Archive for March 2016

Too Busy for God   1 comment

Urban Traffic at Night

Above:  Urban Traffic at Night

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, you resist those who are proud and give grace those who are humble.

Give us the humility of your Son, that we may embody

the generosity of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 57:14-21

Psalm 119:65-72

Luke 14:15-24

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You have been generous to your servant, Yahweh,

true to your promise.

–Psalm 119:65, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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In Isaiah 57:14-21 we read of God, who revives the spirits of the lowly and the contrite and who removes all obstacles from the road of the people of God.  Thus God is laying out the welcome mat for everyone, but many people will refuse the invitation.

Luke 14:15-24 tells the story of a banquet, its host, those invited to attend it, and those who actually attended it.  When the time of the banquet nears, some of those who had accepted the invitation make excuses and stay away instead.  The annoyed host sends his servant to fill the empty places with

the poor and crippled and blind and lame.

–Verse 21c, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English–Revised Edition (1972)

The servant does that, but empty places remain.  The host sends him out again to find more guests.

The heading of this passage in The New Testament in Modern English (1972) is

Men who are “too busy” for the kingdom of God.

That fits well and applies to my point.  God is the host in the parable.  He obviously has no qualms about violating social standards of propriety regarding socio-economic status.  The host is knocking down barriers, not erecting them.  Some of the invited guests construct barriers with regard to themselves, however.  The host seeks to include them yet they exclude themselves.

Many people drop out of church because they declare themselves atheists or agnostics.  Others, citing perceived doctrinal drift and alleged apostasy, leave some churches for other congregations.  Others drop out of church because they are too busy, they say.  They are not protesting any heresy, alleged or actual; they are simply distracted.  To be too busy for God is negative.  If one is too busy, one should remove something else from one’s schedule.  (Many people do lead overly programmed lives.)  After all, we all depend entirely on God.  Should we not respond to God faithfully and joyfully?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 25, 2016 COMMON ERA

GOOD FRIDAY

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/25/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-17-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Timeless Principles of Righteousness   1 comment

Rehoboam

Above:  Rehoboam, by Hans Holbein the Younger

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, you resist those who are proud and give grace those who are humble.

Give us the humility of your Son, that we may embody

the generosity of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 12:1-12 (Monday)

Isaiah 2:12-17 (Tuesday)

Psalm 119:65-72 (Both Days)

Hebrews 13:7-21 (Monday)

Titus 1:1-9 (Tuesday)

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Teach me judgement and knowledge,

for I rely on your commandments.

–Psalm 119:66, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Leaders should obey God and be worthy of respect, the readings tell us.  This principle applies to religious leaders in the New Testament lections and to monarchs (in a system lacking the separation of religion and state) in the Old Testament lessons.  In all of the readings the theme of praising humility and condemning hubris, present in previous posts, continues.  As I have noted more than once, one might commit error while trying to obey divine commandments, as one understands them.  Sometimes we mistake God’s voice for our own.

As I have written in the context of the Law of Moses, scripture provides us with timeless principles and culturally specific examples thereof.  The examples fall away, but the principles persist.  Much legalism results from becoming attached to now-irrelevant examples, not the timeless principles behind them.  There is, in contrast, a wonderful Jewish practice of pondering the principles and how to act according to them in current circumstances.

May we, like the author of Psalm 119, rely on divine commandments without fixating on now-irrelevant, culturally specific examples.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 25, 2016 COMMON ERA

GOOD FRIDAY

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/25/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-17-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Service and Glory   1 comment

Hope flows through a new canal

Above:  Canal

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, you resist those who are proud and give grace those who are humble.

Give us the humility of your Son, that we may embody

the generosity of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 21:1-4, 24-26

Psalm 112

Matthew 20:20-28

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How blessed is anyone who fears Yahweh,

who delights in his commandments!

–Psalm 112:1, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The reading from Matthew 20 concerns the misguided quest for glory in lieu of service.  In Matthew 20:20-28 St. Mary Salome, sister of St. Mary of Nazareth, asks her nephew (Jesus) to grant her sons (Sts. James and John) places of honor in the Kingdom of God.  In Mark 10:35-45, however, Sts. James and John make the request instead.  In each account our Lord and Savior’s reply is the same:

  1. “You do not understand what you are asking.”–The Revised English Bible (1989);
  2. That is not a decision for Jesus to make; and
  3. The request is misguided.

As the lection from Proverbs 21 reminds us,

Haughty looks–a proud heart–

The tillage of the wicked is sinful.

–Verse 4, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

May we seek instead to be like the channeled water of Proverbs 21:1–directed toward whatever God wishes.  May we seek to glorify God and benefit our fellow human beings, not to glorify ourselves.  Jesus has provided a fine example of service for us to emulate in our circumstances.  If we are really Christians, we will seek to follow him more than we do already.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 24, 2016 COMMON ERA

MAUNDY THURSDAY

THE FEAST OF THOMAS ATTWOOD, “FATHER OF MODERN CHURCH MUSIC”

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIDACUS JOSEPH OF CADIZ, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF OSCAR ROMERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF SAN SALVADOR, AND THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR

THE FEAST OF PAUL COUTURIER, ECUMENIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/24/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-17-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Nobility and Love   1 comment

Vegetables

Above:  Vegetables

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, you resist those who are proud and give grace those who are humble.

Give us the humility of your Son, that we may embody

the generosity of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 15:13-17 (Thursday)

Proverbs 18:6-12 (Friday)

Psalm 112 (Both Days)

1 Peter 3:8-12 (Thursday)

1 Peter 4:7-11 (Friday)

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How blessed is anyone who fears Yahweh,

who delights in his commandments!

–Psalm 112:1, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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These days’ readings, taken together, extol humility, love, and recognition of complete dependence upon God.  As one saying from Proverbs states eloquently,

Better a meal of vegetables where there is love

Than a flattened ox where there is hate.

–15:17, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Like unto that is the commandment to

maintain constant love for one another

–1 Peter 4:8a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989),

which is consistent with the ethic of human responsibilities to and for each other, as in the Law of Moses.

Pride (hubris) goes before the fall.  Humility is frequently difficult also, but it is the better path.  Yes, each of us bears the image of God, but each of us also carries an imperfect nature.  Depravity is not even an article of faith for me, for I have evidence for it, and therefore require no faith to recognize the reality of it.  Nevertheless, as I heard growing up, God did not make any garbage.  Yes, we humans are equally capable of both nobility and depravity, of love and of death.  May we, by grace, succeed more often than not in following the paths of nobility and love.

St. Paul the Apostle offered timeless wisdom in his Letter to the Romans:

Never pay back evil for evil.  Let your aims be such as all count honourable.  If possible, so far as it lies with you, live at peace with all.  My dear friends, do not seek revenge, but leave a place for divine retribution; for there is a text which reads, “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord, I will repay.”  But there is another text:  “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; by doing so you will heap live coals on his head.”  Do not let evil conquer you, but use good to conquer evil.

–12:17-21, The Revised English Bible (1989)

That passage cites Leviticus 19:18 and Proverbs 25:21-22.  It is also compatible with Matthew 5:43-48.

St. Paul summarized an essential part of Christian ethics better than my capacity to paraphrase it.  For that reason I leave you, O reader, with those noble words.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 24, 2016 COMMON ERA

MAUNDY THURSDAY

THE FEAST OF THOMAS ATTWOOD, “FATHER OF MODERN CHURCH MUSIC”

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIDACUS JOSEPH OF CADIZ, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF OSCAR ROMERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF SAN SALVADOR, AND THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR

THE FEAST OF PAUL COUTURIER, ECUMENIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/24/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-proper-17-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Compassion and the Sabbath   1 comment

Christ_heals_tne_man_with_paralysed_hand

Above:  Christ Healing the Man with the Withered Hand

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, mighty and immortal, you know that as fragile creatures

surrounded by great dangers, we cannot by ourselves stand upright.

Give us strength of mind and body, so that even when we suffer

because of human sin, we may rise victorious through

your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 20:1-17 (Monday)

Ezekiel 20:18-32 (Tuesday)

Ezekiel 20:33-44 (Wednesday)

Psalm 109:21-31 (All Days)

Hebrews 3:7-4:11 (Monday)

Revelation 3:7-13 (Tuesday)

Luke 6:6-11 (Wednesday)

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Let them know that yours is the saving hand,

that this, Yahweh, is your work.

–Psalm 109:27, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Ezekiel 20 is a stinging indictment of an intergenerational, societal pattern of infidelity to God, who has done so much and required mere obedience in return.  In the Hebrew Bible keeping the Law of Moses is a faithful response to God.  Not observing that code, with its timeless principles and culturally specific applications thereof, leads to negative consequences in the Old Testament.  In contrast to Ezekiel 20 is Revelation 3:7-13, in which the church at Philadelphia has remained faithful in the midst of adversity.  The text encourages that congregation to remain faithful amidst hardship, a message also present in the lection from Hebrews.

Keeping the Sabbath is a related theme in some of these days’ readings.  I covered that topic in the previous post, so I will not repeat myself here.  In Luke 6:6-11 Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath.  Certain critics of our Lord and Savior accused him of having acted inappropriately, given the day.  Jesus replied that all days are good days to commit good deeds.

As I understand Jewish Sabbath laws, Jesus acted consistently with the best spirit of them.  I have heard, for example, of Jewish doctors and nurses whose work in emergency rooms (including on the Jewish Sabbath) is an expression of their faith.  As for the account in Luke 6:6-11, our Lord and Savior’s accusers were especially strict and represented one part of the spectrum of opinion regarding the question of how to keep the Sabbath.  According to a note in The Jewish Annotated New Testament (2011), the Law of Moses forbade work on the Sabbath without defining “work.”  Germane texts were Exodus 20:10; Exodus 31:14-15; and Leviticus 23:3.  Previous study has revealed to me that, at the time of Jesus, strict Jewish Sabbath regulations permitted providing basic first aid and saving a life on that day.  If saving a life was permissible on the Sabbath, why not healing on that day?

I suppose that our Lord and Savior’s accusers in Luke 6:6-11 thought they were holding fast to their obligations to God.  They erred, however, by becoming lost in details and losing sight of compassion and kindness.

May we avoid the opposite errors of caring about the wrong details in the name of piety and of not caring enough or at all.  May we act out of compassion and kindness every day of the week.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 24, 2016 COMMON ERA

MAUNDY THURSDAY

THE FEAST OF THOMAS ATTWOOD, “FATHER OF MODERN CHURCH MUSIC”

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIDACUS JOSEPH OF CADIZ, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF OSCAR ROMERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF SAN SALVADOR, AND THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR

THE FEAST OF PAUL COUTURIER, ECUMENIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/24/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-16-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Sabbath   1 comment

Church of the Resurrection February 8, 2015

Above:  Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, Sautee, Georgia, February 8, 2015

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

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The Collect:

O God, mighty and immortal, you know that as fragile creatures

surrounded by great dangers, we cannot by ourselves stand upright.

Give us strength of mind and body, so that even when we suffer

because of human sin, we may rise victorious through

your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 15:32-41 (Thursday)

2 Chronicles 8:12-15 (Friday)

Nehemiah 13:15-22 (Saturday)

Psalm 103:1-8 (All Days)

Hebrews 12:13-17 (Thursday)

Acts 17:1-9 (Friday)

Luke 6:1-5 (Saturday)

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Bless Yahweh, my soul,

from the depths of my being, his holy name;

bless Yahweh, my soul,

never forget all his acts of kindness.

–Psalm 103:1-2, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Keeping divine commandments is one way of manifesting love for God.  Observing the Sabbath is the dominant issue in these days’ readings, so I focus on it.

Sabbath is an indication of freedom.  When the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, they had no days off.  Since they were free, however, they had a day off each week.  Violating it carried a death sentence, though.  (That was unduly harsh!)  The reality of the death penalty for that infraction indicated the importance of keeping Sabbath in that culture, which understood that individual violations led to communal punishment.

Our Lord and Savior’s Apostles plucked grain with their hands one Sabbath.  This was permissible in Deuteronomy 23:25 yet not in Exodus 34:21.  Jesus preferred to cite the former, but his accusers favored the latter.  He also understood the precedent David set in 1 Samuel 21:1-6, in which, in an emergency, he and his soldiers consumed holy bread.  Jesus grasped a basic reality–people need the Sabbath, but there should be flexibility regarding the rules of the day.  In this respect he fit in nicely with his Jewish culture, with its various understandings of Sabbath laws.

Life brings too many hardships to endure (often for the sake of righteousness).  Fewer of them would exist if more people would be content to mind their own business.  Why, then, do so many observant people add to this by turning a day of freedom into one of misery?  I suppose that legalism brings joy to certain individuals.

May we keep the Sabbath as a day of rest, relaxation, and freedom, not legalism and misery.  If we must work on our usual Sabbath, may we keep Sabbath another day.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 24, 2016 COMMON ERA

MAUNDY THURSDAY

THE FEAST OF THOMAS ATTWOOD, “FATHER OF MODERN CHURCH MUSIC”

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIDACUS JOSEPH OF CADIZ, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF OSCAR ROMERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF SAN SALVADOR, AND THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR

THE FEAST OF PAUL COUTURIER, ECUMENIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/24/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-16-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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False Prophets and False Profits   1 comment

Christ Cleansing the Temple--Bernardino Mei

Above:  Christ Cleansing the Temple, by Bernardino Mei

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, judge eternal, you love justice and hate oppression,

and you call us to share your zeal for truth.

Give us courage to take our stand with all victims of bloodshed and greed,

and, following your servants and prophets, to look to the pioneer and perfecter of our faith,

your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 23:30-40 (Monday)

Jeremiah 25:15-29 (Tuesday)

Jeremiah 25:30-38 (Wednesday)

Psalm 32 (All Days)

1 John 4:1-6 (Monday)

Acts 7:44-53 (Tuesday)

Luke 19:45-48 (Wednesday)

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How blessed are those whose offence is forgiven,

whose sin blotted out.

How blessed are those to whom Yahweh imputes no guilt,

Whose spirit harbours no deceit.

–Psalm 32:1-2, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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One must, however, avoid falling into the traps of false prophets and false profits.

In the Book of Jeremiah false prophets stated that doom would not come upon the Kingdom of Judah.  God and Jeremiah said otherwise.

In the context of early Christianity we read of false prophets in the New Testament.  The standard of truth, according to 1 John 4, is Christology.  Rejecting Christ, as in Acts 7, places one in the category of “false.”  And, in Luke 19, we read of people Jesus rejected.  The money changers at the Temple converted Roman currency (bearing the image of Emperor Tiberius) into non-idolatrous money, which pilgrims used to purchase sacrificial animals.  Unfortunately, some of the Temple authorities benefited financially from this arrangement.  These were the false profits I mentioned in the opening sentence.

Piety should never become a vehicle for the funding of an impious person’s corruption, just as those who claim to speak for God ought to do what they say they do.  The first part of that proposition is easier to make reality than the second part.  The difficulty is that we humans frequently mistake an internal monologue for a dialogue with God.  Each of us who has claimed that God told him or her something had fallen into this trap at least once.  May we, by grace, avoid it as often as possible.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 23, 2016 COMMON ERA

WEDNESDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF GEORGE RUNDLE PRYNNE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THE ILLUMINATOR, PATRIARCH OF ARMENIA

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH VON LAUFENBERG, GERMAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT TURIBIUS OF MOGROVEJO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF LIMA

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/23/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-15-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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