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

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