Archive for the ‘1 John 2’ Category

Walking in the Light   Leave a comment

Above:  Ben Burton Park, Athens, Georgia, November 11, 2017

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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READING THE GENERAL EPISTLES, PART XIV

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1 John 1:1-2:29

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Circa 100 C.E., a disciple of St. John the Evangelist, writing as that apostle, addressed a Johannine Christian community.   That church had recently suffered a schism; Gnostics had broken away.

Gnosticism was problematic for several reasons.

  1. It understood knowing to be a saving deed.
  2. This allegedly salvific knowledge was a secret.  Therefore, Gnostics were self-appointed spiritual elites.
  3. Gnosticism understood all that was material to be evil.  This doctrine refuted the Incarnation and all the spin-off Christological doctrines–the Resurrection and the Atonement, in particular.  In Gnostic thought, Jesus only seemed to have a body, and another man occupied the cross intended for Christ.
  4. The cosmology and God-concept of Gnosticism were convoluted.  That, however, is a topic for another time and post.

The author of First John knew the Gospel of John well.  He wrote in Johannine terms.  The opening of First John imitated John 1:1-18.  The Johannine definition of eternal life as knowing God via Jesus carried over.  So did reserving the language of divine sonship for Jesus and referring to Christians as “children of God.”  One may also recognize the Johannine motif of indwelling, present in First John.

One who has read the General Epistles and who has a good memory of them may read 1 John 1:1-2:29 and detect themes covered elsewhere in the General Epistles.  Straighten up and fly right.  Good and evil are fighting in the world.  Do not give into evil, forbidden desires.  Live in mutuality.  Cling to Jesus.  Beware of false teachers.  These false teachers are Antichrists, for they deny Christ.

Sin is a major topic in First John, a subtle text.  Some of the subtleties are so subtle that one may easily miss them.  For the sake of clarity, I choose to cover part of 1 John 3, so for as it seems to contradict 1 John 1 and 2.

If we say we have no sin in us,

we are deceiving ourselves

and refusing to admit the truth;

but if we acknowledge our sins,

then God who is faithful and just

will forgive our sins and purify us

from everything that is wrong.

To say that we have never sinned

is to call God a liar

and to show that his word is not in us.

I am writing this, my children,

to stop you sinning;

but if anyone should sin,

we have an advocate with the Father,

Jesus Christ, who is just;

he is the sacrifice that takes our sins away,

but not only us,

but the whole world.

–1 John 1:8-2:2, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Consider the following passage, too, O reader:

Surely everyone who entertains this hope

must purify himself, must try to be pure as Christ.

Anyone who sins at all

breaks the law,

because to sin is to break the law.

Now you know that he appeared in order to abolish sin,

and that in him there is no sin;

and anyone who sins

has never seen him or known him.

My children, do not let anyone lead you astray:

to live a holy life

is to be holy just as he is holy;

to lead a sinful life is to belong to the devil,

since the devil was a sinner from the beginning.

It was to undo all that the devil has done

that the Son of God appeared.

No one who as been begotten by God sins;

because God’s seed remains in him,

he cannot sin when he has been begotten by God.

–1 John 3:3-9, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

A superficial reading of the two passages leads one to conclude that they contradict each other.  Yet a close reading reveals the logical progression.  Jesus destroys sin.  Therefore, to the extent one is in Christ, one cannot sin.  To the extent one is in tune with God, one cannot sin.  In the original context of First John, the second passage does not argue for the sinlessness of Christians.  Rather, 3:9 is:

…the strongest, most principles denial that sinfulness could ever be reckoned a birth certificate of godliness.

–C. Clifton Black, in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume XII (1998), 413

The author of First John was apparently arguing against false teachers who held that there was a warrant for sin in the Christian life.  This false teaching continued to cause confusion in the germane Johannine community after the schism.

Perhaps paraphrasing 1 John 3:9, outside of the original context, helps:

To the extent that one is in Christ, one is not and cannot be a slave to sin.

The light of Christ dispels the darkness of evil, in other words.  May we–individually and collectively–live our lives in the light (1 John 1:7).

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 2, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PETRUS HERBERT, GERMAN MORAVIAN BISHOP AND HYMNODIST

THE FEAST OF CARL DOVING, NORWEGIAN-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JAMES ALLEN, ENGLISH INGHAMITE THEN GLASITE/SANDEMANIAN HYMN WRITER; AND HIS GREAT-NEPHEW, OSWALD ALLEN, ENGLISH GLASITE/SANDEMANIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA ANNA KRATOCHWIL, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND MARTYR, 1942

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Introduction to the General Epistles   Leave a comment

READING THE GENERAL EPISTLES, PART I

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This post opens a new series, one about the General (or Catholic or Universal) Epistles.  This category dates to circa 325 C.E., from the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius of Caesarea.

MY GERMANE OPERATIONAL BIASES AND ASSUMPTIONS

Know, O reader, that my academic background is in history.  I think historically, regardless of the topic du jour.  The past tenses constitute my usual temporal perspective.  Some people tell me that I ought not to think this way when considering the Bible or a television series that ceased production years or decades ago.  These individuals are wrong.  I defy them.

Some people tell me that the historical backgrounds of Biblical books do not matter or are of minimal importance.  The messages for today is what matters, they say.  The messages for today do matter; I agree with that much.  Yet the definition of those messages depend greatly on the historical contexts from which these texts emerged.  With regard to the General Epistles, whether one assumes relatively early or relatively late composition affects the interpretation.

I operate from the assumptions that (a) James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, and Jude are pseudonymous, and (b) they date to relatively late periods.  These two assumptions relate to each other.  The first assumption leads to the second.  In terms of logic, if x, then y.  Simultaneously, internal evidence supports the second assumption, which leads backward, to the first.

CONTEXTS

The General Epistles, composed between 70 and 140 C.E., came from particular societal and political contexts.  The Roman Empire was strong.  Religious persecutions of Christianity were mostly sporadic and regional.  Christianity was a young, marginalized, sect (of Judaism, through 135 C.E.) unable to influence society and the imperial order.  Christian doctrine was in an early phase of development.  Even the definition of the Christian canon of scripture was in flux.

I, reading, pondering, and writing in late 2021, benefit from centuries of theological development, ecumenical councils, and the definition of the New Testament.  I, as an Episcopalian, use scripture, tradition, and reason.  I interpret any one of these three factors through the lenses of the other two.  I, as a student of the past, acknowledge that scripture emerged from tradition.

The importance of theological orthodoxy was a major concern in the background of the General Epistles.  That made sense; ecclesiastical unity, threatened by heresy, was a major concern for the young, small, and growing sect.  Yet, as time passed and the Church’s fortunes improved, the definition of orthodoxy changed.  Some of the Ante-Nicene Fathers (notably Origen) were orthodox, by the standards of their time.  After 325 C.E., however, some of these men (notably Origen) became heretics postmortem and ex post facto.

Orthopraxy was another concern in the General Epistles.  Orthopraxy related to orthodoxy.  The lack of orthopraxy led to needless schisms and the exploitation of the poor, for example.  As time passed and the Church became dominant in parts of the world, the Church fell short on the standard of orthopraxy, as defined by the Golden Rule.  As Alfred Loisy (1857-1940), an excommunicated modernist Roman Catholic theologian, lamented:

Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God and what came was the Church.

Lest anyone misunderstand me, I affirm that theological orthodoxy exists.  God defines it.  We mere mortals and our theologies are all partially heretical.  We cannot help that.  Salvation is a matter of grace, not passing a canonical examination.  Also, the Golden Rule is the finest standard according to which to measure orthopraxy.  Orthopraxy is a matter of faithful response, which grace demands.  Grace is free, not cheap.

BRIEF INTRODUCTIONS FOR EACH OF THE GENERAL EPISTLES

The Epistle of James dates to 70-110 C.E.  The analysis of Father Raymond E. Brown (1928-1998) suggests that composition in the 80s or 90s was probable.  The “epistle,” actually a homily, used the genre of diatribe to address Jewish Christians who lived outside of Palestine.  James is perhaps the ultimate “shape up and fly right” Christian text.  James may also correct misconceptions regarding Pauline theology.

The First Epistle of Peter, composed in Rome between 70 and 90 C.E., is a text originally for churches in northern Asia Minor.  The majority scholarly opinion holds that First Peter is a unified text.  A minority scholarly opinion holds that 1:3-4:11 and 4:12-5:11 are distinct documents.

The Epistle of Jude, composed between 90 and 100 C.E., may have have come from Palestine.  Jude was also a source for Second Peter, mainly the second chapter thereof.

The Second Epistle of Peter is the last book of the New Testament composed.  Second Peter, probably composed between 120 and 140 C.E., addresses a general audience in eastern Asia Minor.  The second chapter expands on Jude.

The First Epistle of John is not an epistle.  No, it is a homily or a tract.  First John, composed circa 100 C.E., belongs to the Johannine tradition.  Anyone who has belonged to a congregation that has suffered a schism may relate to the context of First John.

The author of the Second and Third Epistles of John (both from circa 100 C.E.) may have written First John.  Or not.  “The Elder” (the author of Second and Third John) speaks down the corridors of time in the contexts of ecclesiastical schisms and personality conflicts.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.

 

I invite you, O reader, to remain with me as I embark on a journey through the Epistle of James first.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 19, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 20:  THE SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF GERARD MOULTRIE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLARENCE ALPHONSUS WALWORTH, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND HYMN WRITER; CO-FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE (THE PAULIST FATHERS)

THE FEAST OF SAINT EMILY DE RODAT, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE HOLY FAMILY OF VILLEFRANCHE

THE FEAST OF WALTER CHALMERS SMITH, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM DALRYMPLE MACLAGAN, ARCHBISHOP OF YORK, AND HYMN WRITER

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Idolatry and Tribalism   1 comment

Above:  Saint John the Evangelist, by Peter Paul Rubens

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 1:14-25

Psalm 146

1 John 2:7-12; 3:1-3

John 1:6-13

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Genesis 1 divides the first six days of creation into two groups–the creation of generalities and domains (the first three days’ work) and the creation of the specifics or the inhabitants of those domains (the work of the fourth, fifth, and sixth days).  The seventh day is the time of the creation of the sabbath.  The sovereignty of God is a theme that pervades this great myth.

God also deserves much love.  As the other three readings tell us, that love (or absence thereof) is manifest in how we behave toward other human beings.  These other human beings also bear the image of God (Genesis 1:27).  I know I am getting ahead of the continuous readings in Genesis.  I am staying on topic, though.

Whoever says he is in the light, yet hates his brother, is still in the darkness.  Whoever loves his brother remains in the light, and there is nothing in him to cause a fall.  Whoever hates his brother is in darkness; he walks in darkness and does not know where he is going because darkness has blinded his eyes.

–1 John 2:9-11, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

That text explains itself.

According to a story that may be apocryphal, the elderly St. John the Evangelist was due to visit a congregation somewhere.  The members gathered in great anticipation on the appointed day.  They watched as men carried the infirmed apostle into the space and sat him down in front of the congregation.  Then St. John said, 

My children, love one another.

Immediately, he motioned for the men to carry him out.  One member of the congregation ran after St. John and asked, in so many words, 

That’s all you came here to say?

The apostle replied,

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

Loving one another can be very difficult.  Deciding to love one another can also prove challenging, albeit easier than effectively acting on the goal.  We need grace to succeed, of course.  Yet grace requires our desire to love one another.  Free will and grace are partners.

I write this post during a period of prolonged and intensified political polarization.  Even the definition of objective reality, as in X caused Y, and Z happened, is often contentious.  More so than in the past, many disagreements start at the point of assuming that those who differ from one are bad, if not evil.  The more generous judgment that that those who disagree are probably good yet misinformed and misguided is increasingly rare.

I notice this unfortunate pattern in topics that range far beyond science, religion, and politics.  I detect this regarding science fiction (one of my favorite topics), too. 

Do you enjoy that series?  Do you not enjoy that movie?  What kind of person are you?  You certainly aren’t a real fan.  I’m a real fan! 

Many criteria can define tribalism.

Whenever we erect idols, whether tangible or intangible, we set ourselves up for this.  We do this to ourselves and each other.  We can choose never to do this.  We can also choose to cease and desist from doing this.  We can opt to repent of our idolatry and tribalism.

May we do so.  May we love God.  May we love ourselves and each other.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 24, 2020 COMMON ERA

CHRISTMAS EVE

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/12/24/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-of-advent-year-d-humes/

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Liminality   1 comment

Above:  Sunrise

Image in the Public Domain

Photographer = Steve Hillebrand, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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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 1:1-13

Psalm 89

1 John 1:1-2:2

John 1:1-5

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Changing circumstances can alter how one reads texts one has read many times already.  The texts remain constant.  What one brings to them does not.

I write this post during a pandemic that is becoming worse for a number of reasons.  Irresponsible human behavior is the primary reason for the COVID-19 pandemic becoming more severe.  I write this post during a time of intensified global liminality.  Behaviors that were polite prior to the pandemic have become hazardous to one’s health and the health of others.  Hugging and singing can be lethal now.  The world is in a liminal state.

The Humes lectionary has us reading Genesis 1:1-2:3 alongside John 1:1-18, with both texts spread across three weeks.  This is wonderful scheduling on a lectionary, for the first (second one written) creation myth in Genesis is the model for John 1:1-18.  Likewise, adding 1 John to the mix deepens the parallels.  1 John 1:1-3 resembles the beginning of the Gospel of John.

I side with Jewish theology against Roman Catholic theology regarding the beginning of Genesis:  this is a mythical account of God creating order from chaos, not something from nothing.  The Jewish interpretation fits the text, as I have affirmed for years.  This year, in particular, that interpretation resonates with current events.  I wait for God to create order from chaos again.

The light still shines in the darkness.  The darkness continues to fail to overpower the light.  The darkness remains persistent, though.  Its repeated attempts wear me down emotionally and spiritually.  God is that light, so the darkness will never overpower the light, fortunately.

Psalm 89 is of two moods–grateful and distressed.  After reading commentaries, I do not know if the text is a pre-Babylonian Exilic prayer reworked during that Exile or if it is of Exilic origin.  Anyhow, the text, as we have it, feels like a prayer from a period of spiritual despair.

Waiting can be difficult.  I also know the discomfort of having to endure distress.  A prayer I have uttered many times is a variation on,

What is taking you so long, God?

Liminality is an uncomfortable status.  Alas, it is our status as a species, O reader.  May we trust God and behave responsibly, collectively and individually.  Only God can save the world.  We have the power, however, to help or charm ourselves and each other.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 23, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF KANTY, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF ANTONIO CALDARA, ROMAN CATHOLIC COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHARBEL, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MONK

THE FEAST OF JAMES PRINCE LEE, BISHOP OF MANCHESTER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN BLEW, ENGLISH PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/12/23/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-of-advent-year-d-humes/

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The Kingdom of This Earth, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  Cedars of Lebanon, 1898

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-11736

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For the First Sunday after Christmas, Year 2

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

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

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Almighty and Everlasting God, direct our actions according to thy good pleasure,

that in the Name of thy Beloved Son, we may abound in good works;

through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord,

who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 118

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Isaiah 11:1-5

Psalm 98

Hebrews 2:1-8

Matthew 2:11-21

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Understanding Isaiah 11:1-5 requires one to back up into Chapter 10.  The Neo-Assyrian Empire, described poetically as majestic cedars of Lebanon, will fall, we read.  God will cut that empire down to size, we read.  Yet real strength will emerge from the Davidic Dynasty.  The ideal Davidic monarch will govern justly, we read.

The Bible tells us much about divine justice.  Both Testaments are replete with this content.  Obviously, we–you, O reader, and I–do not live in the ideal Davidic kingdom or even the fully-realized Kingdom of God on Earth.  Yet our governments can become more just, by a combination of grace and active faith.

Tyrants still hold sway in many places.  God is still their judge.  God is still your judge, O reader.  God is still my judge.  And repentance remains crucial.  All of that is true.

So is what follows.  God, the Incarnation, can and does identify with we mere mortals.  Jesus is able to help us, for he know temptations, too.  And the Holy Spirit is our defense attorney (John 14:16, 26; 1 John 2:1).  Divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.  We may safely dismiss one of the great heresies, hellfire-and-damnation preaching.  We may not safely dismiss, however, the warning that God does have standards.  Grace is free, not cheap.

Merry Christmas, O reader!  This Christmas season, may the kingdom of this Earth come to resemble more closely the Kingdom of God, for the glory of God and for the common good.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 2, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF MAURA CLARKE AND HER COMPANIONS, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN EL SALVADOR, DECEMBER 2, 1980

THE FEAST OF CHANNING MOORE WILLIAMS, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY BISHOP IN CHINA AND JAPAN

THE FEAST OF GERALD THOMAS NOEL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER; HIS BROTHER, BAPTIST WRIOTHESLEY NOEL, ANGLICAN PRIEST, ENGLISH BAPTIST EVANGELIST, AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS NIECE, CAROLINE MARIA NOEL, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT HORMISDAS, BISHOP OF ROME; AND HIS SON, SAINT SILVERIUS, BISHOP OF ROME, AND MARTYR, 537

THE FEAST OF SAINT RAFAL CHYLINSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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Forgiveness, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  Christ in the House of Simon, by Dieric Bouts

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O Lord Jesus, who art the same yesterday, today, and forever:

strengthen our weak resolve, that we may remain faithful in all the changes of this life

and, at the last, enter the joy of thy kingdom.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 126

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Isaiah 55:1-13

1 John 2:1-17

Luke 7:36-50

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The readings from Isaiah 55 and 1 John 2 are consistent with St. Augustine of Hippo‘s definition of sin–disordered love.  To love something one should not love is a form of disordered love.  If, however, something is worthy of love, but one loves it too much, one manifests another form of disordered love, which takes love away from God, and, therefore, constitutes idolatry.

There was no question of the full love of the sinful woman in Luke 9:36-50.  She (not St. Mary Magdalene–named in Luke 8:2 in a positive light–despite centuries of erroneous tradition) loved Jesus so much she did not care how foolish she looked.  She loved him extravagantly.  She loved him so much she did not care about violating social conventions.  Her love for Jesus was not disordered.  Perhaps the main spiritual difference between her and Simon the Pharisee, the host of our Lord and Savior that day, was that she understood how much she needed forgiveness.  She was, therefore, grateful to receive it.

When one is experiencing spiritual darkness, the light of grace, always present, seems brighter than at other times.  The sense of God’s presence and grace can reduce one to tears as one feels one’s unworthiness powerfully.  I know this firsthand.  Perhaps you do, also, O reader.

My need for forgiveness is on my mind daily.  Sometimes I sin before I get out of bed.  On other occasions, I begin my daily sinning after getting out of bed.  I make no pretenses of being a spiritual giant or master, but I do try to refocus myself throughout each day.  The divine call to come to the water and drink beckons me.  Thanks be to God!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 24, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS À KEMPIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, PRIEST, AND SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN NEWTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WALTER RAUSCHENBUSCH, U.S. BAPTIST MINISTER AND THEOLOGIAN OF THE SOCIAL GOSPEL

THE FEAST OF SAINTS VINCENTIA GEROSA AND BARTHOLOMEA CAPITANIO, COFOUNDERS OF THE SISTERS OF CHARITY OF LOVERE

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Earthly Obligations   Leave a comment

Above:  Earth, December 22, 1968

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Sunday after the Ascension, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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

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

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

through Jesus Christ the Lord.  Amen.

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

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Daniel 7:9-14

1 John 2:28-3:3

Luke 21:29-36

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The readings for the Sunday after the Ascension, Year 2, have an apocalyptic tone. “One like a Son of Man”/”one like a human being”–probably the archangel Michael–descends in Daniel 7.  The Second Coming of Jesus is the backdrop of 1 John 2:28-3:3.  The tone of 2:29 is simultaneously inclusive and exclusive, to the discomfort of many religious adherents from a range of traditions.  A prediction of the Second Coming of Jesus, the Son of Man, fills the reading from Luke 21.

There are at least three possible responses to news of the parousia–indifference to the event, laziness regarding obligations, and increased vigilance.  The first response needs no explanation.  The second response is one in which one says,

God will fix problems, so why should I care about what happens on this planet?

This is a destructive attitude, and a sin.  The final attitude–increased vigilance in doing what one should do–is the correct one.

We are citizens of Heaven and residents of this planet.  We belong to communities, organizations, and societies.  We have a sacred duty to leave all of the above better than we found it, for we are stewards of the planet and its inhabitants of various species.  God will save the Earth, but we can–and must–respect, honor, and improve it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 29, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Our Father’s Business   2 comments

Above:  Christ Among the Doctors, by Albrecht Dürer

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O Lord God, who hast promised to hear the prayers of thy people when they call upon thee:

guide us, we pray, that we may know what things we ought to do,

and receive the power to do them; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 119

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Isaiah 61:1-3

1 John 1:1-2:2

Luke 2:41-52

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Third Isaiah speaks in Isaiah 61.  The Spirit of Yahweh is upon him, he tells us, to be

a herald of joy to the humble,

To bind up the wounded of heart,

To proclaim release to the captives,

Liberation to the imprisoned,

To proclaim a year of the Lord’s favor

And a day of vindication by our God;

To comfort all who mourn–

To provide for the mourners in Zion —

To give them a turban instead of ashes,

The festive ointment instead of morning,

A garment of splendor and majesty instead of a drooping spirit.

–Verses 1b-3b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

In Luke 4:16-30 Jesus quoted part of that passage in reference to his mission.  The backlash in his hometown was immediate.  Those closest to Jesus did not always understand him best (see Luke 2:41-52).

Good news in God is abundant.  God, in whom there is only light, loves us and has work for us to do.  God even equips us for that work.  Will we seek to discern what that work is then go about our father’s business?

Wanting to discern and discerning are different, of course; you probably know that well, O reader.  I can only write for myself, which is what I do here.  I know the frustration of denied vocations.  I know that the world needs X and that I excel at doing X, so I apply to do X yet never receive the opportunity to do X.  Am I failing to discern the work God has for me.  Perhaps.

Perhaps you, O reader, also know that frustration or are acquainted with someone who does or did.

May we human beings support each other in our vocations from God.  May we, by grace, recognize those vocations in each other and in ourselves.  And may we, helping each other, be about our father’s business, in all its varieties.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 11, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARNABAS, COWORKER OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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With God There Are Leftovers, Part II   1 comment

Above:   The Traditional Site of the Feeding of the Five Thousand

Image Source = Library of Congress

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

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O God, you are the author of peace and lover of concord,

in knowledge of whom stands our eternal life,

whose service is perfect freedom:

Defend us your humble servants in all assaults of our enemies, that we,

surely trusting in your defense, may not fear the power of any adversaries;

through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 155

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Zephaniah 3:8-13

Psalm 52

1 John 2:24-25, 28-29; 3:1-2

Mark 6:31-44

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Three of the four readings contain a balance of divine judgment and mercy.  Often judgment on the wicked constitutes mercy for their victims.  If one extends the readings from Zephaniah and 1 John (to Zephaniah 3:8-20 and 1 John 2:22-3:3), one gets a fuller understanding of those passages than if one omits certain verses.  The Book of Zephaniah is mostly about divine judgment.  After more than two chapters of doom mercy breaks through about halfway through Chapter 3, however.  Humility before God is indeed a virtue Zephaniah emphasizes; the haughty receive judgment.  With regard to 1 John 2 and 3, the reminder to dwell in Christ and rejoice in being children of God is always positive to hear or read again.

The power and grace of God, a theme in the other readings, is in full, extravagant force in Mark 6:30-44, one of the four canonical accounts of the Feeding of the Five Thousand.  Each account is slightly different yet mostly identical.  In Mark we read that Jesus fed “five thousand men.”  In Matthew 14, we read, Jesus fed “about five thousand men, besides women and children.”  In Luke 9 our Lord and Savior, we read, fed “about five thousand men.”  Finally we read in John 6 feeding about five thousand people.  Oral tradition tends to have a flexible spine; the core of a story remains constant, but minor details vary.  The variation in details in the Feeding of the Five Thousand does nothing to observe the core of the story.  The generosity of God is extravagant.  Furthermore, with God there are leftovers.

God chooses to work with our humble and inadequate resources then to multiply them.  Each of us might feel like the overwhelmed Apostles, who wondered legitimately what good five loaves and two fish would do.  The faithful response of humility before God acknowledges one’s own insufficiency and relies on God, however.  And why not?  With God there are leftovers.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILARY OF POITIERS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS, “ATHANASIUS OF THE WEST,” AND HYMN WRITER; MENTOR OF SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN KEIMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENTIGERN (MUNGO), ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF GLASGOW

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGUERITE BOURGEOYS, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

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Human Weaknesses and Divine Faithfulness   1 comment

Above:  Temptations of Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Almighty God, you see that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves:

Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls,

that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body,

and from all evil thoughts which may hurt the soul;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 95

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Ezekiel 33:7-16

Psalm 18

1 John 2:1-3, 15-17

Mark 1:9-12

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A witty saying tells us,

I can resist anything except temptation.

Temptations are indeed strong and alluring, therefore, for lack of a better word, tempting.  We, although created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), are “but dust” (Psalm 103:14).  We are accountable for our sins (not those of our ancestors; read Ezekiel 18), although the sins of ancestors might affect ancestors for generations (hence Exodus 34:7).  We are far from hopeless, fortunately, for we have Christ (who knows temptation) and the Holy Spirit interceding for us (John 14:16 and 26; John 15:26).

But how will we respond to the reality of our responsibility and of divine love?  Even if we strive to accept our responsibility and to welcome divine love, we might behave badly.  We might be like St. Paul the Apostle in Romans 7, knowing what we ought to do yet being incapable of doing it.  Or we might not know precisely what we ought to do.  Principles might be plain enough, but their practical applications might prove mysterious to us.  Another problem might be the category of sins of omission, which can be more difficult to recognize than sins of commission.

Fortunately, God is faithful; we can rely on that.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT:  THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

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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