Archive for November 2018

Restoration, Resurrection, and Reconciliation   Leave a comment

Above:  Pentecost Dove

Scanned from a Church Bulletin by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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For the Day of Pentecost, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O Thou who sent the promised fire of thy Spirit to make saints of ordinary men:

grant that we, waiting and together now, may be enflamed with such love for thee

that we may speak out boldly in thy name; through Jesus Christ the Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 123

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Ezekiel 37:1-14

Acts 10:34-48

John 20:19-23

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The three assigned readings focus on restoration and resurrection.  The vision of the dry bones in Ezekiel 37 refers mt to the resurrection of the dead but to the resurrection of Israel after the Babylonian Exile.  The resurrection of Jesus, the context of John 20 and a reference in Acts 10, is one of the items in the catalog of literal events, albeit on historians can neither prove nor disprove.  No, the resurrection of Jesus resides in the realm of that which one either accepts by faith or rejects by the absence of faith.

Notice, O reader, that God is the primary actor in the readings.  God restores Israel.  God resurrects Jesus.  God, in the form of the Holy Spirit, arrives.  God is even active in the Greek divine passive voice, as in John 20:22-23, or at least the first part of verse 23:

After saying this he breathed on them, and said:

“Receive the Holy Spirit.

If you forgive anyone’s sins,

they are forgiven;

if you retain anyone’s sins,

they are retained.”

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

“They,” in that passage, refers to sins.

Suppose, O reader, that I have sinned against you, another person, and God.  Suppose, furthermore, that I have realized my sin, confessed it to both people and to God, and asked for forgiveness from everyone involved.  Suppose that one person and God have forgiven me, but that the other person has refused to do so.

Who retains the sin?  The person who refuses forgiveness does.

It is to him [Jesus] that all the prophets testify, declaring that everyone who trusts in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.

–Acts 10:43, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Forgiveness can be a difficult spiritual practice, but it is an essential one.  It is crucial to restoration and resurrection of individuals, families, communities, and societies.  Forgiveness facilitates reconciliation.  Forgiveness enables on to lay grudges aside and to progress spiritually as one should.  Forgiveness is part of the mission of the church.

Decades ago, in the United States, a man burgled a church and stole audio equipment.  The police arrested him and the District Attorney prosecuted.  At the trial the pastor of the church testified on the thief’s behalf and asked for leniency.  The court rendered its verdict. The thief, a changed man, joined that church.

Extending forgiveness is crucial if the Church is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ as far and wide as possible, to facilitate faithful responses to the witness of the Holy Spirit.  Extending forgiveness is also a matter of faithful response.  Certainly we, who acknowledge that we receive forgiveness daily, have an obligation to forgive.  Grace is free yet not cheap, after all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 30, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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Faithful Community, Part V   Leave a comment

Above:   The Importunate Neighbor, by William Holman Hunt

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Sunday after the Ascension, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O Thou Lord of all times and places, whose thoughts are not our thoughts,

whose ways are not our ways, and who art lifted high above our selfish concerns:

rule our minds, redeem our ways, and by thy mercy draw us to thee;

through Jesus Christ the Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 123

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Joel 2:23-27

1 Peter 4:7-11

Luke 11:5-13

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Above all, preserve an intense love for each other, since love covers over many a sin.

–1 Peter 4:8, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Divine restoration (extravagant mercy) follows punishment in Joel 2.  Contrary to stereotypes, the depiction of God in the Hebrew Bible is no more all wrathful than the portrayal of God in the New Testament is all merciful.  I wish that more people would read–really read–the Bible, and cease and desist from repeating such inaccurate statements.

God’s intense love for people provides a model for us to emulate.  We, as individuals, as family units, as congregations, as societies, have an obligation to love each other intensely and unconditionally and to build each other up into our best selves in Christ.  This requires sacrifices–often of egos and misguided ambitions.  This requires acknowledging that the common good is so important that we must give up some short-term gains for long-term greater good.  This requires that we sacrifice selfishness.  This requires that we confront each other in love sometimes, as when friends and relatives stage an intervention for an addict.

Living the Golden Rule entails doing the best for others, not necessarily what they want.  It involves doing what they need.  Sometimes intense love is uncomfortable for more than one party involved.  C’est la vie.

May we, following Jesus and deriving power from him, build up each other in Christ, for the common good and the glory of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 15, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN GOTTLOB KLEMM, INSTRUMENT MAKER; DAVID TANNENBERG, SR., GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN ORGAN BUILDER; JOHANN PHILIP BACHMANN, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN INSTRUMENT MAKER; JOSEPH FERDINAND BULITSCHEK, BOHEMIAN-AMERICAN ORGAN BUILDER; AND TOBIAS FRIEDRICH, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN

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Posted November 15, 2018 by neatnik2009 in 1 Peter 4, Joel 2, Luke 11

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Faithful Community, Part IV   Leave a comment

Above:   Enoch, by Theophanes the Greek

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Sixth Sunday after Easter, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty God:  your Son Jesus promised that if he was lifted up,

he would draw all men to himself.  Draw us to him by faith,

so that we may live to serve you, and look toward life eternal;

through Jesus Christ the Lord.  Amen.

The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns (1972), 150

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Genesis 5:21-24

Acts 1:1-11

Luke 24:36-53

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Two of the assigned readings for the Feast of the Ascension are predictable; we read the two accounts of the Ascension of Jesus from Luke-Acts.  That is logical, given the occasion.

The reading from Genesis 5 (the assumption of Enoch) fits thematically.

I no more affirm the extremely advanced ages of people in the early chapters of Genesis than I think that Jesus literally ascended.  After all, I know that the cosmos is not three-tiered, with the Earth between the underworld and Heaven.  The story of the Ascension is correct, however, when it insists that Jesus departed bodily, however that happened.  The language of ascension functions as a prose poetry.

Genesis 5:22 tells that Enoch walked with God.  That is the mandate for every human being in every place and at every time.  Not one of us has to attempt to walk alone; God is with us.  We may experience persecution because of our walk with God, but God will remain beside us.  We may lead quiet, even prosperous lives of service; God will be with us then, too.  Circumstances beyond our control will determine much of what we will experience.

Nevertheless, acting in accordance with divine love–living the Golden Rule as nearly as humanly possible–will stir up opposition.  Ironically, many opponents will consider themselves pious followers of God.  We may even be among the opponents of those living according to the Golden Rule.  Each of us has spiritual blind spots, learned and otherwise.

May God cure us such blindness, so that we may serve Him faithfully and support each other in doing so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN AMOS COMENIUS, FATHER OF MODERN EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF THE CONSECRATION OF SAMUEL SEABURY, FIRST EPISCOPAL BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ROMANIS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Deeds and Creeds II   Leave a comment

Above:   Christ Taking Leave of the Apostles, by Duccio di Buoninsegna

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fifth Sunday after Easter, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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May all our thoughts, O God, be guided by thy Word and ruled by thy Spirit:

that we may have among us the same mind which was in Christ Jesus, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 123

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Isaiah 56:6-8

James 1:22-27

John 16:22-33

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Grace is free, not cheap; it requires much of its recipients.  God, who loves us, redeems us, but we have responsibilities.  A partial list, compiled from the assigned readings, follows:

  1. To honor the Sabbath (Isaiah 56:6),
  2. To control one’s use of words and one’s temper (James 1:26),
  3. To help the less fortunate (James 1:27), and
  4. To keep oneself uncontaminated by the world (James 1:27).

Without falling into Puritanical and Pietistic excesses of rejecting “worldly amusements” such as playing checkers, playing chess, and reading great literature, keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world is difficult.  We do live in it, after all; of course it influences us.  Yet the world is not all bad.  We should accept the good and reject the bad.

Isaiah 56:6-8 pertains to those Gentiles who followed Yahweh.  We read that God accepted them as much as He did faithful Jews.  The operative standard in Isaiah 56, as in the Letter of James, is faithful conduct.  Deeds reveal creeds.

Talk is cheap and frequently deceptive.  What do our deeds reveal about what we really believe?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN AMOS COMENIUS, FATHER OF MODERN EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF THE CONSECRATION OF SAMUEL SEABURY, FIRST EPISCOPAL BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ROMANIS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Faithful Community, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:   Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fourth Sunday after Easter, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Give us, O Lord, a right understanding and a sincere love of thy Word;

that we may not be deceived and carried away by any falsehood,

but grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 123

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Malachi 3:16-4:3

Romans 14:10-19

John 16:1-15

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Divine judgment hangs over the readings from Romans 14 and Malachi 3 and 4 (Malachi 3 in Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Bibles, which, despite having all the verses, have an extended Chapter 3 and no Chapter 4).  In the context of judgment falling into the purview of God, our human responsibilities include obeying divine commandments and, in particular, supporting one another in faithful community.  The latter point is especially important when the faith community is marginalized and facing conflict.

The assigned portion of John 16 operates on two levels.  The first level is narrative–in this case, shortly before the crucifixion of Jesus.  The text reads as spiritual counsel at the last minute.  The second level is historical, given the Johannine Jewish community’s poor relations with their fellow Jews:

They will ban you from the synagogue….

–Verse 16:2a, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Mutual support in faith community is a practice people undertake with divine support.  The delusion of self-sufficiency–the denial of interdependence–lies at the root of evil.  When one thinks that one can–and must–rely on one’s powers, one opens the door to seeking to improve one’s lot by harming others.  Yet when we accept that we depend fully on God and on each other, we realize the necessity of building each other up.

Poorly informed and uninformed judgment works against building people up.  I differentiate between poorly informed judgment on one hand and proper judgment on the other.  One may recall Jesus calling certain religious opponents on the Judean carpet and Hebrew prophets issuing stern condemnations.  The verses against judging do not condemn telling the truth.  They do, however, condemn destructive comments, written and oral.  The truth, in contrast, may prompt one to repent.  It works toward the goal of building up in the context of faithful community.

A major difficulty is a distinguishing poorly informed and uninformed judgment from proper judgment.  Often–probably most of the time–we commit the latter when imagining that we are doing the former.  In the context of conflict avoiding the latter is especially challenging, for anger leads naturally and predictably to invective.  Words matter; invective leads to unfortunate results, not reconciliation.  No, it feeds further conflict.

May we, by grace, build each other up, in the context of faithful community.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN AMOS COMENIUS, FATHER OF MODERN EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF THE CONSECRATION OF SAMUEL SEABURY, FIRST EPISCOPAL BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ROMANIS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Posted November 14, 2018 by neatnik2009 in John 16, Malachi 3, Malachi 4, Romans 14

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Family   Leave a comment

Above:   Christ Healing the Mother of Simon Peter’s Wife, by John Bridges

Image in the Public Domain

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For Christian Home Sunday (the Second Sunday in May), Years 1 and 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Our Father:  we are your children.

You know us better than we know ourselves, or can know each other.

Help us to love, so that we can learn to love our neighbors.

May we forgive, hold no grudges, and put up with being hurt.

Let there be laughter as we enjoy each other.

Serving, may we practice service you; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns (1972), 205

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Deuteronomy 6:1-9

Colossians 3:12-24

Matthew 8:5-17

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Christian Home Sunday, set on the second Sunday in May, takes the liturgical place of Mother’s Day (1908) and Father’s Day (1910), simultaneously commercial and socially conservative holidays with deep piety attached to them from the beginning.

The social conservatism in the United States of America at the time was of the sort that found women women influenced by feminism, breaking out of their separate spheres and republican motherhood–even daring to vote and to seek suffrage–a threat to traditional family structures and gender roles.

I am considerably more liberal than many of the early advocate of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.  Patriarchy is not the social good many have long imagined it to be.  No, I prefer equality.  And, unlike the author of Colossians 3, I also oppose slavery.

Even a merely cursory scan of the assigned readings reveals references to families in all of them.  The readings from Deuteronomy and Colossians really get to the points:  loving one another and nurturing piety.  There is no cookie-cut-out formula for all families, but the two points from the previous sentence are timeless principles.  They even apply when women vote and have careers.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN AMOS COMENIUS, FATHER OF MODERN EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF THE CONSECRATION OF SAMUEL SEABURY, FIRST EPISCOPAL BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ROMANIS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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The Way of the World, Part II   2 comments

Above:   Good Shepherd

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third Sunday after Easter, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Mighty God, whose Son Jesus broke the bands of death and scattered the powers of darkness:

arm us with such faith in him that we may face both death and evil,

and overcome even as he overcame; in thy name.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 123

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Job 19:23-27

1 Peter 2:11-17

John 10:11-16

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According to a bad joke, Bildad the Shuhite was the shortest person in the Bible.  He was certainly short in his supply of wisdom and was a poor excuse for a friend.  Job, replying to Bildad’s address (Job 18) in Chapter 19, expressed confidence in God, who was like a kinsman-redeemer of Israel.

A recurring theme in the Bible (both testaments of it) is confronting authority.  Ezekiel 34 labels bad Israelite kings as cruel and harsh shepherds, and identifies God as the Good Shepherd.  That is an image in John 10, where Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  Yet, again and again, as in 1 Peter 2, we read about submission to authority.  The attitude elsewhere, as throughout Matthew and Revelation, is quite different.

Historically, a marginalized, young religious movement trying to convince authorities that it was no threat to the Roman Empire had a vested interest in submission to authority.  Yet, in time, the empire launched vicious persecutions, and wise church leaders did not submit to them.  No, many went into exile and/or became martyrs.  The modern age, with its genocidal dictators (Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, and Pol Pot), has challenged the advice in 1 Peter 2:13-17, also.

The way of the world includes institutionalized exploitation and violence.  The way of the world entails systemic injustice.  The way of the world will fall to God eventually.  In the meantime, we who claim to follow God must actually follow God in the paths of justice, at least as much as possible, given the pervasively sinful nature of institutions.  We have a command to leave the world better than we found it.

Perhaps we will suffer for the sake of righteousness or, like Job, for a reason we do not understand, but we may trust in our kinsman-redeemer.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN AMOS COMENIUS, FATHER OF MODERN EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF THE CONSECRATION OF SAMUEL SEABURY, FIRST EPISCOPAL BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ROMANIS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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