Archive for December 2014

Springs of Living Water   1 comment

LH6

Above:  St. Nicholas Episcopal Church, Hamilton, Georgia, November 2, 2014

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

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The Collect:

Mighty God, you breathe life into our bones,

and your Spirit brings truth to the world.

Send us this Spirit, transform us by your truth,

and give us language to proclaim your gospel,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 36

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 15:6-11

Psalm 33:12-22

John 7:37-39

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There is no king that can be saved by a mighty army;

a strong man is not delivered by his great strength.

–Psalm 33:16, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Psalm 33:16 applies well to the case of the Exodus from Egypt, the incident which gave birth to the Hebrew nation.

The reading from Exodus 15 language which Christian baptismal rites have invoked.  For example:

We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water.  Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation.  Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt into the land of promise.  In it your Son Jesus received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 306

The imagery of living water recurs in the Gospel of John.  Each time the source of the metaphorical water is God–sometimes Jesus.  Thus, in John 7:38, the spring of living water comes from the heart of Jesus, if one reads the verse in the full context of the Johannine Gospel, as I do.  The New Revised Standard Version (1989), which gets much correct and which I quote more often than any other translation, identifies this heart wrongly as

the believer’s heart.

How one interprets the Greek text of John 7:38, which does not specify whose heart is the source of the spring of living water, indicates something about one’s theology.  We who are more Catholic point to Christ’s heart, but those who are Eastern Orthodox or Evangelical are more likely to agree with the NRSV‘s rendering.

May this spring of living water from the heart of Jesus fill more and more people with the active love for God.  May we who have this love already retain it and nurture it in others.  And may this spring quench the thirst for God which many people possess yet do not know where to turn to find the living water to satisfy it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIRST DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF KATHARINA VON BORA LUTHER, WIFE OF MARTIN LUTHER

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/devotion-for-saturday-before-pentecost-sunday-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted December 20, 2014 by neatnik2009 in Exodus 15, John 7, Psalm 33

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Confronting God   1 comment

Job Illustration

Above:  A Job Illustration by William Blake

Image Source = William Safire, The First Dissident:  The Book of Job in Today’s Politics (New York, NY:  Random House, 1992)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

Mighty God, you breathe life into our bones,

and your Spirit brings truth to the world.

Send us this Spirit, transform us by your truth,

and give us language to proclaim your gospel,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 36

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 2:4b-7 (Thursday)

Job 37:1-13 (Friday)

Psalm 33:12-22 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 15:42b-49 (Thursday)

1 Corinthians 15:50-57 (Friday)

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Our soul waits for the LORD;

he is our help and our shield.

–Psalm 33:20, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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We come from God and hopefully return to God.  Our bodies are perishable, but we will have imperishable bodies one day.  We depend on God for everything, so our sufficiency comes from God alone, not from ourselves.  Psalm 33 tells us to trust in God, as does Elihu from Job 37.  But what about the times we find doing so difficult?

Elihu, shoehorned into the Book of Job between Job’s concluding argument and God’s response thereto, repeated arguments of Job’s alleged friends.  God is just, they and he said, so God does not permit the innocent to suffer.  The Book of Job contradicts Elihu on the final point, however, for it tells the reader at the beginning that God permitted Job’s suffering as a test of loyalty.

God does not torment,

Elihu told Job.  But is there a practical difference between tormenting and permitting torment?  The fact that Elihu’s remarks resemble God’s subsequent speech adds another layer of interpretative difficulty to the Book of Job, but I digress.

The Book of Job is, among other things, a useful caution against easy answers to difficult questions.  I prefer Job’s attitude in 13:15-16 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures, 1985):

He may well slay me; I may have no hope;

Yet I will argue my case before Him.

In this too is my salvation:

That no impious man can come into His presence.

At least Job was willing to speak to God, not just speak of God.  And arguing faithfully with God is among the most wonderful aspects of Judaism.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIRST DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF KATHARINA VON BORA LUTHER, WIFE OF MARTIN LUTHER

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-pentecost-sunday-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted December 20, 2014 by neatnik2009 in 1 Corinthians 15, Genesis 2, Job 13, Job 37

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Legalism and Judgmentalism   1 comment

Ezra

Above:  Ezra

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Gracious and glorious God, you have chosen us as your own,

and by the powerful name of Christ you protect us from evil.

By your Spirit transform us and your beloved world,

that we may find joy in your Son, Jesus Christ,

our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with and

the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 35

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezra 9:5-14

Psalm 115

John 16:16-24

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But we will bless the LORD

from this time forth for evermore.

Hallelujah!

–Psalm 115:18, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice and no one will take your joy from you.

–Jesus in John 16:22, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Having pain (as in grief) described in the scene from Ezra 9 and 10 well.  Ezra was leading returned exiles in a public prayer of confession of sins, during which many people wept bitterly.  Yet there was hope in the form of keeping the divine commandments faithfully from that day forward.  Unfortunately, that zeal turned into legalism in many people quickly.  Such legalism contributed to the crucifixion of Jesus, imminent in John 16.

We humans tend to swing from one extreme to another, thereby missing the sensible, more moderate zone.  If we have paid insufficient attention to God and holy living, we might become unpleasant, legalistic, and judgmental individuals in reaction to a conversion experience.  I know of one person in particular whom I liked better before she became a Christian.

May we, by grace, follow God in such a way as to draw others to God, not to drive them away and cause others to rue the day we became Christians.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIRST DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF KATHARINA VON BORA LUTHER, WIFE OF MARTIN LUTHER

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/devotion-for-wednesday-after-the-seventh-sunday-of-easter-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted December 20, 2014 by neatnik2009 in Ezra, John 16, Psalm 115

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In Defense of Ritualism   1 comment

conf_9764

Above:  The Right Reverend Robert C. Wright, Bishop of Atlanta, at the Cathedral of St. Philip, Atlanta, Georgia, December 14, 2014

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

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The Collect:

Gracious and glorious God, you have chosen us as your own,

and by the powerful name of Christ you protect us from evil.

By your Spirit transform us and your beloved world,

that we may find joy in your Son, Jesus Christ,

our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with and

the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 35

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 28:29-38 (Monday)

Numbers 8:5-22 (Tuesday)

Psalm 115 (Both Days)

Philippians 1:3-11 (Monday)

Titus 1:1-9 (Tuesday)

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Not to us, O LORD, not to us,

but to your name give glory;

because of your love and because of your faithfulness.

–Psalm 115:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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God might be present and imminent, as I concluded in the previous new post, but how we approach God still matters.  We should do so with deep reverence.  That is why the priestly vestments in Exodus 28 were so elaborate and the ritualism of preparation for service to God in Numbers 8 occurred.  Likewise important in the texts is character, for not only must one person perform the rituals dressed properly, but one must do so according to other rules.  One of those rules is not to mistake any sacred ritual for a talisman which protects insincere people from the consequences of their sins.

One of the advantages of belonging to and attending a more formal church is participating frequently in a series of sacred rituals presided over by clergy in vestments.  The air of formality sets the rituals apart from other occasions in life.  With that formality comes reverence.  Many congregations, I am convinced, are too informal, especially with regard to the professional and ritual attire of ministers and to rituals themselves.  All this helps to explain why I am a practicing ritualist.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIRST DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF KATHARINA VON BORA LUTHER, WIFE OF MARTIN LUTHER

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-seventh-sunday-of-easter-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Transcendence and Imminence   1 comment

Cloud Over a Mountain

Above:  Cloud Over a Mountain 

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Gracious and glorious God, you have chosen us as your own,

and by the powerful name of Christ you protect us from evil.

By your Spirit transform us and your beloved world,

that we may find joy in your Son, Jesus Christ,

our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with and

the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 35

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 24:15-18 (Friday)

Deuteronomy 34:1-7 (Saturday)

Psalm 47 (Both Days)

Revelation 1:9-18 (Friday)

John 16:4-11 (Saturday)

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God reigns over the nations;

God sits upon his holy throne.

The nobles of the peoples have gathered together

with the people of the God of Abraham.

The rulers of the earth belong to God,

and he is highly exalted.

–Psalm 47:8-10, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Once I read a summary of the differences between The Book of Common Prayer (1928) and The Book of Common Prayer (1979) of The Episcopal Church.  The most basic difference, the author concluded, was theological, for God is transcendent in the 1928 Prayer Book yet imminent in the 1979 Prayer Book.  We read of both divine transcendence and imminence in the pericopes for these two days.

God is transcendent in Exodus 24 and Deuteronomy 34.  There Moses meets God in dramatic mountaintop settings.  In Exodus 24 there us even cloud cover to add to the mystery.  A sense of mystery remains in the symbolic language of Revelation 1:9-18, a report of a vision of the triumphant, cosmic Christ.  By then the crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension were in the past, as was the most famous Pentecost from the New Testament.

Jesus is present in John 16, where the Holy Spirit is imminent.  I like the spiritual reality of God being both present and imminent, as the Kingdom of God is both.  It has become a reality partially, with its fullness reserved for the future.  The unveiling of the Kingdom of God is incomplete, but we are far from bereft.  That theology works better for me than does that of a remote, transcendent deity whose holiness is fatal to mere mortals.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIRST DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF KATHARINA VON BORA LUTHER, WIFE OF MARTIN LUTHER

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/devotion-for-friday-and-saturday-before-the-seventh-sunday-of-easter-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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A Light to the Nations III   1 comment

Candle Flame and Reflection

Above:  Candle Flame and Reflection

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, you have prepared for those who love you joys beyond understanding.

Pour into our hearts such love for you that,

loving you above all things,

we may obtain your promises,

which exceed all we can desire,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 34

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 7:1-11 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 11:1-17 (Tuesday)

Deuteronomy 11:18-21 (Wednesday)

Psalm 93 (All Days)

1 Timothy 6:11-12 (Monday)

1 Timothy 6:13-16 (Tuesday)

Mark 16:19-20 (Wednesday)

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Mightier than the sound of many waters,

mightier than the breakers of the sea,

mightier is the LORD who dwells on high.

Your testimonies are very sure,

and holiness adorns your house, O LORD,

for ever and ever more.

–Psalm 93:5-6, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The pericopes from Deuteronomy, taken together, encourage obedience to the Law of Moses.  Thus idolatry is a negative pursuit, obviously.  The readings promise rewards for obedience and punishment for disobedience.  Reality is not that simple, however, for we must, to be intellectually honest, consider the Biblical examples of Job, Tobit, various prophets, Jesus, St. Paul the Apostle, et cetera.  They suffered, but not due to sins they had committed.  Many of them, in fact, suffered for the sake of righteousness, as have many subsequent martyrs and other saints, from antiquity to the present day.

Nevertheless, may we obey Pseudo-Paul’s advice in 1 Timothy 6 to fight the good fight of the faith.  Now that Jesus has departed the Earth, we bear the responsibility for telling the stories of Jesus and living as lights to the nations.  May others recognize the light of God within us and glorify God.  May this light become a contagion of godliness.  And may we take comfort in the reality that darkness has never extinguished the light of God, despite vigorous efforts.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIRST DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF KATHARINA VON BORA LUTHER, WIFE OF MARTIN LUTHER

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-the-sixth-sunday-of-easter-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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A Light to the Nations II   1 comment

Candle Flame

Above:  Candle Flame

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, you have prepared for those who love you joys beyond understanding.

Pour into our hearts such love for you that,

loving you above all things,

we may obtain your promises,

which exceed all we can desire,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 34

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 49:5-6 (Thursday)

Isaiah 42:5-9 (Friday)

Deuteronomy 32:44-47 (Saturday)

Psalm 98 (All Days)

Acts 10:1-34 (Thursday)

Acts 10:34-43 (Friday)

Mark 10:42-45 (Saturday)

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Shout with joy to the LORD, all you lands;

lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing….

In righteousness shall he judge the world

and the peoples with equity.

–Psalm 98:5, 10, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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A sense of having a covenant with and a special revelation from God ought not to lead one into spiritual and theological elitism, the religious equivalent of ethnocentrism, which is just as false as cultural relativism.  Of course I condemn legalism and spiritual and theological elitism wherever they rear their ugly heads, but more importantly I advocate a healthy sense of ecumenism.  I emphasize what I favor–loving one’s fellow human beings in the name of God and behaving toward them accordingly.

For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.

–Mark 10:45, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

I, as a professing Christian, claim to follow Jesus.  Thus, if I am to be an intellectually and spiritually honest Christian, I must serve others in the name of Christ, regardless of the human categories into which they fit.  I retain definitions of true religions (Judaism and Christianity), merely false religions, and predatory cults, for I am not a Universalist.  Yet my theology is ecumenical, drawing from Judaism and various Christian traditions.  Those Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons (members of merely false religions) who come to my front door and whom I fail to avoid sometimes, do not understand this, for they think that they have the ultimate revelation of God.  Meanwhile, I live in a home with crucifixes, a menorah, hymnals and service books from a range of denominations, and Bibles from Jewish, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant backgrounds.  I remain an observant Episcopalian, but other denominations fascinate me–some more than others.  Lutherans and Moravians are especially interesting.

There is God; no such beings as gods exist.  Thus all of us are children of God, although many do not know that.  To be an effective light to the nations one must, among other things, lay aside contempt for the people one hopes to convert.  The failure to do so has been among the most grievous faults of many missionaries for centuries.  They people who have set out to do something righteous have destroyed cultures and functioned as agents of imperial powers instead, for the shackles of ethnocentrism have chained them.  Fortunately, modern schools of missions are among the places where one may learn how to avoid following in those footsteps.

To be a light to the nations–or one’s community–is a great responsibility, one to approach with much reverence and humility.  It is a goal one can accomplish only by grace and which requires the acknowledgment that one does not have a complete understanding of God.  Nobody has such a grasp of the divine, but some of us have learned more of the truth than others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIRST DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF KATHARINA VON BORA LUTHER, WIFE OF MARTIN LUTHER

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-sixth-sunday-of-easter-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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