Author Archive

Blessedness in Persecution   1 comment

Above:  Jeremiah, from the Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, by Michelangelo Buonaroti

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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Jeremiah 15:15-21

Psalm 26 (LBW) or Psalm 119:105-112 (LW)

Romans 12:1-8

Matthew 16:21-26

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O God, we thank you for your Son,

who chose the path of suffering for the sake of the world. 

Humble us by his example,

point us to the path of obedience,

and give us strength to follow his commands;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 27

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Lord of all power and might, Author and Giver of all good things,

graft in our hearts the love of your name,

increase in us true religion,

nourish us with all goodness,

and bring forth in us the fruit of good works;

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), 78

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The assigned readings for this Sunday speak of obeying God and suffering for doing so.  Recall, O reader, the fate of the prophet Jeremiah–involuntary exile in Egypt.  Consider, too, the crucifixion of Jesus.  And, given that I publish this post on the Feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, consider the execution of that saint.

Persecution of the Church was usually intermittent in Roman times.  Empire-wide persecutions were rare.  Regional persecutions came and went.  Yet the pall of persecution–actual or possible–hung over the writing of the New Testament.  The Church was young, small, and growing.  Pulling together in mutuality was good advice.

It remains good advice.  No bad context for mutuality exists.  Reading past Romans 12:8, every day is a good day to avoid evil, to practice brotherly love, to regard others as more important than oneself, to work conscientiously with an eager spirit, to be joyful in hope, to persevere in hardship, to pray regularly, to share with those in need, and to seek opportunities, to be hospitable.

The results of taking up one’s cross and following Jesus are predictable, in general terms.  Details vary according to circumstances.  To take up one’s cross and follow Jesus is to reorder one’s priorities so that they become Jesus’s priorities.  Doing so invites an adverse reaction from agents of the morally upside-down world order, constrained by conventional wisdom.

Blessed are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven; this is how they persecuted the prophets before you.

–Matthew 5:11-12, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Who can make the point better than that?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 24, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE NATIVITY OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST

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Adapted from this post

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Hesed, Part VI   1 comment

Above:  St. Simon Peter

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 6:2-8

Psalm 138

Romans 11:33-36

Matthew 16:13-20

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God of all creation,

you reach out to call people of all nations to your kingdom. 

As you gather disciples from near and far,

count us also among those

who boldly confess your Son Jesus Christ as Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 27

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O almighty God, whom to know is everlasting life,

grant us without doubt to know your Son Jesus Christ

to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life

that, following his steps,

we may steadfastly walk in the say that leads to eternal life;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 77

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One day in Athens, Georgia, I visited my favorite thrift store in search of a lamp.  I saw a wooden lamp that needed polishing.  The item looked ugly in the store.  However, I recognized the lamp’s potential.  So, I purchased the lamp, took it home, and polished it.  I owned an attractive lamp.

In the assigned lessons, we read of the faithfulness of God.

  1. The Book of Exodus makes clear that God freed the Hebrew slaves in Egypt.
  2. Psalm 138 extols the faithful love of God.
  3. Romans 11:33-36 needs no summary; read the passage, O reader.  No paraphrase can do justice to the text.
  4. When we turn to Matthew 16:13-20, we read one account of the Confession of St. Peter.  St. (Simon) Peter is the rock in this passage; make no mistake to the contrary, O reader.  16:19 (addressed to St. Peter) resembles 18:18 (addressed to the disciples).  Binding and loosing refer to rabbinic authoritative teaching–interpretation of the Law of Moses.  Putting 16:19 and 18:18 together, the disciples, with St. Peter as the leader, had Christ’s approval to teach authoritatively, and this role played out on the congregational level.

Consider the Twelve, O reader.  The canonical Gospels frequently portray them as being oblivious.  The Gospel of Mark goes out of its way to do this.  The other three Gospels tone down that motif.  If there was hope for the Twelve, there is hope for us.

Jesus recognized potential in the Twelve.

Jesus recognizes potential in you, O reader.  Jesus recognizes potential in me.  If that is not an example of divine faithful love, I do not know what is.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 23, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN GERARD, ENGLISH JESUIT PRIEST; AND SAINT MARY WARD, FOUNDER OF THE INSTITUTE OF THE VIRGIN MARY

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH GOTTLOB GUTTER, GERMAN-AMERICAN INSTRUMENT MAKER, REPAIRMAN, AND MERCHANT

THE FEAST OF JOHN JOHNS, ENGLISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER 

THE FEAST VINCENT LEBBE, BELGIAN-CHINESE ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MISSIONARY; FOUNDER OF THE BROTHERS OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST

THE FEAST OF WILHELM HEINRICH WAUER, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN

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Adapted from this post

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Not Getting the Memo   1 comment

Above:  World Map (1570)

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 56:1, 6-8

Psalm 67

Romans 11:13-15, 29-32

Matthew 15:21-28

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Almighty and ever-loving God,

you have given great and precious promises to those who believe. 

Grant us the perfect faith, which overcomes all doubts,

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 26

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Merciful Father,

since you have given your only Son as the sacrifice for our sin,

also give us grace to receive with thanksgiving

the fruits of this redeeming work

and daily follow in his way;

through your Son, Jesus Christ,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 75-76

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The story of the Syro-Phoenician woman (Matthew 15:21-28 and Mark 7:24-30) is a topic of which I have written repeatedly already.  I refer you, O reader, to those posts for those comments.

As Amy-Jill Levine points out correctly, Judaism has long welcomed the faith of Gentiles who follow God.  Isaiah 56:1-8 is one of the texts Levine cites in making this case.  And Psalm 67 speaks of the people of the world praising God.

Unfortunately, not everyone got the memo.  This was evident in the New Testament.  St. Simon Peter received the memo relatively late, for example.

I come not to criticize Judaism or any other religion.  No, I come to set the record straight and to criticize all who are simultaneously zealous for yet uninformed of their religious traditions.  I am a Christian.  Many non-Christians think of Christians as being judgmental.  Yet, Christianity, properly lived, is not judgmental.  Nevertheless, many judgmental Christians exist, hence the stereotype.

Have you, O reader, missed any memos from God?  Is your piety misdirected, despite your best intentions?  Consequences matter more than intentions.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 22, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBAN, FIRST BRITISH MARTYR, CIRCA 209 OR 305 

THE FEAST OF DESIDERIUS ERASMUS, DUTCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, BIBLICAL AND CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, AND CONTROVERSIALIST; SAINT JOHN FISHER, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, BISHOP OF ROCHESTER, CARDINAL, AND MARTYR, 1535; AND SAINT THOMAS MORE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, JURIST, THEOLOGIAN, CONTROVERSIALIST, AND MARTYR, 1535

THE FEAST OF GERHARD GIESCHEN, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JAMES ARTHUR MACKINNON, CANADIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, 1965

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETAS OF REMESIANA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OR REMESIANA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF NOLA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NOLA

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Adapted from this post

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Love One Another   1 comment

Above:  St. Peter Walking on Water, by Alessandro Allori

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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1 Kings 19:9-18

Psalm 85:8-13 (LBW) or Psalm 28 (LW)

Romans 9:1-5

Matthew 14:22-33

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Almighty and everlasting God,

you are always more ready to hear than we are to pray,

and to give us more than we either desire or deserve. 

Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy,

forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid,

and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask,

except through the merit of your Son,

Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 26

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Almighty and everlasting God,

always more ready to hear than we to pray

and always ready to give more than we either desire or deserve,

pour down upon us the abundance of your mercy,

forgiving us the good things we are not worthy to ask

but through the merits and mediation

of 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), 74

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I am listening.  What is Yahweh saying?

–Psalm 85:8a, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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Quaker theology includes the Inner Light–the Holy Spirit within each person.  God speaks.  Quakers listen.

I assume that God is a chatterbox in search of an attentive audience.  We are busy and/or distracted.  God gives us assignments.  Like Elijah, we do not complete most of them.  Like St. Simon Peter, we look down at the chaos, not up at Jesus.  We lose faith and sink into that chaos without Jesus, without God.

St. Paul the Apostle believed that the covenant had passed to Christians.  His argument has not convinced me; the Jewish covenant has held.  God has established a separate covenant for faithful Gentiles.  Unfortunately, anti-Semitic misinterpretations of St. Paul’s words have fueled hatred and violence for nearly 2000 years.

What is God saying?  One may experience difficulty knowing the answer to that question even when one is listening carefully.  Assumptions and cultural programming get in the way.  Distractions mean that we miss some messages, even repeated ones.  Ego-defense mechanisms bristle against some messages.  Even when we know the words, we need to interpret them in contexts.

In the middle 1980s, at one of the United Methodist congregations of which my father was the pastor, there was a man named Don.  Don was hard of hearing.  He heard parts of what my father said in sermons.  Don frequently became incensed regarding what he did hear.  He missed contexts and misheard certain words and passages.  He heard (somewhat) and did not understand.  And he assumed that my father was in the wrong.  And Don frequently confronted my father.

Many of us are like Don; we hear partially, misunderstand greatly, and assume that we are correct.  We are, of course, correct some of the time.  A cliché says that even a broken clock is right twice a day.  But why be content to be a broken clock?

Rabbi Hillel and Jesus were correct.  The summary of the Law of Moses is to love God fully and one’s neighbor as oneself.  Gentiles often neglect the second half of Rabbi Hillel’s statement, in full:

The rest is commentary.  Go and learn it.

We Gentiles often stop after,

The rest is commentary.

Many of us tend not to want to study the Law of Moses.  And when many of us do study it, we frequently misinterpret and misunderstand it.  Well-meaning piety may mistake culturally-specific examples for timeless principles, resulting in legalism.

The most basic Biblical commandment is to love self-sacrifically.  If we mean what we say when we affirm that all people bear the image of God, we will treat them accordingly.  We will love them.  We will seek the best for them.  We will not treat them like second-class or third-class citizens.  We will not discriminate against them.  We will not deny or minimize their humanity.  In Quaker terms, we will see the Inner Light in them.

According to a story that may be apocryphal, the aged St. John the Evangelist was planning to visit a house church somewhere.  At the appointed time, the Apostle’s helpers carried him into the space where the congregation had gathered.  The helpers sat St. John down in front of the people.  The Apostle said:

My children, love one another.

Then St. John signaled for his helpers to take him away.  As they did, one member of the congregation ran after St. John.  This person asked an ancient equivalent of,

That’s it?

St. John replied:

When you have done that, I will tell you more.

The message is simple yet difficult.  Yahweh tells us to love one another.  The news tells us all we need to know about how poorly or well we are doing, based on that standard.  We are selfish bastards more often than not, sadly.  Or, like Don, we may be hard of hearing.  Or maybe we have selective memories and attention spans.

Do not imagine, O reader, that I exempt myself from these criticisms.  Rather, I know myself well enough to grasp my sinfulness.  I confess that I am a flawed human being.  I am “but dust.”  I depend on grace.

We all do.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 21, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALOYSIUS GONZAGA, JESUIT

THE FEAST OF CARL BERNHARD GARVE, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHARITIE LIES SMITH BANCROFT DE CHENEZ, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN JONES AND JOHN RIGBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 1598 AND 1600

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Adapted from this post

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A Royal Nation   1 comment

Above:  Cross and Crown

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 55:1-5

Psalm 104:25-31 (LBW) or Psalm 136:1-9, 23-26 (LW)

Romans 8:35-39

Matthew 14:13-21

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Gracious Father,

your blessed Son came down from heaven

to be the true bread which gives life to the world. 

Give us this bread,

that he may live in us and we in him,

Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

OR

Almighty God, judge of us all,

you have placed in our hands the wealth we call our own. 

Give us such wisdom by your Spirit

that our possessions may not be a curse in our lives,

but an instrument for blessing;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 26

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Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church;

and because it cannot continue in safety without your help,

protect and govern it always by your goodness;

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 73

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The story of the Feeding of the Five Thousand, present in all four canonical Gospels, is a topic about which I have written many times during the years I have been composing lectionary-based posts.  I refer you, O reader, to those posts for more about that event.

Second Isaiah applied the Davidic Covenant to the people of Judah, delivered from the Babylonian Exile.  He wrote that the Jewish people had royal status, not a human king.  This transformation of the Davidic Covenant accounted for the fall of the Davidic Dynasty in 587/586 B.C.E.  Historically, that dynasty never returned to power.  Second Isaiah, having democratized the Davidic Covenant, did not include an idealized future king–the Messiah–in his theology.  This vision of the future contrasted with Second Zechariah, who wrote of such a Davidic monarch in Zechariah 9:9-12.

God provided for that royal nation.  The authors of Psalms 104 and 136 also understood God as being active in nature and history.  The theme of God feeding people carried over into the Feeding of the Five Thousand.

For I am certain of this:  neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nothing already in existence and nothing still to come, nor any power in the heights nor the depths, nor any created thing whatever, will be able to come between us and the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.

–Romans 8:38-39, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

This is excellent news!  Do you, O reader, trust that this is true?

Psalm 23 tells us that divine kindness and faithful love either pursue or accompany (depending on the translation) us, even in the presence of our enemies.  God is on our side.  Are we on God’s side?

The people of God are a royal nation.  May we think and act accordingly, loving God fully and our neighbors (all people) as ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 20, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH AUGUSTUS SEISS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF ALFRED RAMSEY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF BERNARD ADAM GRUBE, GERMAN-AMERICAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, COMPOSER, AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF CHARLES COFFIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HANS ADOLF BRORSON, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN SPARROW-SIMPSON, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND PATRISTICS SCHOLAR

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Adapted from this post

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Good News and Bad News, Part II   1 comment

Above:  The Parable of the Net

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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1 Kings 3:5-12

Psalm 119:129-136

Romans 8:28-30

Matthew 13:44-52

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O God, your ears are always open to the prayers of your servants. 

Open our hearts and minds to you,

that we may live in harmony with your will

and receive the gifts of your Spirit;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 26

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O God, the Protector of all who trust in you,

without whom nothing is strong and nothing is holy,

increase and multiply your mercy on us,

that with you as our Ruler and Guide,

we may so pass through things temporal,

that we lose not the things eternal;

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), 71

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Redeem me from human oppression….

–Psalm 119:134a, The Revised New Jerusalem Bible (2019)

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Good news and bad news come together.

  1. The reading from 1 Kings 3 marinates in hindsight and the wasted potential of King Solomon, who had come to power like Michael Corleone, settling disputes with murder.  One may reasonably speculate that King Solomon had already cast his die before 1 Kings 3.  Nevertheless, hope springs eternal, to quote a cliché.
  2. We read a portion of Psalm 119, in which the author extols God’s commandments in the context of human oppression.
  3. Single Predestination (Romans 8:28-30) is to Heaven.  Those not so predestined have the witness of the Holy Spirit available to them.
  4. We read that, at the end of the age, the angels will separate the wicked from the righteous.  This is good news for the righteous and bad news for the wicked.  Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.

I paid little attention to predestination when I was a Methodist.  My theology has shifted, however, into Anglican-Lutheranism, which includes Single Predestination.  After growing up ignoring passages such as Romans 8:28-30, I have embraced them.

The good news of Single Predestination, paired with the witness of the Holy Spirit, is grace.  Those predestined receive one form of grace.  Those not predestined receive another form of grace.  Their free will to accept or reject the witness of the Holy Spirit exists because of grace.  Everything boils down to grace.

We human beings do not have to earn everything.  We cannot earn grace.  If we accept it, we also accept its demands on our lives.  Grace is free, not cheap.

Good news and bad news come together.  We mere mortals make our bad news and some of our good news.  God brings us good news.  Are we receptive to it?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYL0R

JUNE 18, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM BINGHAM TAPPAN, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER. POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ADOLPHUS NELSON, SWEDISH-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF BERNARD MIZEKI, ANGLICAN CATECHIST AND CONVERT IN SOUTHERN RHODESIA, 1896

THE FEAST OF JOHANN FRANCK, HEINRICH HELD, AND SIMON DACH, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MASSIE, HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF VERNARD ELLER, U.S. CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN MINISTER AND THEOLOGIAN

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Adapted from this post

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Trust in God, Part VI   1 comment

Above:  Tares

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 44:1-8

Psalm 86:11-17 (LBW) or Psalm 119:57-64 (LW)

Romans 8:26-27

Matthew 13:24-30 (36-43)

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Pour out upon us, O Lord,

the spirit to think and to do what is right,

that we, who cannot even exist without you,

may have the strength to live according to your will;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

OR

O God, you see how busy we are with many things. 

Turn us to listen to your teachings

and lead us to choose the one thing which will not be taken from us,

Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 26

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Grant us, Lord, the Spirit to think

and to do always such things as are pleasing in your sight,

that we, who without you cannot do anything that is good,

may by you be enabled to live according to your will;

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), 70

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Second Isaiah’s insistence upon strict monotheism is consistent with Psalmists’ trust in God, especially during difficult times.  St. Paul the Apostle’s encouraging words tell us that the Holy Spirit comes to our aid in our weakness and intercedes for us.

I have been writing lectionary-based posts for more than a decade.  In that time, I have covered the Parable of the Weeds (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43) a few times.

All these posts are available at this weblog.

To turn to the topic at hand, trust in God is a theme in the Parable of the Weeds.  We may trust God to remove the darnel.  If we are fortunate, we are not poisonous weeds.  If we are unfortunate, we are darnel, and God will remove us in time.

All the readings speak of trust in God during perilous times.  Romans 8:26-27 exists in the context of what precedes it immediately:  suffering and hardship as birth pangs of a renewed creation.  Isaiah 44:6-8 exists in the context of the waning months of the Babylonian Exile.  Psalm 86 speaks of

a brutal gang hounding me to death

–verse 14, The Jerusalem Bible (1966).

Matthew 13 refers to poisonous weeds that initially resemble wheat in the Parable of the Weeds.  Who is wheat and who is darnel may not always be possible or easy to tell.  (I do know, however, that I habitually fail doctrinal purity tests.  Many people classify me as darnel.  So be it.)  Given the outward similarity of wheat and darnel, whom should one trust?  And, as we read in Psalm 11i:61,

…the nets of the wicked ensnare me.

The Revised New Jerusalem Bible (2019)

Fortunately, we are not alone.  The Holy Spirit comes to our aid in our weakness and intercedes for us.  Do we trust that this is true?  Do we trust in God?

I can answer only for myself.  My answer to this question is,

Yes, usually.

What is your answer, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 17, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL BARNETT, ANGLICAN CANON OF WESTMINSTER, AND SOCIAL REFORMER; AND HIS WIFE, HENRIETTA BARNETT, SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF EDITH BOYLE MACALISTER, ENGLISH NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT EMILY DE VIALAR, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE APPARITION

THE FEAST OF JANE CROSS BELL SIMPSON, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MARK HOPKINS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, EDUCATOR, AND PHYSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINTS TERESA AND MAFALDA OF PORTUGAL, PRINCESSES, QUEENS, AND NUNS; AND SAINT SANCHIA OF PORTUGAL, PRINCESS AND NUN

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Adapted from this post

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The Renewal of All Things   1 comment

Above:  St. Paul the Apostle

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 55:10-11

Psalm 65

Romans 8:18-25

Matthew 13:1-9 (18-23)

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Almighty God, we thank you for planting in us the seed of your word. 

By your Holy Spirit help us to receive it with joy,

live according to it,

and grow in faith and hope and love;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

or

Lord God, use our lives to touch the world with your love. 

Stir us, by your Spirit, to be neighbors to those in need,

serving them with willing hearts;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 25

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O almighty and most merciful God,

of your bountiful goodness keep us, we pray,

from all things that may hurt us that we,

being ready in both body and soul,

may cheerfully accomplish whatever things you want done;

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), 69

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When reading the assigned lessons in preparation for drafting a post, I often notice that one lesson is an outlier.  Today I choose to focus on the outlier.  The theme of God sowing, complete with the Matthean version of the Parable of the Sower/the Four Soils, is a topic about which I have written and posted more than once.  You, O reader, may access my analysis of that parable by following the germane tags attached to this post.  I also refer you to this post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

Romans 8:18-25 flows from what precedes it immediately:  Christians are heirs–sons, literally–of God, through Jesus, the Son of God.  The gendered language is a reflection of St. Paul the Apostle’s cultural setting, in which sons, not daughters, inherited.  As “sons of God,” we Christians bear witness with the Holy Spirit that we are members of the household of God.

Literally, Christians are “sons of God” or have received the “spirit of sonship” in verses 14, 15, and 23.  We are “children of God” in verses 16, 17, and 21, though.  (I checked the Greek texts.)  These distinctions are obvious in translations that do not neuter the Greek text.  I check genders (male, female, and neuter) via the Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002).  My historical training tells me that before I can interpret a document in context, I must know what the document says.

Romans 8:18-30, from which we extract 8:18-25, tells of the renewal of all things.  In the midst of suffering, the future glory of the human race in God still awaits.  The renewal of creation itself awaits.  The sufferings are birth pangs.  Meanwhile, Christians must wait with patience and expectation.

For obvious reasons, I leave comments about birth pangs to women who have given birth.

St. Paul the Apostle understood suffering for Christ.  St. Paul the Apostle mustered optimism in dark times, by grace.  This has always astounded me.  I, having endured suffering less severe than that of St. Paul the Apostle, have found depression and pessimism instead.

I write this post during dark times for the world.  The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage around the world.  Authoritarian forces endanger representative governments around the world.  Polarization has increased to the point that opposite camps have their own facts.  (Objective reality be damned!)  I have found more causes for depression and pessimism than for optimism.

Yet St. Paul the Apostle, speaking to us down the corridors of time, tells us that these are birth pangs of a better world.  I hope that is correct.  I pray that these are not birth pangs of a dystopia.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 18, 2023 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JACQUES ELLUL, FRENCH REFORMED THEOLOGIAN AND SOCIOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT CELESTINE V, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ABBOT OF GLASTONBURY AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF GEORG GOTTFRIED MULLER, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF KERMARTIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ATTORNEY, PRIEST, AND ADVOCATE FOR THE POOR

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Adapted from this post

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This is post #2750 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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Yokes   1 comment

Above:  A Yoke

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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Zechariah 9:9-12

Psalm 45:1-2 (3-13), 14-22 (LBW) or Psalm 119:137-144 (LW)

Romans 7:15-25a

Matthew 11:25-30

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God of glory, Father of love, peace comes from you alone. 

Send us as peacemakers and witnesses to your kingdom,

and fill our hearts with joy in your promises of salvation;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 25

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Grant, Lord, that the course of this world

may be so governed by your direction

that your Church may rejoice

in serving you in godly peace and quietness;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 68

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Zechariah 9:9-12 depicts a future scene, in which the Messiah, an ideal king, approaches Jerusalem at the culmination of history–the Day of the LORD.  This is the scene Jesus reenacted during his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, without being a regnant type of Messiah.

The image of YHWH as king exists in the assigned readings from Psalms.

In Romans 7:15-25a we read St. Paul the Apostle’s confession of his struggles with sins.  We may all relate to those struggles.

My tour of the readings brings me to Matthew 11:25-30 and the topic of yokes.

Literally, a yoke was a wooden frame, loops of ropes, or a rod with loops of rope, depending on the purpose.  (See Numbers 19:2; Deuteronomy 21:3; and Jeremiah 28:10.)  A yoke fit over the neck of a draft animal or the necks of draft animals.  Alternatively, a captive or a slave wore a yoke.  (See Jeremiah 28:10; 1 Kings 12:9; 2 Chronicles 10:4; and 1 Timothy 6:1).  Also, a yoked pair of oxen was a yoke.  (See 1 Samuel 11:7; 1 Kings 19:21; Luke 14:19).

Metaphorically, a yoke had a variety of meanings, depending on the circumstances.  It often symbolized servitude and subjection.  Forced labor was an unjust yoke (1 Kings 11:28; 12:11, 14).  Slavery was a yoke (Sirach 33:27).  Hardship was a yoke (Lamentations 3:27; Sirach 40:1).  The oppression and humiliation of one nation by another was the yoke of bondage (Jeremiah 27:8; 28:4; Hosea 11:7; Deuteronomy 28:48; and Isaiah 47:6).  To break out of subjugation or slavery was to break the yoke (Jeremiah 28:2; Isaiah 9:4; 14:25).  God promised to break the yoke of Egypt in Ezekiel 30:18.  To break away from God was to break God’s yoke (Jeremiah 2:20; 5:5; Sirach 51:39).  Sin was also a yoke (Lamentations 1:14).

The yokes of God and Christ carry positive connotations.  The yoke of obedience to God is easy.  It is also the opposite of the yoke of subordination and subjugation.  This positive yoke is the yoke in Matthew 11:28-30.  It is the yoke St. Paul the Apostle wore (Philippians 4:3).  It is the yoke in Psalm 119:137-144.

Draw near to me, you who are untaught, 

and lodge in my school.

Why do you say you are lacking in these things,

and why are your souls very thirsty?

I opened my mouth and said,

Get these things for yourselves without money.

Put your neck under the yoke,

and let your souls receive instruction;

it is to be found close by.

See with your eyes that I have labored little

and found for myself much rest.

Get instruction with a large sum of silver

and you will gain by it much gold.

May your soul rejoice in his mercy,

and may you not be put to shame when you praise him.

Do your work before the appointed time,

and in God’s time he will give you your reward.

–Sirach 51:23-30, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

You, O reader, will serve somebody or something.  That is not in question.  Whom or what you will serve is a germane question.  Why not serve God, the greatest king?  In so doing, you will find your best possible state of being.  The path may be difficult–ask St. Paul the Apostle, for example–but it will be the best path for you.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 14, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS MAKEMIE, FATHER OF AMERICAN PRESBYTERIANISM AND ADVOCATE FOR RELIGIOUS TOLERATION

THE FEAST OF SAINT CARTHAGE THE YOUNGER, IRISH ABBOT-BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA DOMINICA MAZZARELLO, CO-FOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF MARY HELP OF CHRISTIANS

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEODORE I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINTS VICTOR THE MARTYR AND CORONA OF DAMASCUS, MARTYRS IN SYRIA, 165

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Adapted from this post

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St. Paul the Apostle in Rome   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Paul the Apostle

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LXXIV

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Acts 28:15-31

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Acts 28:15-31 spans 61-63 C.E.  The scene is that of St. Paul the Apostle, living under house arrest, proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Rome.  He proclaimed the message to Jews and Gentiles alike; he called Roman Jews “brothers.”

Luke-Acts opens with the Incarnation and closes with St. Paul preaching in an apartment in Rome.  The ending omits the martyrdom of St. Paul in Rome, during the persecution by the Emperor Nero, in the middle 60s C.E.

Certainly, St. Luke, writing circa 85 C.E., knew about the martyrdom of St. Paul.

Did St. Paul ever visit Spain?  (See Romans 15:24.)  The jury is out on that question.  The chronological tables in The Jerusalem Bible (1966) and The New Jerusalem Bible (1985) state that Roman authorities released St. Paul in 63 C.E. and hypothesize that he traveled to Spain and perhaps elsewhere.  Maybe this is accurate.  On the other hand, these tables also indicate that St. Paul wrote or dictated 1 Timothy.  (I reject that idea.)

St. Luke told the story he wanted to tell, not the story we may have wanted him to tell.  So be it.

Dennis Hamm, S. J., provides a fine analysis of the inconclusiveness of Acts 28.  This inconclusiveness:

…serves to remind us that we are invited to continue the story with our lives.

–In Daniel Durken, ed., The New Collegeville Bible Commentary:  New Testament (2009), 435

We are Acts 29.

Thank you, O reader, for joining me on this journey through Luke-Acts.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 5, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES WILLIAM SCHAEFFER, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HISTORIAN, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT CATERINA CITTADINI, FOUNDER OF THE URSULINE SISTERS OF SOMASCO

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDMUND IGNATIUS RICE, FOUNDER OF THE INSTITUTE OF THE BROTHERS OF THE CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS OF IRELAND AND THE CONGREGATION OF PRESENTATION BROTHERS

THE FEAST OF FRIEDRICH VON HÜGEL, ROMAN CATHOLIC INDEPDENDENT SCHOLAR AND PHILOSOPHER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS HONORATUS OF ARLES AND HILARY OF ARLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; AND SAINTS VENANTIUS OF MODON AND CAPRASIUS OF LERINS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

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