Archive for December 2015

Deeds as Credentials   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God of peace, you brought again from the dead

our Lord Jesus Christ, the shepherd of the sheep.

By the blood of your eternal covenant, make us complete

in everything good that we may do your will,

and work among us all that is well-pleasing in your sight,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 50:17-20

Psalm 100

John 10:31-42

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Acknowledge that the LORD is God;

He made us and we are His,

His people, the flock He tends.

–Psalm 100:3, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Do we acknowledge God via our deeds and attitudes?  Or does “God” function merely as a mechanism for self-justification?  The genuine God is a truly challenging character.

Our deeds are our credentials, for better and worse.  By them we might glorify God or ourselves.  (The first choice is superior, obviously.)  Sometimes we might labor under the erroneous impression that we are glorifying God.  Indeed, identifying correctly what we are actually doing can prove difficult on occasion.  May we, by grace, perceive and behave correctly.

The proper response to the extravagance of God’s grace is gratitude, which comes with responsibility.  Grace is free yet costly.  Our deeds are our credentials.  Are they credentials of the Golden Rule, of compassion, of love of God and our fellow human beings?  Or are they credentials of self-aggrandisement?  Are they credentials of leaving the world or some part of it better than we found it or they credentials of the opposite?

May we love one another, just as God loves us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 31, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF JOHN WYCLIFFE, BIBLE TRANSLATOR

NEW YEAR’S EVE

THE FEAST OF PHILIPP HEINRICH MOLTHER, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, BISHOP, COMPOSER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF ROSSITER WORTHINGTON RAYMOND, U.S. NOVELIST, POET, HYMN WRITER, AND MINING ENGINEER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/12/31/devotion-for-wednesday-after-the-fourth-sunday-of-easter-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted December 31, 2015 by neatnik2009 in Jeremiah IV: 31-52, John 10, Psalm 100

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In the Same Boat   1 comment

Men in Boat

Above:  Men in Boat (1860), by Alfred R. Waud (1828-1891)

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-20362

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The Collect:

O God of peace, you brought again from the dead

our Lord Jesus Christ, the shepherd of the sheep.

By the blood of your eternal covenant, make us complete

in everything good that we may do your will,

and work among us all that is well-pleasing in your sight,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 45:1-9

Psalm 100

Acts 9:32-35

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Acknowledge that the LORD is God;

He made us and we are His,

His people, the flock He tends.

–Psalm 100:3, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Acknowledging that the LORD is God entails, among other things, living accordingly.  Psalm 14:1a and 53:2a (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures, 1985) tell us that

The benighted man thinks,

“God does not care.”

The standard English-language translation from the Hebrew text is close to the rendering in The Revised English Bible (1989):

The impious fool says in his heart,

“There is no God.”

The difference in translation is mostly in the second half of that passage.  The issue in Psalms 14 and 53 is practical atheism, not the denial of the existence of God.  Belief in God, in the Biblical sense, is trust in God, not mere affirmation of divine existence.  Thus the benighted man/impious fool operates under the mistaken idea that God does not care.  Actually, God cares deeply, especially about how we mortals treat each other.

Land was a patrimony and therefore a matter of great importance in Biblical times.  A member of one generation held it in trust for heirs.  Yet monarchs evicted legitimate landowners and seized land some times.  This is the matter in Ezekiel 45:8b-9 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures, 1985):

My princes shall no more defraud My people, but shall leave the rest of the land to the several tribes of the House of Israel.

Thus says the Lord GOD:  Enough, princes of Israel!  Make an end of lawlessness and rapine, and do what is right and just!  Put an end to your evictions of My people–declares the Lord GOD.

References to such evictions occur in 1 Kings 21:1-16; Isaiah 5:8; and Micah 2:2.

The timeless message here is that nobody has any right to improve his or her financial position by victimizing others, especially the powerless and the less powerful.  Climbing the ladder of success by kicking others off it is immoral.

St. Simon Peter’s healing of Aeneas, a man bedridden with paralysis for eight years, built up Aeneas, restoring him to health and community.

Whatever we do to each other is what we do to ourselves.  If we keep others”in their place,” seemingly to improve our circumstances, we really hurt ourselves, for we doom ourselves to monitor others instead of pursuing proper opportunities.  May we build each other up in the name of Jesus Christ, enabling each other to become the people we can become in God, for the glory of God and the benefit of the whole.  To use a cliché, we are all in the same boat.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 31, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF JOHN WYCLIFFE, BIBLE TRANSLATOR

NEW YEAR’S EVE

THE FEAST OF PHILIPP HEINRICH MOLTHER, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, BISHOP, COMPOSER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF ROSSITER WORTHINGTON RAYMOND, U.S. NOVELIST, POET, HYMN WRITER, AND MINING ENGINEER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/12/31/devotion-for-tuesday-after-the-fourth-sunday-of-easter-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Hope in God   1 comment

icon_second_coming

Above:  Icon of the Second Coming

In the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God of peace, you brought again from the dead

our Lord Jesus Christ, the shepherd of the sheep.

By the blood of your eternal covenant, make us complete

in everything good that we may do your will,

and work among us all that is well-pleasing in your sight,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 37:15-28

Psalm 100

Revelation 15:1-4

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Raise a shout for the LORD, all the earth;

worship the LORD in gladness;

come into His presence with shouts of joy.

Acknowledge that the LORD is God;

He made us and we are His,

His people, the flock He tends.

Enter His gates with praise,

His courts with acclamation.

Praise Him!

Bless His name!

For the LORD is good;

His steadfast love is eternal;

His faithfulness is for all generations.

–Psalm 100, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Ezekiel 37:15-28 and Revelation 15:1-4 point toward the future.  The reunion of the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel and Judah remains unrealized, for the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel reside in various places in the Old World and are rarely Jewish in the contemporary sense of that word.  Corrupt human systems govern the world; God has yet to destroy them and to replace them with justice.  Yet we are not foolish to hope for the best in times to come.

Opening the Christian Bible (in all of its competing canons) with Genesis and concluding it with Revelation makes sense.  The sacred anthology starts with the creation and corruption of paradise and ends with the restoration of it–from Eden to Eden.  The Bible comes full circle, ending with the restoration of the broken.  Much harrowing material coexists with comforting passages in the middle.

We who live in the in-between times, those bookended by the announcement of the promises in Ezekiel 37:15-28 and Revelation 15:1-4 and the fulfillment of them, are wise to remember, in the words of Psalm 100, that God is our shepherd and that we are God’s sheep.  Wandering off into danger is detrimental to us, just as we are important to our shepherd.  Do we honor our shepherd?  The answer to that questions is, under the best of circumstances, not nearly enough.  Fortunately, we can do much better, by grace.  May we do so.  And may we hold fast to the hope that what God has promised to do, God will do.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 31, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF JOHN WYCLIFFE, BIBLE TRANSLATOR

NEW YEAR’S EVE

THE FEAST OF PHILIPP HEINRICH MOLTHER, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, BISHOP, COMPOSER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF ROSSITER WORTHINGTON RAYMOND, U.S. NOVELIST, POET, HYMN WRITER, AND MINING ENGINEER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/12/31/devotion-for-monday-after-the-fourth-sunday-of-easter-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted December 31, 2015 by neatnik2009 in Ezekiel 37, Psalm 100, Revelation of John 15

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In Pursuit   1 comment

Moravian Logo

Above:  The Logo of the Moravian Church

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

O God of peace, you brought again from the dead

our Lord Jesus Christ, the shepherd of the sheep.

By the blood of your eternal covenant, make us complete

in everything good that we may do your will,

and work among us all that is well-pleasing in your sight,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 11:1-25 (Thursday)

Ezekiel 20:39-44 (Friday)

Ezekiel 28:25-26 (Saturday)

Psalm 23 (All Days)

Revelation 5:1-10 (Thursday)

Revelation 6:1-7:4 (Friday)

Luke 12:29-32 (Saturday)

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The LORD is my shepherd;

I lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures;

He leads me to water in places of repose;

He renews my life;

He guides me in right paths

as befits His name.

Though I walk through a valley of deepest darkness,

I fear no harm, for You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff–they comfort me.

You spread a table for me in full view of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;

my drink is abundant.

Only goodness and steadfast love shall pursue me

all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD

for many long years.

–Psalm 23, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Psalm 23 is a familiar passage.  Perhaps familiarity breeds not contempt so much as it encourages turning on the automatic pilot when reading or hearing it.

O yes, I know this passage well,

we who are immersed in scripture might say to ourselves before we stop paying attention.  But how well do we really know the text?

Psalm 23 might have originated during the Babylonian Exile or afterward.  Imagine, O reader, Judean exiles pondering their foreign environs and hoping for a return to their ancestral homeland, of which they have only heard.  Or imagine exiles who have returned coming to terms with the fact that realities of life in that homeland fall short of fond hopes and prophetic promises.

Only goodness and steadfast love shall pursue me

all the days of my life

–Psalm 23:6a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

takes on a certain meaning then.  The enemies do not pursue; not “goodness and steadfast love” do–or will.  That is a timeless hope.

The themes of judgment, mercy, exile, and return run through these days’ readings.  Exile comes, persists for decades, and ends.  Restoration (by God, via human agents thereof) follows.  God expects us to live in ways that glorify Him, but we fall sort of that standard often.  Furthermore, obeying God in this life does not guarantee a peaceful, safe, and prosperous life.  Neither does disobeying God in this life guarantee the opposite result.  Yet there is the question of the afterlife.  Furthermore, for the divine order to come into its own, God must destroy its sinful, human predecessor.

Frequently good news for the oppressed constitutes catastrophic news for their oppressors who, ironically, hurt themselves by engaging in the work of oppression.  Thus oppression creates both victims and oppressors, but only only victims.  We humans are often the victims of our own bad decisions, thus we are frequently simultaneously victims and oppressors.  This need not be the case, for we can, by grace, walk the path of righteousness more often than not.  Enemies might still pursue us, as they did Jesus, but so will divine goodness and steadfast love.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 31, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF JOHN WYCLIFFE, BIBLE TRANSLATOR

NEW YEAR’S EVE

THE FEAST OF PHILIPP HEINRICH MOLTHER, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, BISHOP, COMPOSER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF ROSSITER WORTHINGTON RAYMOND, U.S. NOVELIST, POET, HYMN WRITER, AND MINING ENGINEER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/12/31/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-fourth-sunday-of-easter-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Commissioned and Equipped   1 comment

Vison of Ezekiel--Fra Angelico

Above:  The Vision of Ezekiel, Fra Angelico

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Eternal and all-merciful God,

with all the angels and all the saints we laud your majesty and might.

By the resurrection of your Son, show yourself to us

and inspire us to follow Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 1:1-25 (Monday)

Ezekiel 1:26-2:1 (Tuesday)

Isaiah 6:1-8 (Wednesday)

Psalm 121 (All Days)

Acts 9:19-31 (Monday)

Acts 26:1-18 (Tuesday)

Luke 5:1-11 (Wednesday)

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I lift up my eyes to the hills;

from where is my help to come?

My help comes from the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.

–Psalm 121:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Most of the readings for these three days are stories of commissioning by God, accompanied by a spectacular vision or event.  Ezekiel and Isaiah become prophets, fishermen become Apostles, and Saul of Tarsus becomes St. Paul the Apostle, the great evangelist.  God qualifies the called, who know well that they are, by themselves, inadequate for the tasks to which God has assigned them.

I do not know about you, O reader, but I have seen no visions and have not witnessed miraculous deeds.  Neither has God called me to do anything in the same league as the tasks assigned to Ezekiel, Isaiah, St. Paul, and the original twelve Apostles.  I do know some of my inadequacies, however, and affirm that God has work for me to do.  Furthermore, I acknowledge my need for grace to complete those tasks for the glory of God.

Each of us has a role to play in God’s design.  Many of us seek or will seek to fulfill it, but others do not or will not seek to do so.  God will win in the end, as the Book of Revelation tells me, so divine victory is up to God, not any of us.  Nevertheless, is responding faithfully to God and accepting the demands of grace not better than doing otherwise?

What is God calling and equipping you, O reader, to do?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN BLEW, ENGLISH PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/12/20/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-the-third-sunday-of-lent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Hospitality and Grace   1 comment

Abraham and the Three Angels--Gustave Dore

Above:  The Prophet Isaiah, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Eternal and all-merciful God,

with all the angels and all the saints we laud your majesty and might.

By the resurrection of your Son, show yourself to us

and inspire us to follow Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 18:1-8

Psalm 30

Luke 14:12-14

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Genesis 18:1-8 and Luke 14:12-14 offer lessons regarding hospitality and the spirituality thereof.

Hospitality often defined the difference between life and death in Biblical times, as it continues to do.  Extending hospitality was a moral duty, according to Old Testament authors and Jesus.  It was, for them, part of the Law of Love and the web of obligations binding members of society together in mutual responsibility and in interdependence.

In the rural U.S. South in the 1800s it was commonplace for a farmhouse to have a guest room which opened onto the front porch and not into any room.  A traveling stranger might need to spend the night.  That type of accommodation saved the lives of many people.

The two examples of hospitality in the main readings for this day differ from each other.  In Genesis 18 Abraham lavishes hospitality on three men, presumably God and two angels.  We learn that they are present to announce Sarah’s upcoming and most improbable pregnancy.  One might project words from Psalm 30 backward in time and place them into the mouth of Sarah, once she stopped laughing:

You have turned my wailing into dancing;

you have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.

Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing;

O LORD my God, I will give you thanks for ever.

–Verses 12 and 13, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

The reading from Luke 14 is part of a scene.  Jesus is dining at the home of a leader of the Pharisees on the Sabbath.  Our Lord and Savior heals a man with dropsy in verses 1-6.  Already Christ’s host and the other guests are hostile, for they watch him closely.  Dropsy, aside from being a physical condition, functions as a metaphor for greed, for, although the affected man’s body retained too much fluid, he was thirsty for more.  Jesus heals the sick man–on the Sabbath, in the presence of critics, no less, and symbolically criticizes his greedy host and other guests while restoring the man to wholeness.  Then our Lord and Savior notices how the other guests choose the positions of honor in contrast to Proverbs 25:6-7a:

Do not exalt yourselves in the king’s presence;

Do not stand in the place of nobles.

For it is better to be told, “Stop up here,”

Than to be degraded in the presence of the great.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

This is a story from the Gospel of Luke, with a theme of reversal of fortune, so the incident fits the Gospel well.

Jesus sounds much like the subsequent James 2:1-13.  Sit in the lowest place, he advises; do not exalt oneself.

For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted?

–Luke 14:11, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Likewise, Jesus continues, invite and honor the poor, the lame, the blind, and the crippled with table fellowship.  This ethos of the Kingdom of God’s priorities being at odds with those of the dominant perspectives of the world is consistent with the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-11) and the Beatitudes and Woes (Luke 6:20-26).

Give to those who can never repay, Jesus commands us.  And why not?  Has not God given us so much that we can never repay God?  The demand of grace upon us is in this case is to do likewise to others–to do unto others as God has done unto us, to give without expectation of repayment.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN BLEW, ENGLISH PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/12/20/devotion-for-saturday-before-the-third-sunday-of-easter-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Living to Glorify God   1 comment

Prophet Isaiah--Gustave Dore

Above:  The Prophet Isaiah, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Eternal and all-merciful God,

with all the angels and all the saints we laud your majesty and might.

By the resurrection of your Son, show yourself to us

and inspire us to follow Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 5:11-17 (Thursday)

Isaiah 6:1-4 (Friday)

Psalm 30 (Both Days)

Revelation 3:14-22 (Thursday)

Revelation 4:1-11 (Friday)

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Sing to the LORD, you servants of his;

give thanks for the remembrance of his holiness.

For his wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye,

his favor for a lifetime.

Weeping may spend the night,

but joy comes in the morning.

–Psalm 30:4-6, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The author of Psalm 30 was certainly a supporter of God.  That characterization did not apply to the drunks in Isaiah 5 on the indecisive church at Laodicea.

In contrast to those examples stand Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4, visions of divine glory.  The proper response to that glory is utter humility which praises God and asks how best to glorify God in one’s life.  That is, to use the language of Revelation 3:14-22, being hot for God.

The Larger Westminster Catechism begins:

Q:  What is the chief and highest end of man?

A:  Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.

–Quoted in The Constitution of The United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, 1963-64, page 49

That is a fine statement of principle, but how does it properly translate into actions?  The answer to that question depends on who one is, where one is, and when one is.  May each of us, regardless of our circumstances, glorify God as effectively as possible in them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN BLEW, ENGLISH PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/12/20/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-the-third-sunday-of-easter-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted December 20, 2015 by neatnik2009 in Isaiah 5, Isaiah 6, Psalm 30, Revelation of John 3, Revelation of John 4

Tagged with