Archive for the ‘1 Corinthians 4’ Category

Eschatological Ethics III: Passing Judgment   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of St. John the Baptist

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O Lord, keep us watchful for the appearing of thy beloved Son,

and grant that, in all the changes of this world, we may be strengthened by thy steadfast love;

through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with

thee and the Holy Spirit be glory, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 117

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Jeremiah 33:14-16

1 Corinthians 3:18-4:5

Matthew 3:1-11

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Until God ushers in Matthew’s Kingdom of Heaven–the fully realized rule of God on Earth, replacing corrupt systems and institutions, the question of eschatological ethics remains current and germane.

We read some of St. Paul the Apostle’s advice in 1 Corinthians 4–pass no premature judgment.  We also read St. John Baptist’s critique of many Pharisees and Sadducees in Matthew 3–

Brood of vipers.

I propose that St. John’s judgment was not premature, but based on evidence.

One might supplement St. Paul’s counsel with that of Christ in Matthew 7:1-5 (The New Jerusalem Bible, 1985):

Do not judge, and you will not be judged; because the judgements you give will be the judgements you get, and the standard you use will be the standard used for you.  Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the great log in your own?  And how dare you say to your brother, “Let me take that splinter out of your eye,” when, look, there is a great log in your own?  Hypocrite!  Take the log out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.

One who knows the Bible well can think of examples of various Hebrew prophets, Jesus, and St. Paul issuing judgments, usually while speaking with authority from God.  However, one must, if one is to be intellectually honest, admit that some judgments are wrong, in more than one way.

“Cretans are always liars, vicious brutes, lazy gluttons.” That testimony is true.

–Titus 1:12b-13a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Whether St. Paul affirmed that nasty statement about Cretans or someone writing in his name did remains a matter of scholarly debate.  The unfortunate statement exists within the canon of the New Testament, though.

Sometimes we must make judgments–ones based on objective evidence.  To call a spade a spade, so to speak; to condemn injustice; to speak truth to power; is a moral imperative.  True statements are neither slanderous nor libelous.  Cynical people and desperate partisans in a state of denial may call true statements “fake news,” but objective truth is never fake.  As John Adams observed,

Facts are stubborn things.

James 3:1-12 offers timeless advice regarding the use of the tongue; we have a moral duty to control it.  That counsel also applies to the written word and to social media.  Condemning the unjustifiable is appropriate, but ruining reputations and lives without evidence is always wrong.  It is also commonplace, unfortunately.

“Brood of vipers” indeed!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 22, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK PRATT GREEN, BRITISH METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMEW ZOUBERBUHLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF EMILY HUNTINGTON MILLER, U.S. METHODIST AUTHOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF KATHARINA VON SCHLEGAL, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

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Facing God, Other People, and Ourselves   1 comment

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

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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

Psalm 17:1-8

1 Corinthians 4:1, 9-21

Matthew 10:16-33

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 30, 2018 COMMON ERA

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

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

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM PINCHON, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

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

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Varieties of Exile   Leave a comment

Above:  Road to Natural Bridge in Death Valley National Park, California, 2012

Photographer = Carol M. Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-23917

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FOR THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN  THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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Bestow your light on us, O Lord, that, being rid of the darkness of our hearts,

we may attain to the true light;  through Jesus Christ, who is the light of the world.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 69

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Isaiah 62:10-12

Psalm 32

1 Corinthians 4:1-5

Luke 3:2b-6

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Isaiah 40:3-5 (quoted in Luke 2:4b-6) and Isaiah 6:10-12 share the thread of return from exile.  In order to grasp Isaiah 62:10-12 one should back up to the beginning of the chapter.  The Babylonian Exile is over yet the reality of Jerusalem after liberation by the Persian Empire does not live up to expectations.  God will indeed restore the fortunes of Jerusalem, we read; more exiles, accompanied by the Presence of God, will return to their ancestral homeland via a highway in the desert.  This is the same highway in Isaiah 40:3-5.

The Babylonian Exile, according to the Hebrew Bible, occurred mostly because of persistent societal sinfulness, such as that manifested in idolatry and institutionalized social injustice.  Divine judgment was simply the consequence of human actions.  Then forgiveness followed, hence the reading of Psalm 32 in the context of Isaiah 62:10-12.  Mercy followed judgment.

Quoting Isaiah 40:3-5 in Luke 3 was thematically appropriate, for life in Roman-occupied Judea constituted exile of a sort.  Expectations of deliverance from the occupiers was commonplace yet not universal among Jews in the homeland.  Jesus, of course, was not the conquering hero; he was no Judas Maccabeus.  No, Jesus was a savior of a different sort.  The high expectations left over from Isaiah 62 remained unfulfilled.

There is, of course, the major of the continuing passage of time.  The fact that these hopes remain unfulfilled does not mean that they will remain so indefinitely.  God’s schedule is not ours.  God, who is the ultimate judge, is faithful and full of surprises.  May the incongruity between our expectations and divine tactics and schedules not stand in the way of serving God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 28, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMBROSE OF MILAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; MONICA OF HIPPO, MOTHER OF SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO; AND AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO, BISHOP OF HIPPO REGIUS

THE FEAST OF DENIS WORTMAN, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LAURA S. COPERHAVER, U.S. LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER AND MISSIONARY LEADER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MOSES THE BLACK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND MARTYR

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Right Judgment   1 comment

Above:   The Judgment of Solomon, by Giorgione

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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1 Kings 3:16-28

Psalm 119:49-56

1 Corinthians 14:6-19

John 7:19-24

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Do not judge by appearances,

but judge with right judgment.

–John 7:24, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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When I think of your ordinances from of old,

I take comfort, O LORD.

–Psalm 119:52, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Sometimes exercising right judgment is easy.  For example, the actual mother of a child will not want to see him killed and cut in half.  At other times, however, the circumstances exist in the gray, vague area.  There people might agree regarding goals yet differ as to proper tactics.  May we, by grace, make proper decisions, choices consistent with right judgment.

A principle related to right judgment is the building up of the community, secular or religious.  The gifts of the Spirit, for example, exist to glorify God and benefit the faith community in 1 Corinthians 14.  They do not exist to draw attention to the recipients of those gifts.  Human beings are inherently social, community-oriented creatures.  We depend entirely on God and on each other.  We are responsible to and for each other.  We have no moral right to exploit one another.  Our responsibilities fall into two categories–individual and collective.  We cannot harm others without injuring ourselves or help others without benefiting ourselves.

These principles exist in the Law of Moses, present in many culturally specific examples.  May we, by grace, apply these principles to our circumstances correctly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 18, 2017 COMMON ERA

PROPER 6:   THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DELPHINUS OF BORDEAUX, AMANDUS OF BORDEAUX, SEVERINUS OF BORDEAUX, VENERIUS OF MILAN, AND CHROMATIUS OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

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

THE FEAST OF ANSON DODGE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2017/06/18/devotion-for-proper-16-ackerman/

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Love, the Rule of Life   1 comment

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Above: Christ and the Two Blind Men, by Julius Schnorr

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 20:1-21 or Amos 4:1-13 or Malachi 3:5-18; 4:(1-2a) 2b-6

Psalm 56

Matthew 9:27-34 or John 5:31-47

1 Corinthians 3:12-15 (3:16-4:5) 4:6-21 or 2 John 1-13

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Do not think that I am sending a new command; I am recalling the one we have had from the beginning:  I ask that we love one another.  What love means is to live according t the commands of God.  This is the command that was given you from the beginning, to be your rule of life.

–2 John 5b-6, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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That rule of life includes commandments such as do not be haughty (2 Kings 20), swear falsely, commit adultery or sorcery, deny workers their proper wages, thrust aliens aside, oppress widows and orphans (Malachi 3), rob God (Malachi 4), oppress the poor and the needy (Amos 4), mistake good for evil (Matthew 9) or good for evil (Matthew 9) or become so legalistic as to complain about someone committing good works on the Sabbath, to the point of wanting to kill one who does that (John 5).  This is, of course, a woefully incomplete list.

Sometimes people who violate these and other commandments of God flourish and the righteous suffer.  One finds recognition of this reality in the Bible, which tells us that this might be true temporally, but the picture is more complex than that (see Malachi 4).

Vengeance is properly God’s alone.  Temporal justice, which is, when it is what it ought to be, is not revenge.  Life does not present us with morally complicated situations sometimes, but the commandment to make love the rule of life applies always.  May we, by grace, succeed in living accordingly, to the glory of God and the benefit of our fellow human beings, as well as ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIRST DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON, ABOLITIONIST AND FEMINIST; AND MARIA STEWART, ABOLITIONIST, FEMINIST, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB AND DOROTHY BUXTON, FOUNDERS OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF MARY CORNELIA BISHOP GATES, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/17/devotion-for-proper-8-year-d/

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Beloved Community   1 comment

March on Washington 1963

Above:  The March on Washington, August 28, 1963

Photographer = Warren K. Leffler

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number =  LC-DIG-ds-04411

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The Collect:

God of the covenant, in our baptism you call us

to proclaim the coming of your kingdom.

Give us the courage you gave the apostles,

that we may faithfully witness to your love and peace

in every circumstance of life,

in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 7:1-15 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 7:16-26 (Friday)

Jeremiah 7:27-34 (Saturday)

Psalm 123 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 4:8-13 (Thursday)

2 Corinthians 10:7-11 (Friday)

Matthew 8:18-22 (Saturday)

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To you I lift up my eyes,

to you that are enthroned in the heavens.

As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master,

or the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress.

So our eyes wait upon the Lord our God,

until he have mercy upon us.

Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,

for we have had more than enough of contempt.

Our soul has had more than enough of the scorn of the arrogant,

and of the contempt of the proud.

–Psalm 123, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The composite of the readings from Jeremiah speaks of the importance of treating people properly and refraining from committing idolatry.  This is a societal, not an individual issue.  The text refers to social institutions, in which individuals are complicit.  The divine call to repentance–one which the text indicates will fall on deaf ears and hard hearts–says that sacred rituals and houses of God do not function as talismans, protecting the society and individuals from the consequences of sinful actions and inactions.  There is nothing wrong with the rituals when people participate in them with reverence, but hiding behind them while committing idolatry and perpetuating or condoning injustice makes a mockery of those rites.

Often certain people suffer because of the sinful actions and/or inactions of others.  That theme exists also in the pericope from 1 Corinthians.  There St. Paul the Apostle wrote from a spiritually healthy attitude:

When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we speak kindly.

–1 Corinthians 4:12b-13a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

As multiple passages of scripture, not to mention the historical record, attest, following Jesus might, depending on the circumstances, lead to persecution and suffering.  Offering excuses as part of an effort to avoid following Jesus is an inadequate substitute for making a commitment to him.  Our words and deeds, when they are more or less consistent with a Christian pilgrimage (the best we will be able to achieve via grace, given our human nature), will glorify God and draw others to God and improve our societies.

Society is  not an abstraction.  No, it is people.  Societies have become what they have become because of human decisions.  Not only can they change, they have changed and are changing.  May they change to increase justice and decrease injustice.  May rates of discrimination go down and rates of mutual respect go up.  May the shedding of the blood of the innocent cease.  May oppression of the strangers, the orphans, and the widows among us come to an end.  May we put away our idols, which include greed, insensitivity to human needs, and attachments to racial and ethnic prejudices and hatreds.  May we act on the recognition that all of us are in the same boat, therefore whatsoever we do to another, we do to ourselves.

God has the power to save the world, but we can leave it better than we found it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE EVE OF EASTER, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF BENJAMIN HALL KENNEDY, GREEK AND LATIN SCHOLAR, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT GEORGE THE YOUNGER, GREEK ORTHODOX BISHOP OF MITYLENE

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-9-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Kingdom of Solomon Versus the Kingdom of God   1 comment

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Above:  The Meeting of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, Circa 1899

Copyright by The U.S. Printing Co.

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZC4-5226

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The Collect:

Beloved and sovereign God,

through the death and resurrection of your Son

you bring us into your kingdom of justice and mercy.

By your Spirit, give us your wisdom,

that we may treasure the life that comes from

 Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 1:28-37 (Thursday)

1 Kings 1:38-48 (Friday)

1 Kings 2:1-4 (Saturday)

Psalm 119:129-136 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 4:14-20 (Thursday)

Acts 7:44-53 (Friday)

Matthew 12:38-42 (Saturday)

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Let your countenance shine upon your servant

and teach me your statutes.

My eyes shed streams of tears

because people do not keep your law.

–Psalm 119:135-136, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Solomon recurs in the assigned readings for these three days.  Often the references are explicit.  Other times, however, he functions as an unnamed and negative figure of contrast.

We begin in 1 Kings 1 and 2, where we read of Solomon’s accession to the throne of Israel.  This process included scheming and political maneuvering.  Early in Chapter 2 the crown prince, soon to be king, received instructions to follow the Law of Moses.  Later in that chapter the new monarch eliminated political rivals.  Solomon was off to a bad start.  Furthermore, the foundation of his reign was tyranny, including forced labor and high taxes on the poor.  Had not Israelites been slaves in Egypt?  O, the irony!

The Kingdom of God is greater than the kingdom of Solomon.  In the former there is enough for everybody to share the wealth equitably and forced labor is absent.  God, who lives in faithful people and whose law is inscribed on their hearts, calls people to mutual respect and responsibility, not to any form of injustice–judicial, economic, et cetera.  There is no artificial scarcity in the Kingdom of God.  No, there is unbounded abundance of blessings, which exist not for hoarding (as some tried to do with manna), but for the common good.

St. Paul the Apostle wrote:

We [apostles] are fools for Christ’s sake, but you [Corinthians] are wise in Christ.  We are weak, but you are strong.  You are held in honor, but we in disrepute.  To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly clothed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands.   When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world, the dregs of all things.

–1 Corinthians 4:10-13, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

The greatest one in the Kingdom of God is the servant of all.  Blessed are the poor in the Kingdom of God.  Blessed are those who hunger and those who weep.  Blessed are those whom others revile for the sake of righteousness.  And blessed are those who are poor in spirit–who know their need for God.  Blessed are those who seek righteousness and who make peace.

Solomon’s kingdom did not function on these principles.  Neither do governments in our own day.  I know that people who try to make government look less like Solomon’s kingdom face charges of engaging in class warfare.  The real practitioners of class warfare in these cases are the accusers, of course.

Justice–in the context of the common good–requires some people to surrender or forego certain perks and privileges.  But if we act on the principles that (1) everything belongs to God and (2) we are tenants on this planet and stewards of God’s bounty, we will not insist on gaining or keeping certain perks and privileges at the expense of others.  And we will not think too highly of ourselves and look down upon others.  That is a challenging and tall order, but it is also a good one to pursue.  We can at least approach it, by grace, of course.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BASIL THE GREAT, FATHER OF EASTERN MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/06/14/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-12-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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