Pleasing God   Leave a comment

Above:  Nazareth, 1875

Image Publisher = L. Prang and Company

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-14154

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For the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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O Lord, we beseech Thee to keep Thy Church and Household continually in Thy true religion;

that they who do lean only upon the hope of Thy heavenly grace

may evermore be defended by Thy mighty power

through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 132

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Jeremiah 18:1-10

Psalm 119:17-32

Romans 8:1-9

Luke 4:16-32

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One of the definitions of irony is that we, as readers of a story, know something some characters do not or one character does not know.  Consider the reading from Luke, for example, O reader.

The assembled residents of Nazareth did not recognize Jesus as the Son of God.  They lacked sufficient understanding, so they rejected Christ and his message.  They were conventionally pious, but they missed a major point.

I propose that conventional piety can be, in many contexts, a hall wall separating many people from divine truth.  I recall that support for slavery was part of Southern (U.S.) White Christian orthodoxy prior to, during, and after the Civil War, for example.  I also know that, unfortunately, abuses and misuses of scripture to justify chattel slavery occurred elsewhere in the United States, too.  Furthermore, I know that many postbellum White Christians recycled pro-slavery theology to justify White Supremacy and racial segregation.

Much of what we think we know is false.  If we pursue what we think is true yet is actually false, how can we please God?  Perhaps a thought from Thomas Merton (1915-1968) will help.

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,

though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

I also hope that human efforts to please God do please God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 18, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEONIDES OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 202; ORIGEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN; SAINT DEMETRIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT CYRIL OF JERUSALEM, BISHOP, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAUL OF CYPRUS, EASTERN ORTHODOX MARTYR, 760

THE FEAST OF ROBERT WALMSLEY, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER

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