quoted in this post.  My choir at St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, has sung the Ralph Vaughan Williams setting of it.  The text speaks to me of what I have received and continue to receive from God.  I can do better, by grace, and I am.  And I have much room for improvement.

Agape is also intolerable for many people.  They seek to destroy it.  The reason for this, I suppose, is that it reminds them of their shortcomings.  And, instead of admitting those failings, some people react defensively and fearfully.  Thus violent people have, throughout history and into the present day, persecuted pacifists, from Quakers to Anabaptists to Mohandas Gandhi to Martin Luther King, Jr.  New England Puritans hanged Quakers in colonial times.  Anabaptists in Europe and elsewhere have attracted a host of foes.  There was, for example, state-sanctioned persecution of Amish and Mennonite conscientious objectors in the United States during World War I.  And Gandhi and King became victims of assassins.  Before King’s death many of his self-identified conservative coreligionists condemned his stances on civil rights and the Vietnam War.  (I have notecards full of citations, quotes, and summaries from back issues of The Presbyterian Journal, which midwifed the Presbyterian Church in America in the early 1970s.  The Journal, publishing immediately after King’s death, continued to condemn him.)

Our human intolerance for agape has caused quite a body count to accumulate.  May God forgive us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 11, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIONYSIUS OF CORINTH, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY NEYROT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF GEORGE AUGUSTUS SELWYN, ANGLICAN PRIMATE OF NEW ZEALAND

THE FEAST OF SAINT STANISLAUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF KRAKOW

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

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Discomfort with Scripture   1 comment

Above:  Crete (July 22, 2011)

Image Source = Jet Propulsion Library, NASA

(http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=51726)

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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:

Zechariah 12:1-13:9

Psalm 61 (Morning)

Psalms 138 and 98 (Evening)

Titus 1:1-2:6

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A Related Post:

Titus 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/week-of-proper-27-monday-year-2/

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Sometimes I read texts and find inspiration.  Then there are Zechariah 12:1-13:9 and Titus 1:1-2:6.  One of the benefits of a lectionary is that it leads one who follows it to read uncomfortable passages.  One, in reading the Bible, ought not to focus only on one’s favorite passages and those with which one agrees.

The imagery in Zechariah is stark and the polemics in Titus are jarring.  If I were (A) a female, (B) a man from Crete, or (C) a woman from Crete, I would really take offense.  and Zechariah II’s imagery of divine wrath upon the enemies of Judah turning Jerusalem into

…a bowl of reeling…

do not comfort me.  I read that God will cause the people of Judah to feel compassion for the afflicted Gentiles, but the Gentiles are still slain.

For all my discomfort, I refuse to seek convenient ways to explain away passages.  Inadequate rationalizations will not suffice.  No, I own my discomfort, for I seek to be honest–and to take my discomfort to God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 11, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIONYSIUS OF CORINTH, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY NEYROT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF GEORGE AUGUSTUS SELWYN, ANGLICAN PRIMATE OF NEW ZEALAND

THE FEAST OF SAINT STANISLAUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF KRAKOW

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/devotion-for-february-2-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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False Prophets, Alleged and Actual   1 comment

Above:  John Calvin

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2003663995/)

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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:

Zechariah 10:1-11:3 (January 31)

Zechariah 11:4-17 (February 1)

Psalm 116 (Morning–January 31)

Psalm 85 (Morning–February 1)

Psalms 26 and 130 (Evening–January 31)

Psalms 25 and 40 (Evening–February 1)

2 Timothy 3:1-17 (January 31)

2 Timothy 4:1-18 (February 1)

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Some Related Posts:

2 Timothy 3-4:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/week-of-proper-4-friday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/03/week-of-proper-4-saturday-year-2/

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The readings for January 31 and February 1 make more sense together then spread across two days.  That is my conclusion, at least.

“False prophets” is the unifying theme.  In Zechariah the speak lies, console with illusions, and lead members of the flock astray.  Thus God, angered, vows to punish these bad shepherds and provide proper leadership for the human flock.  To continue the theme, we read that, in the Last Days,

There will be some difficult times.  People will be self-centred and avaricious, boastful, arrogant, and rude, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, irreligious; heartless and intractable; they will be slanderers, profligates, savages, and enemies of everything that is good; they will be treacherous and reckless and demented by pride, prefering their own pleasure to God.  They will keep up the outward appearance of religion but will have rejected the inner power of it.

–2 Timothy 3:1b-5a, The New Jerusalem Bible

(Human nature has at least been constant.  The past, present, and future seem identical in this regard.)  Anyhow, we read in 2 Timothy to follow the truth, accept sound teaching, and be on guard against harmful people.

We–beginning with the author of this post–must always be careful not to confuse disagreement with one (in my case, myself) as proof positive that the other person is a bad shepherd, a false prophet, a harmful individual.  Maybe the other person is all those things, but perhaps he or she just has some different opinions.  I am convinced, for example, that early Church leaders were correct to insist that Gnosticism constituted false doctrine.  The main problem with Gnosticism is that it denies the Incarnation, without which there is no Christianity.  That one was easy.  Law and theology are easy at the extremes.  But what about opinions regarding certain points of Calvinism, for example?  Christians of good will can–and do–disagree strongly.  And all follow Jesus.

Speaking of Calvinism, one aspect of it offers a nice and good way out of many disputes.  John Calvin spoke and wrote of a category called “Matters Indifferent.”  Anything in that category is optional.  The Incarnation is vital, but whether one observes Christmas is a Matter Indifferent, for example.  So, with Calvin’s category in mind and a well-honed sense of theological humility before us, may we avoid idolizing our own opinions.  We might change them one day, after all.  And we are imperfect.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 11, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIONYSIUS OF CORINTH, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY NEYROT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF GEORGE AUGUSTUS SELWYN, ANGLICAN PRIMATE OF NEW ZEALAND

THE FEAST OF SAINT STANISLAUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF KRAKOW

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/devotion-for-january-31-and-february-1-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Like Crown Jewels   1 comment

Above:  Austrian Crown Jewels

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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:

Zechariah 9:1-17

Psalm 96 (Morning)

Psalms 132 and 134 (Evening)

2 Timothy 2:1-26

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Some Related Posts:

Zechariah 9:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/proper-9-year-a/

2 Timothy 2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/week-of-proper-4-thursday-year-2/

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The LORD their God shall prosper them

On that day;

[He shall pasture] His people like sheep.

[They shall be] like crown jewels glittering on his soil.

–Zechariah 9:16, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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The Book of Zechariah exists in two parts, for time and authorship separate Chapters 1-8 from Chapters 9-14.  Chapter 9 is set in an ideal future when the exiles are triumphant and their enemies are defeated–both by the hand of God.  The people of God will be like crown jewels.  That image speaks of their preciousness to God.

Speaking of precious people….

We read in 2 Timothy 2 that pointless quarrels and misleading discussions weaken the faith of people and give rise to confusion.  Yes, some people sow the seeds of mischief willingly.  Yet many others–perhaps most–do not think of their activities as destructive, even though they are.  Perhaps this is why we read advice to correct people gently and with the intention of changing their minds.  Such an attitude recognizes the potential for repentance.

Some who are like crown jewels just need a little cleaning.  May we give them the benefit of that opportunity.  And may we remember that we might like crown jewels in need of cleaning.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 11, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIONYSIUS OF CORINTH, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY NEYROT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF GEORGE AUGUSTUS SELWYN, ANGLICAN PRIMATE OF NEW ZEALAND

THE FEAST OF SAINT STANISLAUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF KRAKOW

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/devotion-for-january-30-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Posted October 6, 2012 by neatnik2009 in 2 Timothy 2, Psalm 132, Psalm 134, Psalm 96, Zechariah 9

Tagged with

Victory Over Shame   1 comment

Above:  A Crucifix

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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:

Zechariah 8:1-23

Psalm 13 (Morning)

Psalms 36 and 5 (Evening)

2 Timothy 1:1-18

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Some Related Posts:

Zechariah 8:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/16/week-of-proper-21-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/18/week-of-proper-21-tuesday-year-1/

2 Timothy 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/week-of-proper-4-wednesday-year-2/

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Have no fear; take courage!

–Zechariah 8:13b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of love and self-control.

2 Timothy 1:7, The New Jerusalem Bible

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With this day the Lutheran daily lectionary I am following departs Romans and skips to 2 Timothy, an epistle of doubtful authorship.  It reads as if it comes from Paul during one of his imprisonments.  Yet sober scholarship raises questions about that traditional understanding.  I have no reason to doubt such sober scholarship.  Yet this weblog is more Benedictine in approach than not.  The Benedictine approach to scripture is to read it for formation.  As much as I respect academic analysis–especially of the Bible–I am a devotional writer, not a biblical scholar.

So we have Paul–or someone writing as Paul–addressing Timothy, a younger associate–indeed, an important figure in nascent Christianity.  Timothy was young, and his faith owed much to his mother and grandmother.  As I read the lection from 2 Timothy, the word “ashamed” attracted most of my attention.  Timothy was not supposed to be ashamed of his witness for God or of Paul, a prisoner.  And “Paul” was not ashamed of his incarceration, suffering, and witness for God.  And why not?

…because I know in whom I have put my trust, and I have no doubt at all that he is able to safeguard until that Day what I have entrusted to him.

–2 Timothy 1:12b, The New Jerusalem Bible

Shame and honor are social constructions.  One has shame or honor because others say so.  And often we humans, as social creatures, internalize these standards.  But Jesus overturned these standards by his life, death, and resurrection.  He associated with social outcasts, earned the enmity of many religious elites, and died as a criminal.  Then he did not remain dead.  This demonstrated that, among other things, he was beyond the power of those who had attempted to shame him.

The exiles whom Zechariah addressed knew shame.  Yet they would become a blessing to the nations.  Thus they were to take courage and have no fear because of what God would do.  This was not cheap grace.  No, the people were, among other things, to

Speak the truth to one another, render true and perfect justice in your gates.  And do not contrive evil against one one another, and do not love perjury…..

–Zechariah 8:16-17a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Divine grace requires us to become vehicles thereof.  We cannot do this as long as we live fearfully and bound by human concepts of shame and honor.  We are at our worst when we are fearful.  At such times selfishness and cruelty are most prominent in us.  And the cross of Christ was scandalous by Jewish and Roman standards.  One who died on a tree was cursed, the Law of Moses said.  And crucifixion was a Foucaultian (to use an anachronistic adjective) method of execution designed to make an example of one and to cause shame and humiliation.  Yet the cross has become the main Christian symbol, a sign of victory.

By grace and free will (mostly grace, thanks to which we have free will), may our lives reflect this victory.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 11, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIONYSIUS OF CORINTH, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY NEYROT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF GEORGE AUGUSTUS SELWYN, ANGLICAN PRIMATE OF NEW ZEALAND

THE FEAST OF SAINT STANISLAUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF KRAKOW

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/devotion-for-january-29-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Posted October 6, 2012 by neatnik2009 in 2 Timothy 1, Psalm 13, Psalm 36, Psalm 5, Zechariah 8

Tagged with

Compassion, Justice, and Crime   1 comment

Above:  St. Mary’s Orphanage, Washington, D.C., Circa 1909

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/npc2007018965/)

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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:

Zechariah 6:1-7:14

Psalm 62 (Morning)

Psalms 73 and 8 (Evening)

Romans 16:17-27

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Some Related Posts:

Romans 16:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/05/fourth-sunday-of-advent-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/week-of-proper-26-saturday-year-1/

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Thus said the LORD of Hosts:  Execute true justice and deal loyally and compassionately with one another.  Do not defraud the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the poor; and do not plot evil against one another.–But they refused to pay heed….

–Zechariah 7:9-11a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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I urge you, brothers, be on your guard against the people who are out to stir up disagreements and bring up difficulties against the teaching which you learnt.  Avoid them.

–Romans 16:17, The New Jerusalem Bible

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Who were the people whom Paul advised Roman Christians to avoid?  It seems that they were Judaizers–who argued that Gentiles needed to convert to Judaism and conform to Jewish customs as conditions of becoming Christians–or to Gnostics–who considered self-knowledge to be salvation and being one’s true self as discipleship–or both.  As various Pauline epistles attest, Paul criticized both in strong terms.  Self-knowledge is good, of course, but it does not equal salvation.  And I suppose that being oneself, assuming that one is a good and compassionate person, is also a virtue.  Certainly, one ought to be the person whom God created one to be.  That is a component of discipleship, but the Christian definition of discipleship is following Jesus.  And, if one needs to become and Jewish and to keep Jewish customs in order to be Christian, many incidents in the canonical Gospels where Jesus clashes with religious authorities make no sense.

There are good rules and bad ones.  Good rules include those Zechariah extolled:  Executing true justice; dealing loyally and compassionately with one another; dealing honestly with the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the poor; and seeking the best for one another.  Against such things there are no divine laws.  I know of no divine law against compassion, generosity, and hospitality.  Yet throughout time human laws against them have existed.  They continue to exist.  Once, in the United States, aiding a fugitive slave’s quest for freedom constituted a federal crime.  Fortunately, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 passed into history.  Today showing compassion to certain people might constitute aiding and abetting criminals, technically speaking.  A criminal is simply one whom the state has labeled as such, for a crime is whatever the state defines as such.  An escaped slave used to be a criminal–a thief, technically speaking.

My bottom line is this:  May we execute true justice.  May we deal loyally and compassionately with one another.  May we not defraud the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the poor.  May we not plot evil against one another.  May we not impose needless burdens on one another.  And, if living according to these rules constitutes a crime, may we remember that Jesus, our Lord and Savior, died as a criminal, according to the Roman Empire.  Definitions of crime differ according to time and place, but certain moral absolutes exist.  That standard is the most important one of all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 11, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIONYSIUS OF CORINTH, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY NEYROT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF GEORGE AUGUSTUS SELWYN, ANGLICAN PRIMATE OF NEW ZEALAND

THE FEAST OF SAINT STANISLAUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF KRAKOW

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/devotion-for-january-28-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Awe, Terror, and Wonder   1 comment

Above:  The Conversion of St. Paul, by Luca Giordano

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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:

Zechariah 4:1-5:11

Psalm 110 (Morning)

Psalms 66 and 23 (Evening)

Romans 15:14-33

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Some Related Posts:

Romans 15:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/week-of-proper-26-friday-year-1/

A Franciscan Blessing:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/a-franciscan-blessing/

Lord, It is Night:

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/lord-it-is-night/

Memories at a Moving Sale for a Friend:

http://taylorfamilypoems.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/memories-at-a-moving-sale-for-a-friend/

Weeping:

http://taylorfamilypoems.wordpress.com/2012/03/27/weeping/

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Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit–said the LORD of Hosts.

–Zechariah 4:6c, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Come now and see the works of God,

how wonderful he is in his doing toward all people.

–Psalm 66:4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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O come and see what the Lord has done:

what God has wrought in terror among all people.

–Psalm 66:4, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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Come and see the works of God,

who is held in awe by men for His acts.

–Psalm 66:5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Come and see the marvels of God,

his awesome deeds for the children of Adam….

–Psalm 66:5, The New Jerusalem Bible

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I begin my preparations for each post in this series by reading the assigned lessons.  Usually something–a word, phrase, clause, or sentence–stands out in my mind.  Such was the case with Zechariah 6:4c.  Set in the aftermath of the Babylonian Exile, the rebuilding of the Temple and of Jerusalem seemed unlikely.  In fact, certain people attempted to prevent the reconstruction.  But they failed–not by human efforts alone, although those proved crucial–but more so by the power of God.  There were human instruments of God at work.

Another verse attracted my attention–so much so that I have provided it in four translations.  Psalm 66:4/5 (depending on the versification system) speaks of the awe/wonder/terror of God.  Consider, O reader, these words from Isaac Watts (1705 and 1719) and altered by John Wesley (also in the 1700s):

Before Jehovah’s awful throne,

Ye nations, bow with sacred joy;

Know that the Lord is God alone,

He can create, and He destroy;

He can create, and He destroy.

The Hymnal (1933), of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (1869-1958)

Word meanings change over time.  ”Awful” means “extremely bad” to most English speakers today.  Yet its original definition was “awe-inspiring,” a word which the Encarta World English Dictionary defines as

impressive as to make a person feel humble or slightly afraid.

Likewise,  ”terrible” has a variety of meanings, most of them negative.  ”Very serious or severe” is one of those.  Yet the word can also mean “formidable.”  The Old French root for “terrible” derives from the Latin verb meaning “to frighten.”

Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles, had a frightening–terrible, by one definition–encounter with God.  And he succeeded in his mission by divine aid, overcoming the forces of might and power arrayed against him.  The word “awesome” has become trite in my North American culture.  Yet I use that word in its most profound sense here:  The works of God are awesome.  They are formidable.  They are awe-inspiring.  They are wonderful.

I have witnesses that power and those works in the lives of others as well as in my life.  As I type these words I am watching that power from a distance as it works in the life of one for whom I care very much.  I am glad to say honestly that I was an instrument of that power in a particular way at a certain time.  And I might be such an instrument in her life again.  One lesson I have learned is that hope is always alive in God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 10, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY VAN DYKE, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF HOWARD THURMAN, PROTESTANT THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF PIERRE TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LAW, ANGLICAN PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/10/devotion-for-january-27-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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The Law of Liberation   1 comment

Above:  A Jail Cell

Image Source = Andrew Bardwell

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Nehemiah 8:1-12 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

When the seventh month arrived–the Israelites being [settled] in their towns–the entire people assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the scroll of the Teaching of Moses with which the LORD had charged Israel.  On the first day of the seventh month, Ezra the high priest brought the Teaching before the congregation, men and women and all who could listen with understanding.  He read from it, facing the square before the Water Gate, from the first light until midday, to the men and the women and those who could understand; the ears of all the people were given to the scroll of the Teaching.

Ezra the scribe stood upon a wooden tower made for the purpose, and beside hm stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah at his right, and at his left Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, Meshullam.  Ezra opened the scroll in the sight of all the people; the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people; as he opened it, all the people stood up.  Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” with hands upraised.  Then they bowed their hands and prostrated themselves before the LORD with their faces to the ground.  Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites explained the Teaching to the people, while the people stood in their places.  They read from the scroll of the Teaching of God, translating it and giving the sense; so they understood the reading.

Nehemiah the Tirshatha, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites, who were explaining to the people said to all the people,

This day is holy to the LORD your God:  you must not mourn or weep,

for all the people were weeping as they listened to the words of the Teaching.  He further said to them,

Go, eat choice foods and drink sweet drinks and send portions to whoever has nothing prepared, for the day is holy to our Lord.  Do not be sad, for your rejoicing in the LORD is the source of your strength.

The Levites were quieting the people, saying,

Hush, for the day is holy; do not be sad.

Then all the people went to eat and drink and send portions and make great merriment, for they understood the things they were told.

Psalm 19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the firmament shows his handiwork.

2  One day tells its tale to another,

and one night imparts knowledge to another.

3  Although they have no words or language,

and their voices are not heard,

4  Their sound has gone out into all lands,

and their message to the ends of the world.

5  In the deep has he set a pavilion for the sun;

it comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber;

it rejoices like a champion to run its course.

6  It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens

and runs about to the end of it again;

nothing is hidden from its burning heat.

7 The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

8 The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is clean and endures forever;

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold, more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.

11 By them also is your servant enlightened,

and in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can tell how often he offends?

cleanse me from my secret faults.

13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;

let them not get dominion over me;

then shall I be whole and sound,

and innocent of a great offense.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,

O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

1 Corinthians 12:12-31a (New Revised Standard Version):

Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say,

Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,

that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say,

Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,

that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand,

I have no need of you,

nor again the head to the feet,

I have no need of you.

On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gifts.

Luke 4:14-21 (New Jerusalem Bible):

Jesus, with the power of the Spirit in him, returned to Galilee; and his reputation spread throughout the countryside.  He taught in their synagogues and everyone glorified him.

He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day as he usually did.  He stood up to read, and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.  Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:

The spirit of the Lord is upon me,

for he has anointed me

to bring the good news to the afflicted.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives,

sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free,

to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord.

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down.  And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him.  Then he began to speak to them,

The text is being fulfilled today even while you are listening.

The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-third-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/prayer-of-confession-for-the-third-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-third-sunday-after-epiphany/

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When I saw the citation for the Nehemiah reading (8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10) in the Revised Common Lectionary, I wondered why it omitted verses 4 and 7.  Then I read the text.  Verses 4 and 7 tell us the names of the people on the platform.  Nehemiah 8:1-10 had been one of the dreaded readings in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer lectionary before The Episcopal Church adopted the Revised Common Lectionary.  The reason for dread was simple:  the names!  Lectors I heard tackle it usually substituted something like

and some other people

for the names and moved along.  And they did not miss any theological point.  The framers of the Revised Common Lectionary did a good deed.  For the purposes of this post, all the names are there because I found a post where I had typed the entire reading.  So I just copied and pasted from my previous work.

The Law of Moses, when applied properly, was about liberating people, not imposing needless burdens on them, unless one considers being stoned for a variety of offenses, including touching a pigskin, committing blasphemy (however people defined that), cursing one’s parents, and engaging in premarital sexual relations necessary burdens.  (I have a mixed view of the Law of Moses.)  Applications of the Law to which Jesus objected including stoning people to death for adultery.  The incidents reported most often in the canonical Gospels, however, pertain to practices which favored the wealthy–those with enough money and leisure time to do certain things just do–and penalized the majority, the poor, who, because of their finances, could not do so.  Liberation of several sorts was on our Lord’s mind.  Next week’s Gospel lesson will will finish the incident at Nazareth, telling of our Lord’s rejection there.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

Psalm 19:7-8, from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer translation, tells us that

The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

The people of Christ are the body of Christ, Paul tells us.  Each person is therefore a different part of that body.  All are necessary because of, not in spite of, their differences.  Since the parts of Christ’s body need each other, suffering and rejoicing are collective.  And we cannot build up the body by stoning parts of it.  The Law of God–the Law of Liberation–revives the soul and is just.  It sets the captives free.  That is part of our work as Christians:  to love people, to seek what is best for them.  May we recognize what that entails in our circumstances, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 9, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DIETRICH BONHOEFFER, MARTYR AND GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

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Posted October 5, 2012 by neatnik2009 in 1 Corinthians 12, Luke 4, Nehemiah 8, Psalm 19

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