Archive for January 2022

The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem and the Temple Incident   Leave a comment

Above:  Christ Cleansing the Temple, by Bernandino Mei

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XLVII

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Luke 19:28-46

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As my project of reading Luke-Acts and blogging about it brings me to Holy Week, I find myself in territory I have explored in detail more than once for more than a decade, via lectionaries.  I choose, therefore, to refer you, O reader, to my previous germane posts and to focus on broader themes in the upcoming posts.

The Temple Incident–the Cleansing of the Temple–occurs in all four canonical Gospels.  However, the Gospel of John alone places it near the beginning of Christ’s ministry.  The Synoptic Gospels place the Temple Incident shortly after the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, during that fatal Passover week.

Luke 19:46 depicts Jesus as quoting Jeremiah 7:11, a reference to those who habitually and unrepentantly violated the ethical mandates of the Law of Moses then used sacred rituals as talismans.  The Gospel of Luke wants us to understand that this pattern was repeating at the Second Temple during the time of Jesus.

Luke 19:28-46 describes a scenario when, at a politically perilous time, Jesus entered Jerusalem and moved inside it like a proverbial bull in a china shop.  Understand, O reader, that observing Passover–the celebration of the end of Hebrew slavery in Egypt–in Roman-occupied Jerusalem created a delicate situation.  Know that law-and-order Roman imperial officials tolerated no disturbance of their order, especially in Jerusalem during the week of Passover.  And understand that the Second Temple was a seat of collaboration with the Roman Empire.

May we avoid overgeneralizations.  We read in the Gospels, for example, that Jesus had some supporters who were Pharisees.  We may reasonably assert, therefore, that not all Pharisees were hostile to Christ.  We know that the Temple was also a holy site for many devout Jews.

Using sacred rituals to cover up violations of God’s moral mandates (such as economic justice, a major concern for St. Luke, Jesus, Hebrew prophets, and the Law of Moses) remains current.  O reader, ask yourself, “Where would Jesus make a scene today?”

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 29, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LYDIA, DORCAS, AND PHOEBE, CO-WORKERS OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Repentance, Part X   1 comment

Above:  Ash Wednesday Cross

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Joel 2:12-19

Psalm 51:1-13

2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:2

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

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Almighty and ever-living God, you hate nothing you have made,

and you forgive the sins of all who are penitent. 

Create in us new and honest hearts, so that,

truly repenting of our sins, we may obtain from you,

the God of all mercy, full pardon and forgiveness;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 17

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Almighty and everlasting God,

because you hate nothing you have made

and forgive the sins of all who are penitent,

create in us new and contrite hearts that we,

worthily repenting of our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness,

may obtain from you, the God of all mercy,

perfect remission and forgiveness;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 32

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The prophet Joel, in the 400s B.C.E. interpreted a plague of locusts as divine punishment on the people for disobeying the Law of Moses repeatedly and habitually.  He also understood that repentance remained an option.

I do not share Joel’s first assumption.  I do not interpret natural disasters as acts of divine judgment.  Those who live in Kansas may expect tornadoes.  Those who reside near the Gulf of Mexico may expect hurricanes and tropical storms.  Those who live near fault lines may expect earthquakes.  Those who live near active volcanoes may expect volcanic activity.  Those who live in a flood plain may expect floods.  Such is nature.

The Hebrew prophetic tradition could not make up its mind when repentance remained an option and when God had stopped listening.  (I know; I read the Hebrew prophetic books carefully recently.)  However, I have made up my mind on part of the issue:  So long as one has breath, repentance remains an option.  Whether one can repent after death is a question I cannot answer.  The answer to that question is for God to provide.  I do not presume to know the balance of divine judgment and mercy.

Remorse for sins prepares the way for repentance of those sins.  Talk is cheap.  Nevertheless, some words are necessary and helpful.  Martin Luther was correct; language–especially sacramental language–has power.  And actions are where, as a cliché says, the rubber meets the road.

Lent is a season in which the Church (that part of it with good liturgical sense, at least) focuses on repentance.  We mere mortals need to repent individually.  Societies, cultures, kingdoms, empires, nation-states, and institutions need to repent collectively.  Even the best of us, who have mastered the Lutheran theological category of civil righteousness, have fallen far short of God’s standard.  The rest of us have fallen far short of the same standard, too.  Everyone above a very young age struggles with habitual sins we know better than to commit.

Fortunately, God welcomes penitents and knows that we mere mortals are, poetically, like dust.  May we be penitent dust daily.  And may we observe Lent in such a way that we grow spiritually during this season.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 29, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LYDIA, DORCAS, AND PHOEBE, CO-WORKERS OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Adapted from this post

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Wealth, Social Status, and the Kingdom of God   Leave a comment

Above:  Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, by Heinrich Hoffmann

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XLVI

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Luke 18:15-19:27

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I, having covered this material already, via lectionaries, choose to minimize the extent to which I repeat myself in this post.  The previous posts on this material are available in the categories “Luke 18” and “Luke 19.”

Jesus never offered a one-size-fits-all call to discipleship.  He told some people who wanted to travel with to go home instead.  Jesus permitted the formerly blind man at Jericho to travel with him to Jerusalem for that fateful Passover week.  Jesus told the rich man in 18:18-23 to sell his possessions and to donate the proceeds to the poor.  Jesus did not demand that St. Zacchaeus do this.  Yet Christ accepted the tax collector’s promise to go above and beyond the compensation rate the Law of Moses demanded.

In narrative context, we see that Christ’s calls to discipleship differed in details, according to a person’s circumstances.  This is how timeless principles work “on the ground,” so to speak.  In this case, the commandment to take up one’s cross and follow Jesus is timeless, but how to do that depends on who, where, and when one is.

Reading Luke 18:15-19:27 as a unit, the contrast between the unnamed rich man (18:18-23) and St. Zacchaeus (19:1-10) is obvious.  One man’s story ends in sorrow.  The other man’s story continues in joy, reconciliation, and salvation.

Notice another contrast, O reader.  A child, in the Biblical context, was powerless.  The unnamed rich man was powerful.  Yet Jesus cited a child as a model of how to welcome the Kingdom of God.  On the page, the exaltation of a child as a role model comes sandwiched between the Parable of Pharisee and the Tax Collector and the story of the Rich Young Man/Ruler.  We have more evidence of the theological construction of St. Luke’s “orderly account.”

The theme of reversal of fortune continues in these verses.

Next:  The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 28, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBERT THE GREAT AND HIS PUPIL, SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS; ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIANS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREI RUBLEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ICON WRITER

THE FEAST OF DANIEL J. SIMUNDSON, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HENRY AUGUSTINE COLLINS, ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BARNBY, ANGLICAN CHURCH MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SOMERSET CORRY LOWRY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Mystery and Transfiguration   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Transfiguration of Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Exodus 24:12, 15-18

Psalm 2:6-13

2 Peter 1:16-19 (20-21)

Matthew 17:1-9

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Almighty God, on the mountain you showed your glory

in the transfiguration of your Son. 

Give us the vision to see beyond the turmoil of our world

and to behold the king in all his glory;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 17

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O God, in the transfiguration of your Son you confirmed

the mysteries of faith by the witness of Moses and Elijah,

and in the voice from the bright cloud

you foreshadowed our adoption as your children. 

Make us with the king heirs of your glory,

and bring us to enjoy its fullness,

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 17

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O God, in the glorious transfiguration of your only-begotten Son

once confirmed the mysteries of the faith

by the testimony of the ancient fathers,

and in the voice that came from the bright cloud

you wondrously foreshadowed our adoption by grace. 

Therefore, mercifully make us coheirs with our King of his glory,

and bring us to the fullness of our inheritance in heaven;

through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 31

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In the Gospel of Matthew, the account of the Transfiguration of Jesus comes between two predictions of the crucifixion and resurrection.  The plain textual context tells us to interpret the Transfiguration accordingly.  Jesus was on a mission that would cost him dearly yet end in vindication.

The accounts of the Transfiguration also include a nod to the Shekinah (the Divine Presence), from the Hebrew Bible.  This is the cloud that enveloped Moses atop Mount Sinai and filled the First Temple.  This poetic image appeals to me.  The awe and wonder of God remain intact.  God is other yet near and accessible.  The people of God are God’s adopted children (“sons,” literally, in the Greek of Pauline epistles) and heirs.

God, of course, was nearest and most accessible in the Incarnation.  God in the flesh, walking, speaking, and dining with people was remarkably accessible.  Yet the Incarnation defied comprehension.

The Incarnation defies my understanding.  So be it.

Mystery, in antiquity, indicated something one could know only by living into it and by doing.  Mystery, in antiquity, was not a matter of an something unknown one could solve, given reasoning and enough information.  Mystery, in antiquity, was not the same as mystery in an Agatha Christie novel.

Despite this ancient understanding of mystery, I suspect that St. Mary of Nazareth never understood her eldest son as well as God understood her.

Understanding is not always necessary.  We mere mortals can, objectively, explain and understand much.  I affirm history and science, which rely on evidence.  I detest anti-intellectual and anti-scientific attitudes.  (I am a left-of-center Episcopalian.)  Yet, regarding God–Jesus, in particular–evidence can take us only so far.  After the Incarnation (which I do not attempt to explain), evidence takes me to the foot of the cross of Jesus.  Then the understanding that comes from faith takes over.  I understand partially.  Understanding is not necessary in certain situations.  Yet trusting in God is always essential.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 28, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBERT THE GREAT AND HIS PUPIL, SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS; ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIANS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREI RUBLEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ICON WRITER

THE FEAST OF DANIEL J. SIMUNDSON, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HENRY AUGUSTINE COLLINS, ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BARNBY, ANGLICAN CHURCH MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SOMERSET CORRY LOWRY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post

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Two Parables About Prayer   Leave a comment

Above:  Avenge Me of Mine Adversary

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XLV

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Luke 18:1-14

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Luke 18 is a well-composed and arranged study in contrasts.  The first contrasts play out in the two parables that open the chapter.

The Parable of the Persistent Widow and the Corrupt/Unjust Judge (vs. 1-8) exists within a cultural context in which widows were vulnerable.  The widow in the parable has to defend her own rights because nobody else will.  She threatens the judge with a black eye, thereby convincing him to grant her justice.  God is the opposite of that judge.  God readily secures the rights of who petition for them.  Therefore, pray persistently and faithfully.

Certain scholars of the New Testament debate whether some texts refer to tax collectors or to toll collectors.  For my purposes in this post, that is a distinction without a difference, though.  So, as I turn to Luke 17:9-14, the collector of taxes or tolls (It matters not which one.) is a social pariah because of his collection duties.

Let us be honest–brutally so, if necessary.  Spiritual pride may be a sin with which you, O reader, are familiar, even if only by knowing someone who has it.  Clarence Jordan, in his Cotton Patch Version of the Gospel of Luke (Jesus’ Doings), changes the Pharisee to a church member and the tax/toll collector to an unsaved man.  That updating of the parable hits home, does it not?  Those who know their need for God are open to God.

Recall Luke 17:7-10, O reader; humility before God is the proper attitude.  One may also remember Matthew 5:3:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

“Poor in spirit” is a translation that may be so familiar as to seem trite.  Other options exist, however.

Clarence Jordan has “spiritually humble.”

David Bentley Hart translates this Beatitude as:

How blissful the destitute, abject in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of the heavens….

A note in Hart’s The New Testament:  A Translation (2017) indicates that the connotation is that of a cowering or cringing poor man or beggar.

La Bible en Français Courant (1997) reads:

Heureux ceux qui se savent pauvres en eux-mêmes, ….

In English, it reads:

Blessed are those who know they are poor in themselves….

That is a fine translation, too.

Perhaps the best rendering in English comes from J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English–Revised Edition (1972):

How happy are they who know their need for God….

We are all poor in ourselves.  We all need God.  How many of us know it, though?

May we humbly and persistently walk before God and with God, trusting in God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 27, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JEROME, PAULA OF ROME, EUSTOCHIUM, BLAESILLA, MARCELLA, AND LEA OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANGELA MERICI, FOUNDER OF THE COMPANY OF SAINT URSULA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAROLINA SANTOCANALE, FOUNDER OF THE CAPUCHIN SISTERS OF THE IMMACULATE OF LOURDES

THE FEAST OF CASPAR NEUMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MARY EVELYN “MEV” PULEO, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PHOTOJOURNALIST AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

THE FEAST OF PIERRE BATIFFOL, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, HISTORIAN, AND THEOLOGIAN

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Two Stones in the Pocket   1 comment

Above:  Dan Stamp from Israel

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 49:13-18

Psalm 62

1 Corinthians 4:1-13

Matthew 6:24-34

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Almighty and everlasting God, ruler of heaven and earth: 

Hear our prayer and give us your peace now and forever;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978)

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O Lord, mercifully hear our prayers,

and having set us free from the bonds of our sins,

defend us from all evil;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 30

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One thing God has spoken,

only two have I heard:

“Strength belongs to God, 

and to you, O Lord, firmness;

You repay each man for his deeds.”

–Psalm 62:12-13, Mitchell J. DahoodPsalms II:  51-100 (1968)

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The moral of this is that we should make no hasty or premature judgments.

–1 Corinthians 4:5a, J. B. PhillipsThe New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972)

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These four readings, taken together, present us with a seeming paradox.  Isaiah 49:13-18, in the context of the approaching end of the Babylonian Exile, depicts the Jewish exiles as beloved of God.  They are like children God can never forget.  Psalm 62, in the context of encouraging reliance on God and not on human means, especially corruption, notes the gulf between God and people:

Men of lowly birth are mere vapor,

those of high degree a delusion.

On scale, they are lighter than leaves,

together lighter than vapor.

–Psalm 62:10, Mitchell J. Dahood

People are “lighter than vapor” yet like beloved children to God.  Also, God repays each person for his or her deeds.  What we say and do matters.  Yet we ought not to think too lightly of ourselves and our powers of judgment.  Divine powers of judgment are infinitely greater.

Rabbi Bunam taught:

A man should carry two stones in his pocket.  On one should be inscribed, “I am but dust and ashes.”  On the other, “For my sake was the world created.”  And he should use each stone as he needs it.

Maintaining a balanced self-image relative to God is crucial.  Each person bears the image of God yet is mere dust and vapor.  God commands us to love ourselves then to love others as we love ourselves.  We matter because God says we do.  Or, to use the Southern vernacular,

God didn’t make no junk.

Do you, O reader, think you are junk?  Do you think anyone is garbage?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 27, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JEROME, PAULA OF ROME, EUSTOCHIUM, BLAESILLA, MARCELLA, AND LEA OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANGELA MERICI, FOUNDER OF THE COMPANY OF SAINT URSULA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAROLINA SANTOCANALE, FOUNDER OF THE CAPUCHIN SISTERS OF THE IMMACULATE OF LOURDES

THE FEAST OF CASPAR NEUMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MARY EVELYN “MEV” PULEO, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PHOTOJOURNALIST AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

THE FEAST OF PIERRE BATIFFOL, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, HISTORIAN, AND THEOLOGIAN

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Adapted from this post

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The Coming of the Kingdom of God and the Day of the Son of Man   2 comments

Above:  The Resurrection of the Dead

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XLIV

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Luke 17:11-19

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Apocalyptic expectations permeate the four canonical Gospels.  The texts, written in final form in the late first century C.E., preserve unfulfilled expectations of the imminence of the Second Coming of Jesus from an earlier period.  The texts also wrestle with the meaning of those unfulfilled expectations, without giving up hope.

In the New Testament, the Kingdom of God is simultaneously in the present and future tenses.  It is (or seems to be) partially realized already, as in the life of Jesus, with the promise of more of the Kingdom of God to come.  Yet I recall C. H. Dodd‘s explanation of Realized Eschatology:  The Kingdom of God does not come; it is.  Certain events–such as the Incarnation–make the Kingdom of God seem more evident that it used to seem.

I read 17:22-37 and wonder how much comes from Jesus, addressing concerns circa 29 C.E., and much comes from St. Luke, addressing concerns circa 85 C.E.  Anyhow, as we continue to wait, our duty is to live the life of Christ–to do the will of God.  In concrete terms, examples of how to do this include forgiving people, serving each other humbly, and leading them to God.

Keep the narrative context in mind, O reader.  The Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem begins in Luke 19:28.  We have Jesus as a role model–the ultimate role model–of doing the will of God.  And look at where it got him!

Think about that.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 26, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS TIMOTHY, TITUS, AND SILAS, C0-WORKERS OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Posted January 26, 2022 by neatnik2009 in Luke 17

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Judgment and Mercy, Part XXV   4 comments

Above:  Angry Talk

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18

Psalm 103:1-13

1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23

Matthew 5:38-48

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Lord God, we ask you to keep your family, the Church, faithful to you,

that all who lean on the hope of your promises

may gain strength from the power of your love;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 16

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God of compassion, keep before us the love

you have revealed in your Son, who prayed even for his enemies;

in our words and deeds help us to be like him

through whom we pray, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 16

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O Lord, keep your family and Church continually in the true faith

that they who lean on the hope of your heavenly grace

may ever be defended by your mighty power;

through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.  

Lutheran Worship (1982), 28

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Whenever I hear someone refer to the God of the Hebrew Bible as mainly judgmental and the God of the New Testament as primarily merciful, I wonder how closely that person has read the Old and New Testaments.  Judgment and mercy remain in balance throughout the Old and New Testaments.  Consider the readings from the Old Testament for today, O reader.  Recall, also, that

an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth 

(Exodus 21:24)

curtails violence.  Furthermore, nowhere does the Law of Moses say to hate one’s enemies.

St. Paul the Apostle, writing to the argumentative and self-destructive church in Corinth, told them that they were God’s temple in that city.  That was good news.  A warning preceded it:

God will destroy anyone who defiles his temple, for his temple is holy…..

–1 Corinthians 3:17a, J. B. PhillipsThe New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972)

Agents of destruction frequently come from within, as in the case of the Corinthian church.

I wonder what the world would be like if the socially expected and normative behavior was to love people, or at least to be civil toward them.  I wonder what the world would be like if this extended to everyone.  I do not live in that world, of course.  I live in the world in which social media are mostly agents and conduits of anger, misinformation, half-baked conspiracy theories, and damn lies.  I live in the world in which sound advice includes not to read the comments section of a webpage.

Divine judgment and mercy exist in a balance.  I do not pretend to understand what that balance is.  I do not know where judgment gives way to mercy, and mercy to judgment.  I do trust that God gets the balance right.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 26, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS TIMOTHY, TITUS, AND SILAS, C0-WORKERS OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Adapted from this post

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The Cleansing of Ten Victims of Skin Disease   Leave a comment

Above:  The Healing of the Ten Lepers, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XLIII

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Luke 17:11-19

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“Leprosy” is a misleading and ubiquitous translation of the Greek word for a virulent skin disease.  The condition in the Bible is not Hansen’s Disease.  Nevertheless, I can never forget the hilarious SCTV parody of Ben-Hur (1959), in which the blood of Christ, flowing from the cross, healed the leopards–Catherine O’Hara and Andrea Martin, wearing leopard outfits.

“Lepers”–those who suffered from one virulent skin disease or another–were ritually impure.  The peeling off of skin made the “lepers” like corpses in the minds of their contemporaries.  Socially, “lepers” were corpses.

Jesus accepted the validity of the Law of Moses and the category of ritual impurity.  In Luke 17:11-19, he cleansed (or purified) the ten “lepers” then instructed them to present themselves to priests, in accordance with the Law of Moses.  Yet the holiness of Jesus overpowered the cause of the ritual impurity in these “lepers.”  (For more about Jesus and ritual impurity, read Matthew Thiessen, Jesus and the Forces of Death:  The Gospels’ Portrayal of Ritual Impurity within First-Century Judaism, 2020.)

Only one “leper”–a Samaritan–returned to thank Jesus.

Luke-Acts repeatedly points out faithful foreigners, therefore indicating that Jesus is the Messiah for Jews and Gentiles alike.

Clarence Jordan, in his Cotton Patch Version of the Gospel of Luke (Jesus’ Doings), updated the story for the twentieth-century U.S. South.  Jesus cured ten winos and instructed them to show themselves to the doctor.  The only cured wino who thanked Jesus was an African American.

If you, O reader, were to update Luke 17:11-19 to fit your cultural context, how would the story read?

Gracious Lord, teach me to see with your eyes of compassion, and teach me to love people with your healing and welcoming love.

–N. T. Wright, Lent for Everyone:  Luke, Year C–A Daily Devotional (2009), 76

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 25, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE CONVERSION OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Mutuality in God XII   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Moses

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Deuteronomy 30:15-20

Psalm 119:1-16

1 Corinthians 2:6-13

Matthew 5:20-37

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Lord God, mercifully receive the prayers of your people. 

Help us to see and understand the things we ought to do,

and give us grace and power to do them;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 16

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O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers

of your people who call upon you,

and grant that they may understand the things they ought to do

and also may have grace and strength to accomplish them;

through Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 27

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Culturally-specific examples make timeless principles applicable, in context.  Outside of that context, the culturally-specific examples may seem confusing and may not apply.  Yet the timeless principles remain.  When reading any Biblical text, the question of context(s) is always relevant.  Knowing the difference between a timeless principle and a culturally-specific example thereof is essential.

Consider the reading from Matthew 5, for example, O reader.

  1. “Raca,” or “fool,” was an extremely strong insult.  We have counterparts in our contemporary cultures; these counterparts are unsuitable for quoting in a family-friendly weblog. How we think and speak of others matters.
  2. Divorce and remarriage, in well-to-do families, consolidated landholding, thereby taking advantage of deeply indebted families.  Such practices endangered societal and familial cohesion.  Some divorces are necessary, especially in cases of domestic violence and emotional abuse.  The innocent parties deserve happiness afterward, do they not?  I support them receiving that happiness.  Yet modern practices that endanger societal and familial cohesion exist.

The Gospel of Matthew makes clear that Jesus affirmed the Law of Moses.  He favored Torah piety.  Jesus also opposed those who taught the Torah badly.  Deuteronomy 30 and Psalm 119 taught Torah piety, too.  St. Paul the Apostle admitted that the Law of Moses was good.  His objection after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, was that Judaism was not Christianity, not that it was legalistic.  For St. Paul, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus changed everything.

We have now received not the spirit of the world but the Spirit of God himself, so that we can understand something of God’s generosity towards us.

–1 Corinthians 2:12, J. B. PhillipsThe New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972)

In your context, O reader, what does God’s generosity require you to do?  Returning to Matthew 5 (among other Biblical texts), God orders that we–collectively and individually–treat others properly.  How we think of them influences how we behave toward them, inevitably.

May we–you, O reader, and I–as well as our communities, cultures, societies, et cetera–in the words of Deuteronomy 30:19, choose life.  May we choose proper piety.  May we acknowledge and accept our complete dependence on God.  May we practice mutuality.  May we love one another selflessly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 25, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE CONVERSION OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Adapted from this post

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