Archive for July 2018

The Law of Mercy   1 comment

Above:  Judah and Tamar, by the School of Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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 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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Genesis 38:1-26 or Isaiah 40:21-31

Psalm 18:31-36, 43-50

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Matthew 12:1-21

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Temple prostitution, in the background in Genesis 38, might be background for 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 also.  If it is, the reading becomes deeper than it is otherwise.  If to engage in sexual relations with a pagan prostitute is to unite with the deity the prostitute serves, idolatry becomes an issue.  Christians are supposed to function as part of the body of Christ, therefore visiting a pagan temple prostitute is worse than visiting a prostitute in general.

Speaking of Genesis 38, it is another of those different stories we find frequently in the Hebrew Bible.  It remains a proverbial hot potato.  When must a father-in-law sire his grandsons?  When the laws governing levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5-10) dictate.  The text does not condemn Tamar for her deceit either, for the narrative makes plain that it was the option left open to her.

In June 1996 my father became the pastor of the Asbury United Methodist Church in northern Appling County, Georgia, U.S.A.  One of the adult Sunday School classes was reading the Book of Genesis a chapter at a time.  One week the teacher announced that the class would not discuss Chapter 38 (although they had apparently discussed Chapter 37 the previous week), but would talk about Chapter 39 instead.  I wonder if the teacher also skipped the rape of Dinah and the subsequent bloodbath in Chapter 34.  Probably, yes.

When passages of scripture make us that uncomfortable, we should study them.  We should study all of the Bible, of course, but double down on the parts that cause us to squirm.

God is strong, mighty, loving, and trustworthy, we read.  Sometimes mercy on some takes the form of judgment on others.  After all, judgment on oppressors does help the oppressed, does it not?

Much occurs theologically in Matthew 12:1-21, but the major point is that mercy overrides Sabbath laws.  We read that some labor was mandatory on the Sabbath, especially for priests.  So yes, we read Jesus announce, the hungry may pluck grain and the man with the withered hand may receive healing, not just rudimentary first aid.

In the Gospel of Matthew one of the points drilled into the text was that Jesus did not seek to destroy the Law of Moses.  No, he presented his interpretation as correct and in opposition to the interpretations of his critics.  Jesus stood within the context of Judaism, not against it.  For example, the Mishnah, published in 200 C.E. (about 170 years after the crucifixion of Jesus), listed 39 types of labor prohibited on the Sabbath.  Plucking food was not one of them.  Christ’s opponents in Chapter 12:1-21 were, to use an anachronistic expression, more Catholic than the Pope.

The Sabbath, in the Law of Moses, was about liberation.  Slaves in Egypt received no days off, so a day off was a mark of freedom.  Besides, science and experience have taught us the necessity of down time.  Much of my Christian tradition has reacted against leisure (especially “worldly amusements,” a bane of Pietism and Puritanism) and insisted that idle hands are the Devil’s workshop.  Nevertheless, science and experience have affirmed the necessity of a certain amount of idleness.

Judaism, at its best, is not legalistic; neither is Christianity.  Yet legalistic Jews and Christians exist.  A healthy attitude is to seek to respond to God faithfully, without becoming lost in the thicket of laws, without failing to see the forest for the trees, without mistaking culturally specific examples for timeless principles, without shooting cannon balls at gnats, and without forgetting mercy.

And while one is doing that, one should read the scriptural passages that make one squirm in one’s seat.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 30, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLARENCE JORDAN, SOUTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CHRYSOLOGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF RAVENNA AND DEFENDER OF ORTHODOXY

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICENTA CHÁVEZ OROZCO, FOUNDRESS OF THE SERVANTS OF THE HOLY TRINITY AND THE POOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM PINCHON, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/30/devotion-for-proper-16-year-a-humes/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Trusting in God, Part VIII   1 comment

Above:  Joseph Reveals His Dream to His Brethren, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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 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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Genesis 37:1-28 or Isaiah 30:15-25

Psalm 18:16-30

1 Corinthians 6:1-11

Matthew 11:2-19

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Patriarchs in Genesis had dysfunctional families.  Abraham tried to kill his son Isaac, on faith that God had told him to do so.  (Yes, I argue with that story.)  Isaac’s son Jacob, with the help of Jacob’s mother, fooled him and defrauded Esau.  Jacob seemed not to care about the rape of his daughter Dinah and, in a different context, acted in such a way as to foster tension among his sons, most of whom fooled him into thinking that his son Joseph was dead.  With family like that, who needs enemies?

The main idea in 1 Corinthians 6:1-11 is that believers ought to conduct themselves in ways that glorify God and distinguish them from unbelievers.  Yet even when holy people do that, they will still receive criticism, for some people thrive on finding faults, even if those faults are imaginary.  It is preferable that the criticisms be baseless; that way they show up the critics.

During the reign of King Hezekiah of Judah (reigned 727/715-698/687 B.C.E.), the kingdom entered into a military alliance with Egypt against Assyria.  This was an ill-advised alliance; Egypt was not trustworthy.  The author of Isaiah 30 argued that the alliance indicated a lack of trust in God, who was reliable.  After the announcement of divine wrath followed the prediction of mercy.

Trusting in God liberates one to do as one should and become the person one should be.  One can lay aside the desire for revenge, not to lead a life defined by anger, and value justice instead.  With confidence in God one can avoid foolish decisions that end badly.  One, trusting in God, can find the source of ultimate peace and strength.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 30, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLARENCE JORDAN, SOUTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CHRYSOLOGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF RAVENNA AND DEFENDER OF ORTHODOXY

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICENTA CHÁVEZ OROZCO, FOUNDRESS OF THE SERVANTS OF THE HOLY TRINITY AND THE POOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM PINCHON, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/30/devotion-for-proper-15-year-a-humes/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Trusting in God, Part VII   1 comment

Above:  The Seduction of Dinah, Daughter of Leah, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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 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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Genesis 34 or Isaiah 29:13-24

Psalm 18:1-15

1 Corinthians 5:1-13

Matthew 10:34-11:1

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

We have some unpleasant content this week–rape, deceit, and murder in Genesis 34 and incest in 1 Corinthians 5.

The rape of Dinah is one of those stories that makes people squirm.  Dinah is the only completely sympathetic character.  Jacob, her father, is indifferent to her plight.  Her brothers Simeon and Levi are sympathetic until they entrap and massacre Canaanite men still recuperating from circumcision.  Shechem the rapist is not sympathetic at all; neither is his father Hamor.  Still, Simeon and Levi, avengers of their sister, are somewhat sympathetic characters.

At least they cared about what had happened to her, what was happening to her, and might happen to her.

As for Dinah, given the realities of her situation in a patriarchal culture that shamed raped women, her future seemed bleak.  Who would marry her now?  And marrying her rapist was not a good option either.  She almost dropped out of the narrative; her name recurred in the census in Genesis 46.  She had no descendants.

Her brothers’ vengeance brought them material gain and ego boosts, but wounded their souls and diminished them as human beings.  It made a bad situation worse.

Trust in God, most of the assigned readings tell us.  Trust in God when doing so is difficult.  Trust in God and live accordingly.  Trust in God, take up one’s cross, follow Jesus, and take care of each other.  Trust in God when one’s family abandons one.

Trusting in God can prove challenging during the best of times, especially if one insists on self-reliance.  Trusting in God when one is in dire straits can therefore be more difficult.  Yet I know from experience that trusting in God might be easier in times of dire straits if, for perhaps no other reason, one is acutely aware of one’s dependence on God and of God’s presence.  God is always with us.  If one likens God to a lamp turned on, one might understand my point.  One might notice the light during daylight, but the light is more noticeable at night.

Trusting in God also entails leaving desires for revenge unfulfilled.  Vengeance might prove satisfying in the short term, but it devours those who have committed it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 30, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLARENCE JORDAN, SOUTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CHRYSOLOGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF RAVENNA AND DEFENDER OF ORTHODOXY

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICENTA CHÁVEZ OROZCO, FOUNDRESS OF THE SERVANTS OF THE HOLY TRINITY AND THE POOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM PINCHON, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/30/devotion-for-proper-14-year-a-humes/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Facing God, Other People, and Ourselves   1 comment

Above:  The Reunion of Esau and Jacob, by Francesco Hayez

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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 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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Genesis 33:1-11 or Isaiah 17:7-14

Psalm 17:1-8

1 Corinthians 4:1, 9-21

Matthew 10:16-33

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

One might suffer for any one of a variety of reasons.  One might suffer (as in the case of Damascus, in Isaiah 17) as punishment for idolatry and injustice.  Maybe (as in 1 Corinthians 4 and Matthew 10) one might suffer for the sake of righteousness.  Perhaps one is merely unfortunate.  Or maybe another explanation fits one’s circumstances.

Either way, the commandment to remember, honor, and obey God remains.  Also, judgment for disobedience is both collective and individual.

As worthwhile as those points are, another one interests me more.  Certain verses in Genesis 32 and 33 refer to faces–of Jacob, Esau, and God.  Karen Armstrong, writing in In the Beginning:  A New Interpretation of Genesis (1996), makes a vital point:  they are all the same face.  Jacob, in confronting Esau, also confronts God and himself.

We human beings go to great lengths to avoid facing God, other people, and ourselves.  In the city in which I live, seldom do I enter a store or a restaurant in which music is not playing; silence is apparently anathema.  Unfortunately, the music is almost always bad, especially in one thrift store, the management of which pipes contemporary Christian “seven-eleven” songs over the speakers.  (I avoid that thrift store more often than not.)  Or, if there is no music, a television set is on.  Sensory stimulation is the order of the day.

But when we are alone and silent, we cannot ignore God and ourselves so easily.  And if we cannot face ourselves honestly, we cannot face others honestly either.  If we persist in running away, so to speak, we will cause our own suffering.  It will not be a matter of God smiting us, but of us smiting ourselves.

One would think that silence would be welcome in more churches.  The silence at the end of the Good Friday service in The Episcopal Church is potent, for example.  Yet many churchgoers have an aversion to silence.  And I recall that, one Good Friday, during that potent silence after the service had ended, someone’s cellular telephone rang, causing spiritual and liturgical disruption.

if we are to become the people we are supposed to be in God, we need to take time to turn off the distracting stimulation and face God, others, and ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 30, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLARENCE JORDAN, SOUTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CHRYSOLOGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF RAVENNA AND DEFENDER OF ORTHODOXY

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICENTA CHÁVEZ OROZCO, FOUNDRESS OF THE SERVANTS OF THE HOLY TRINITY AND THE POOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM PINCHON, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/30/devotion-for-proper-13-year-a-humes/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Wrestling with God, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Jacob Struggles with the Angel, from the Gutenberg Bible

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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 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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Genesis 32:3-31 or Isaiah 14:5-20

Psalm 15

1 Corinthians 3:10-23

Matthew 10:1-15

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Jacob had been wrestling all his life.  In the womb he and his brother Esau had struggled with each other.  Jacob had, so to speak, wrestled with Esau during childhood and adulthood.  Jacob had also been wrestling with himself.  On the eve of what turned out to be reconciliation with Esau, Jacob literally wrestled with God or an angel in human form and received a blessing, as well as a limp.  Jacob, literally “supplanter,” also became Israel, literally “may God rule.”

I admire Judaism, from which I learn much.  One aspect of Judaism I find especially helpful is struggling with God as part of a relationship with God.  One finds evidence of that collective struggle throughout the Hebrew Bible.  One also finds evidence of divine judgment and mercy, hence restoration following exile.  The reading from Isaiah 14 is a song of taunting against the defeated Babylonian/Neo-Chaldean monarch.

According to the high standards of Psalm 15, not one of we mere mortals has any hope, except via grace.  Moral perfectionism is an impossible standard, but we should still strive to be the best versions of ourselves we can be.

St. Paul the Apostle wrote to the quarrelsome Corinthian church that it was God’s temple.  (The “you” is plural in the reading.)  That congregation needed to shape up and come closer to its spiritual potential.  Unfortunately, as anyone who has studied the (First) Letter to the Corinthians from St. Clement (I) of Rome (circa 100) should know, the congregation remained quarrelsome and troublesome for at least a generation after St. Paul’s demise.

As my father taught me, troubled people cause trouble..  They are like Jacob.  They are wrestling, metaphorically, with themselves and others.  Perhaps they are wrestling with God also.  In the meantime, in the context of congregational life, are holding a church back, and other members of that community are permitting them to do so.  This is a dynamic present in come congregations I have observed.

One progression in the Gospel of Matthew is the expansion of the audience for the message.  The audience in 7:6 consists of Jews.  Yet, in 28:19, the audience is

all nations.

I, as a Gentile, am grateful for this expansion of the audience.  Through it the wisdom of Judaism, has come to me.  As I struggle with God, others, and myself, I hope that I cause no trouble in churches.  I hope that I am improving spiritually.  I hope that people will recognize the light of Christ in me.  To the extent any of this comes true, God deserves all the glory.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 24, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS À KEMPIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, PRIEST, AND SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN NEWTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WALTER RAUSCHENBUSCH, U.S. BAPTIST MINISTER AND THEOLOGIAN OF THE SOCIAL GOSPEL

THE FEAST OF SAINTS VINCENTIA GEROSA AND BARTHOLOMEA CAPITANIO, COFOUNDERS OF THE SISTERS OF CHARITY OF LOVERE

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/24/devotion-for-proper-12-year-a-humes/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

God Cares, Part VI   1 comment

Above:  Jacob and Rachel, by Palma Vecchio

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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 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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Genesis 29:1-6, 10-28 or Isaiah 13:6-16

Psalm 14

1 Corinthians 3:1-9

Matthew 9:9-13, 27-34

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A recurring theme in the Hebrew Bible is people tricking tricksters–in this case, Laban tricking Jacob.  What comes around, comes around.

The condemnations of evil and the predictions of divine wrath on the day of the LORD continue in Isaiah 13:6-16.  Passages such as these belie the claim of the benighted, evil, foolish people who tell themselves in Psalm 14 that God does not care, a translation more to the point than the standard

There is no God.

Practical atheism, not theoretical atheism, is the matter in Psalm 14.

The Incarnation confirms that God cares.  The Church is the building of God, metaphorically; God is the builder; Jesus is the foundation.  Jesus seeks out sinners to reform and heals blindness.  Yet there is more than one variety of blindness; spiritual blindness seems more stubborn than literal blindness in some stories of Christ healing people.

What comes around, goes around, and God cares.  God cares enough to let us learn from our mistakes.  God cares enough to grant us opportunities to reform.  God cares enough to invite us take messages of God to others.  God cares enough to tend to physical needs.  God cares enough to reintegrate us into community life.

God cares.  Do we?  Do we care enough?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 24, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS À KEMPIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, PRIEST, AND SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN NEWTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WALTER RAUSCHENBUSCH, U.S. BAPTIST MINISTER AND THEOLOGIAN OF THE SOCIAL GOSPEL

THE FEAST OF SAINTS VINCENTIA GEROSA AND BARTHOLOMEA CAPITANIO, COFOUNDERS OF THE SISTERS OF CHARITY OF LOVERE

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/24/devotion-for-proper-11-year-a-humes/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Call of God VII   1 comment

Above:  Jacob’s Dream, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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 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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Genesis 28:10-19 or Isaiah 5:1-7

Psalm 13

1 Corinthians 2:1-16

Matthew 8:18-34

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 5:1-7 and Psalm 13 point in one theological direction.  Genesis 28:10-19 points in another direction.  The note of judgment for injustice and iniquity sounds in Isaiah 5:1-7 and Psalm 13, but God shows mercy to the deceitful Jacob, on the run from Esau, his vengeful brother, whom he had cheated more than once, in Genesis 28:10-19.  Via the dream of Jacob’s Ladder (more of a stairway or a ramp, actually), God confirms that Jacob is the carrier of the patriarchal promise.  Sometimes the wisdom of God seems foolish.

The call of God on our lives is to follow without making excuses.  The call of God on our lies is to follow even when doing so is inconvenient–or more.  The call of God on our lives is to function as vehicles of grace, to leave others better than they were when first our paths crossed theirs, the owners of the herd of swine in Matthew 8:23-24 not withstanding.

That which we do to others, we do to ourselves; this is a profound statement.  If one takes it seriously, one will be less likely to act in selfish ways that benefit me (at the expense of others) in the short term.  If one takes this truth seriously, one will be less likely to fail to recognize problems of others, as being problems that God will also affect one.  If we internalize this truth, we will be less likely to make excuses and shirk our responsibilities.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 24, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS À KEMPIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, PRIEST, AND SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN NEWTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WALTER RAUSCHENBUSCH, U.S. BAPTIST MINISTER AND THEOLOGIAN OF THE SOCIAL GOSPEL

THE FEAST OF SAINTS VINCENTIA GEROSA AND BARTHOLOMEA CAPITANIO, COFOUNDERS OF THE SISTERS OF CHARITY OF LOVERE

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/24/devotion-for-proper-10-year-a-humes/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Scandal of Grace III   1 comment

Above:  Isaac Upon Esau’s Return, by Giotto di Bondone

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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 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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Genesis 27:1-42 or Isaiah 2:11-22

Psalm 12

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

Matthew 8:1-17

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The scandal of grace is especially notorious.  Yes, practicing deceit does have consequences for people–not just the deceitful ones.  Nevertheless, God can use deceit to spread grace.  One can be a vehicle of grace despite oneself.  Divine grace is all around us, but we miss much of it because we are not looking for it from the sources it approaches us.

To sit in judgment on those religious authorities who rejected Jesus is easy in 2018.  Yet one should be cautious when doing so, for one might proceed from a standard according to which one, if intellectually honest, must condemn oneself.  We churchy people of 2018 are heirs to an ancient tradition, just as the religious authorities with whom Jesus tangled were.  If we are honest, we might have to admit that the characters most like us in many of the stories of Jesus worked in the Temple and fussed whenever Jesus healed on the Sabbath.  We are defenders of what we understand to be orthodoxy, just as the Pharisees and Sadducees were defenders of orthodoxy, as they understood it.

Getting into heaven is mostly about grace, so may we, while seeking to respond faithfully to God, refrain from the heresy of works-based righteousness.  Our doctrine is important, but admission to heaven does not depend on passing a canonical examination.  If were like a canonical examination, admission to Heaven would depend on the work of believing the proper doctrines.  Affirming correct doctrine is positive, of course, but it is not a saving work.

May we, by grace, receive and retain salvation–not just for ourselves and our selfish reasons, but for the benefit of other people and the glory of God.  And may we, by grace, recognize grace, rejoice in it, and never find it scandalous or offensive.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 23, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIDGET OF SWEDEN, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HOLY SAVIOR; AND HER DAUGHTER, SAINT CATHERINE OF SWEDEN, SUPERIOR OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HOLY SAVIOR

THE FEAST OF ADELAIDE TEAGUE CASE, PROFESSOR OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP EVANS AND JOHN LLOYD, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF THEODOR LILEY CLEMENS, ENGLISH MORAVIAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, AND COMPOSER

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/23/devotion-for-proper-9-year-a-humes/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

God and Country–God First and Foremost   Leave a comment

Above:  Statue of Liberty, 1894

Photographer = John S. Johnston

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-40098

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Patriotism is a virtue, but jingoism and blind obedience to civil authority are vices.  Nationalism can be a virtue, but it can also be a vice.  To worship one’s nation-state is to commit idolatry, for one should worship God alone.

The way denominations handle the relationship to civil government can be interesting.  According to the North American Lutheran service books I have consulted, neither July 1 (Canada Day) nor July 4 is on the ecclesiastical calendar, but there are propers for a national holiday of those sorts.  Given the historical Lutheran theology of obedience to civil government, the lack of feast days for Canada Day and Independence Day (U.S.A.) surprises me.  Perhaps it should not surprise me, though, given the free church (versus state church) experience of Lutherans in North America since the first Lutheran immigrants arrived, during the colonial period.  (I, an Episcopalian, have read more U.S. Lutheran church history than many U.S. Lutherans.)  The Anglican Church of Canada, a counterpart of The Church of England, a state church, has no official commemoration of Canada Day on its liturgical calendar, but The Book of Alternative Services (1985) contains prayers for the nation, the sovereign, the royal family, and the Commonwealth.  (God save the Queen!)  The Episcopal Church, another counterpart of The Church of England, has an ecclesiastical commemoration for Independence Day, but that feast (except for an attempt to add it in 1786) dates to 1928.

My context is the United States of America, a country in which all of us are either immigrants or descendants of immigrants.  Even the indigenous peoples descend from immigrants.  My context is the United States of America, a country in which xenophobia and nativism have a long and inglorious legacy, and constitute elements of current events.  My country is one dissidents from the British Empire founded yet in which, in current, increasingly mainstream political discourse, or what passes for political discourse, dissent is allegedly disloyal and treasonous.  My country is one with a glorious constitution that builds dissent into the electoral system, but a country in which, in July 2018 (as I write this post), support for those who espouse authoritarian ideas and tactics is growing stronger.  my country is one founded on noble ideals enshrined in the Declaration of Independence (1776), but one in which denying inalienable rights to one portion or another of the population is a tradition (often wrapped sacrilegiously in the cloak of the moral and the sacred) older than the republic.

Patriotism entails recognizing both the good and the bad.  It involves affirming the positive and seeking to correct the negative.  I am blessed to be a citizen of the United States of America.  The reality of my birth here provides me with advantages many people in much of the rest of the world lack.  My patriotism excludes the false idea of American Exceptionalism and embraces globalism.  My knowledge of the past tells me that we in the United States have never been cut off from the world, for events and trade patterns in the rest of the world have always affected us.  My patriotism, rooted in idealism (including anti-colonialism), seeks no form of empire or hegemony, but rather warm, respectful relations with democratic, pluralistic allies and insistence on essential points, such as human rights.  My patriotism eschews the false, self-justifying mockery of patriotism that Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) correctly labeled as

the last refuge of a scoundrel.

(Johnson, that moralist, word expert, and curmudgeon, has never ceased to be relevant.)  Some of those who are officially enemies of the state are actually staunch patriots.  To quote Voltaire (1694-1778),

It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.

I seek, however, to avoid becoming too temporally bound in this post.  For occasional temporally specific critiques, consult my political statements at SUNDRY THOUGHTS, my original weblog, from which I spun off this weblog.

As much as I love my country, I do not worship it or wrap the Stars and Stripes around a cross.  No, God is bigger than that.  A U.S. flag properly has no place in a church; I support the separation of church and state as being in the best interests of the church.  The church should retain its prophetic (in the highest sense of that word) power to confront civil authority when necessary and to affirm justice when it is present.  No person should assume that God is on the side of his or her country, but all should hope that the country is more on God’s side than not.

Finally, all nations and states will pass away, as many have done.  Yet God will remain forever.  As St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) taught, that which is temporary (even if long-lasting from human perspective) can be worthy of love, but only so much.  To give too much love to that which is temporary is to commit idolatry.  And, in Augustinian theology, what is sin but disordered love?  So yes, may we love our countries with the highest variety of patriotism, but may we love God more, for God is forever.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 23, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIDGET OF SWEDEN, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HOLY SAVIOR; AND HER DAUGHTER, SAINT CATHERINE OF SWEDEN, SUPERIOR OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HOLY SAVIOR

THE FEAST OF ADELAIDE TEAGUE CASE, PROFESSOR OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP EVANS AND JOHN LLOYD, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF THEODOR LILEY CLEMENS, ENGLISH MORAVIAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, AND COMPOSER

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us,

and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn:

Grant that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 10:17-21

Psalm 145 or 145:1-9

Hebrews 11:8-16

Matthew 5:43-48

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 453

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Lord of all the worlds, guide this nation by your Spirit to go forward in justice and freedom.

Give to all our people the blessings of well-being and harmony,

but above all things give us faith in you, that our nation may bring to your name and blessings to all peoples,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Jeremiah 29:4-14

Psalm 20

Romans 13:1-10

Mark 12:13-17

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 63

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Almighty God, you rule all the peoples of the earth.

Inspire the minds of all women and men to whom you have committed

the responsibility of government and leadership in the nations of the world.

Give to them the vision of truth and justice,

that by their counsel all nations and peoples may work together.

Give to the people of our country zeal for justice and strength of forbearance,

that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will.

Forgive our shortcomings as a nation; purify our hearts to see and love the truth.

We pray all these things through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

–Andy Langford in The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992)

Deuteronomy 10:12-13, 17-21

Psalm 72

Galatians 5:13-26

John 8:31-36

The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Almighty God, you have given us this good land as our heritage.

Make us always remember your generosity and constantly do your will.

Bless our land with honest industry, sound learning, and an honorable way of life.

Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way.

Make us who come many nations with many different languages a united people.

Defend our liberties and give those whom we have entrusted

with the authority of government the spirit of wisdom,

that there might be justice and peace in the land.

When times are prosperous, let our hearts be thankful,

and, in troubled times, do not let our trust in you fail.

We ask all this through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Book of Common Worship (1993), 816

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/23/devotion-for-independence-day-u-s-a-july-4/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Vehicles of Grace   1 comment

Above:  Esau Selling His Birthright, by Hendrick ter Brugghen

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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 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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Genesis 25:17-34 or Isaiah 1:1-20 (portions)

Psalm 11

1 Corinthians 1:1-18

Matthew 7:15-29

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Waiting on and trusting in God can be very difficult, but it is the thematic thread uniting these readings.  Nevertheless, some of the figures from certain readings for today seem like unlikely exemplars of waiting on and trusting in God.

The narrative about Jacob portrays Israel in its earthiest and most scandalous appearance in Genesis.  The narrative is not edifying in any conventional religious or moral sense.  Indeed, if one comes to the narrative with such an agenda, the narrative is offensive.  But for that very reason, the Jacob narrative is most lifelike.  It presents Jacob in the crude mixture of motives.  The grandson of the promise is a rascal compared to his faithful grandfather Abraham or his successful father Isaac.  The affirmations of faith in this narrative are especially robust.  The narrator knows that the purposes of God are tangled in a web of self-interest and self-seeking.

–Walter Brueggemann, Genesis (1982), page 204

Saul of Tarsus thought he was obeying God while oppressing Christians.  After realizing his error, he became St. Paul the Apostle, a vital figure in the mission to the Gentiles.

Each of us is imperfect.  All of us can do better.  Each of us can be a vehicle of grace, by grace.  Seeking to obey God is laudable, but how can we succeed?  The judgments of our culture are not always helpful in this matter.  Furthermore, if we think we are listening to God, we might be, but we might also be conducting on internal dialogue instead.  As much as one might try to wait on and trust in God, one might miss the channel, so to speak.

I offer no easy answers because I have none.  Besides, an easy answer to a difficult question is a wrong answer.  I suggest, however, that one is less likely to go wrong by seeking the good of other people rather than by living selfishly.  One might sin in how one seeks to build up others, but at least on is pointing in the right direction.  Yet good intentions are the pavement stones in road to Hell, so one needs grace to make wise decisions daily.  Good intentions are at least good, but they are insufficient.

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

That truth is a quote from the Westminster Larger Catechism.  The sentence is a fine general statement of principle.  The particulars vary according to the circumstances of life–who, where, and when one is.  May we, by grace, bear good fruit for God, and therefore glorify him, and enjoy him fully forever.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLIFFORD BAX, POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT EUGENIUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES RENATUS VERBEEK, MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF PETER RICKSEEKER, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER; STUDENT OF JOHANN CHRISTIAN BECHLER, MORAVIAN MINISTER , MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER; FATHER OF JULIUS THEODORE BECHLER, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MUSICIAN, EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/13/devotion-for-proper-8-year-a-humes/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++