Archive for the ‘1 John 3’ Category

Living as Children of God   Leave a comment

READING THE GENERAL EPISTLES, PART XV

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1 John 3:1-4:6

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My children,

our love is not to be just words or mere talk,

but something real and active;

only by this can we be certain 

that we are children of the truth

and be able to quieten our conscience in his presence,

whatever accusations it may raise against us,

because God is greater than our conscience and he knows everything.

–1 John 3:18-20, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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I refer you, O reader, to the previous post in this series for an explanation of 3:3-9.

 

Until about two years ago, I read 1 John 3:18-20, quietly acknowledged the the truth of those verses, and moved along.

Now I read them and stop in my tracks.

Bonny, my beloved, died on October 14, 2019.  Her manner of death was violent and preventable.  I tried to prevent it.  I prolonged Bonny’s life for years.  Finally, I could prolong it no more.

My conscience has accused me since October 14, 2019.  Another voice in my head has countered my survivor’s guilt.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth.  I affirm the orthodox theology of the Holy Trinity, as it emerged during a few centuries of debate and ecumenical councils, as being as close to the objective reality of God as one can get.  Nevertheless, I suspect that the full nature of God exceeds human comprehension.  The orthodox theology of the Holy Trinity is poetry, not prose, so to speak.  The Holy Spirit–whatever the actual nature of it is–is the Spirit of truth.  The Spirit of truth tells me to stop blaming myself for Bonny’s death and for still having a pulse.  Part of me listens to that counsel.

 

The context of 1 John 4:1-6 is the schism in the germane Johannine community.  The Antichrists and false prophets “John” had in mind were Gnostics, who denied the Incarnation–and the rest of the life of Jesus of Nazareth.  They deserved the criticism they received.

Gnosticism persists.  Heresies tend not to die.  No, they mutate, like viruses.  Some fade.  Others become more prominent and popular.  1 John 4:1-6 contains to speak to the present day, sadly.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 3, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 22:  THE NINETEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF GEORGE KENNEDY ALLEN BELL, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CHICHESTER

THE FEAST OF ALBERTO RAMENTO, PRIME BISHOP OF THE PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENT CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT GERARD OF BROGNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF JOHN RALEIGH MOTT, U.S. METHODIST LAY EVANGELIST, AND ECUMENICAL PIONEER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM SCARLETT, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF MISSOURI, AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

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Posted October 3, 2021 by neatnik2009 in 1 John 3, 1 John 4

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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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Two Banquets, 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 Second Sunday after Trinity, Year 1

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

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

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O Lord, who never failest to help and govern those

whom thou dost bring up in thy steadfast fear and love;

make us to have a perpetual fear and love of thy holy Name;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 186

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Proverbs 9:1-11

Psalms 11 and 12

1 John 3:13-18

Luke 7:36-50

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To correct a scoffer,

or rebuke a wicked man for his blemish,

Is to call down abuse on oneself.

Do not rebuke a scoffer, for he will hate you;

Reprove a wise man, and he will love you.

–Proverbs 9:7-8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Jesus disregarded that advice, did he not?

Anyway, Lady Wisdom (contrasted with Lady Folly in Proverbs 9) was a fine hostess.  Simon the Pharisee was a bad host in Luke 7.  The woman in in Luke, 7, like the Psalmist(s) in Psalms 11 and 12, knew to whom to turn.  She was so grateful that she did not care what other people thought of her.  She knew and accepted her need for God.  She knew and accepted her need for forgiveness.  Therein resided her liberation from her former life.

Give up simpleness and live,

Walk in the say of understanding.

–Proverbs 9:6, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Love must be active if it is to be genuine.  This is a teaching from 1 John 3, among other sources.  In the context of 1 John 3, this is love in faith community.  This is a lesson Simon the Pharisee had yet to learn.

This is a lesson of which most of us need reminders.  Some of us require more reminders than others.  All of us fall short of the high standards Jesus has modeled for us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 13, 2020 COMMON ERA

MONDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BARBER LIGHTFOOT, BISHOP OF DURHAM

THE FEAST OF HENRI PERRIN, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC WORKER PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JOHN GLOUCESTER, FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARTIN I, BISHOP OF ROME, AND MARTYR, 655; AND SAINT MAXIMUS THE CONFESSOR, EASTERN ORTHODOX MONK, ABBOT, AND MARTYR, 662

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROLANDO RIVI, ROMAN CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR, 1945

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Living in Love   2 comments

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

Image Source = Library of Congress

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For the Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Prepare our hearts, O Lord, to accept thy Word.

Silence us in any voice but thine own, that hearing, we may also obey thy will;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 121

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Isaiah 51:4-6

1 John 3:7-14

John 6:1-14

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Indeed, it is better to keep quiet and be, than to make fluent professions and not be.  No doubt it is a fine thing to instruct others, but only if the speaker practices what he preaches.

–Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians 15, translated by Maxwell Staniforth and Andrew Louth

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1 John 3 features prominently the exhortation to live uprightly, in a manner defined by love for God and one’s fellow human beings.  That should be noncontroversial, right?  Not surprisingly, obeying the Golden Rule is frequently politically unpopular, socially unacceptable, and sometimes even illegal.

Do not be surprised, brothers, if the world hates you.

–1 John 3:13, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

So, then, why not lose hope?  Why not conform to the politics of hatred–racism, xenophobia, nativism, and all other phobias directed at human beings?  Why walk in love if it may lead to trouble?

Why not walk in love?  If one is to suffer, why not suffer for the sake of righteousness?  God, with whom there are leftovers, even when, according to human standards, that should be impossible, is with us when we are faithful.

May we practice living in love for God and our fellow human beings.  May we preach it, too.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 12, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSAPHAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF POLOTSK, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCES XAVIER CABRINI, FOUNDRESS OF THE MISSIONARY SISTERS OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF RAY PALMER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ARTHUR DUNKERLEY, BRITISH NOVELIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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The Communion of Saints, Part III   1 comment

Above:  All Saints

Image in the Public Domain

THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS (NOVEMBER 1)

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Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in the mystical body of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord:

Give us grace to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living,

that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit

lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2006), 663; also Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 59

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Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18

Psalm 34:1-10, 22

1 John 3:1-3

Matthew 5:1-12

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The Episcopal Church has seven Principal Feasts:  Easter Day, Ascension Day, the Day of Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, All Saints’ Day, Christmas Day, and the Epiphany.

The Feast of All Saints, with the date of November 1, seems to have originated in Ireland in the 700s, then spread to England, then to Europe proper.  November 1 became the date of the feast throughout Western Europe in 835.  There had been a competing date (May 13) in Rome starting in 609 or 610.  Anglican tradition retained the date of November 1, starting with The Book of Common Prayer (1549).  Many North American Lutherans first observed All Saints’ Day with the Common Service Book (1917).  The feast was already present in The Lutheran Hymnary (Norwegian-American, 1913).  The Lutheran Hymnal (Missouri Synod, et al, 1941) also included the feast.  O the less formal front, prayers for All Saints’ Day were present in the U.S. Presbyterian Book of Common Worship (Revised) (1932), the U.S. Methodist Book of Worship for Church and Home (1945), and their successors.

The Feast of All Saints reminds us that we, as Christians, belong to a large family stretching back to the time of Christ.  If one follows the Lutheran custom of commemorating certain key figures from the Hebrew Bible, the family faith lineage predates the conception of Jesus of Nazareth.

At Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, Georgia, where I was a member from 1993 to 1996, I participated in a lectionary discussion group during the Sunday School hour.  Icons decorated the walls of the room in which we met.  The teacher of the class called the saints depicted “the family.”

“The family” surrounds us.  It is so numerous that it is “a great cloud of witnesses,” to quote Hebrews 12:1.  May we who follow Jesus do so consistently, by grace, and eventually join that great cloud.

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Gendered language does not bother me.  Gender is, after all, a reality of human life.  Besides, neutering language frequently blurs the divide between the singular and the plural, hence my objections to the singular “they,” “them,” “their” and “themselves.”  One can–and should–be inclusive linguistically in such a way as to respect the difference between the singular and the plural.  I do understand the issue of clarity, however.  I know that how members of one generation, in a particular cultural context, perceive a gendered term, such as “sons,” differs greatly from how others elsewhere, at another time, do.  Certain modern English translations of the Bible, in an admirable attempt to be inclusive, obscure subleties of gendered terms sometimes.  However, translating a text literally does not make those subtleties clear, either.  Commentaries are necessary for that.

Consider, for example, Romans 8:14-17, O reader.  In that passage the Greek for “sons of God” often comes across in modern English as “children of God.”  Likewise, we read “children” when the Greek word means “sons.”  The cultural context, in which sons, but not daughters, inherited, is vital to understanding that portion of scripture, in which Christians, whether they are biologically sons or daughters, inherit, via Jesus.  Thus “sons of God” includes daughters.  None of that is superficially evident, however.

In contrast, “children,” as in “children of God, as opposed to “children of Satan,” in 1 John 3:1 and 3:10 is a literal translation from the Greek; the Greek word is not gender-specific.  That fact is not superficially evident, however, given the recent tendency to gloss over gendered language.  A commentary is necessary to understand that aspect of 1 John 3:1 and 3:10.

Our societies condition us in ways that frequently do not apply to the cultural contexts that informed ancient texts.

In 1929 Lesbia Scott wrote:

They lived not only in ages past,

There are hundreds of thousands still,

The world is bright with the joyous saints

Who love to do Jesus’ will.

You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea,

In church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea,

For the saints of God are just folk like me,

And I mean to be one too.

The apocalyptic hope present in Daniel 7, the community focus of Psalm 34, and the counter-cultural values of the Beatitudes should encourage us to persist is fidelity to God, to do so in faith community, and without resorting to serial contrariness, to lead lives that reject those cultural values contrary to the message of the Beatitudes.  We must do this for the glory of God and the benefit of people near, far away, and not yet born.  And, when our earthly pilgrimage ends, others will take up the cause we join what Hebrews 12:1 calls

a great cloud of witnesses.

Members of that great cloud of witnesses are sons and daughters of God–inheritors of the promise, by the grace of God.  Certain cultures restrict inheritance rights according to gender, but God does not.  Each of us, by grace and faith, can be among the sons of God and the children of the light.

And I mean to be one, too.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUTTA OF DISIBODENBERG, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; AND HER STUDENT, SAINT HILDEGARD OF BINGEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS AND COMPOSER

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZYGMUNT SZCESNY FELINSKI, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF WARSAW, TITULAR BISHOP OF TARSUS, AND FOUNDER OF RECOVERY FOR THE POOR AND THE CONGREGATION OF THE FRANCISCAN SISTERS OF THE FAMILY OF MARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZYGMUNT SAJNA, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1940

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/09/17/devotion-for-the-feast-of-all-saints-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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The Communion of Saints, Part II   1 comment

Above:  All Saints

Image in the Public Domain

THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS (NOVEMBER 1)

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The Episcopal Church has seven Principal Feasts:  Easter Day, Ascension Day, the Day of Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, All Saints’ Day, Christmas Day, and the Epiphany.

The Feast of All Saints, with the date of November 1, seems to have originated in Ireland in the 700s, then spread to England, then to Europe proper.  November 1 became the date of the feast throughout Western Europe in 835.  There had been a competing date (May 13) in Rome starting in 609 or 610.  Anglican tradition retained the date of November 1, starting with The Book of Common Prayer (1549).  Many North American Lutherans first observed All Saints’ Day with the Common Service Book (1917).  The feast was already present in The Lutheran Hymnary (Norwegian-American, 1913).  The Lutheran Hymnal (Missouri Synod, et al, 1941) also included the feast.  O the less formal front, prayers for All Saints’ Day were present in the U.S. Presbyterian Book of Common Worship (Revised) (1932), the U.S. Methodist Book of Worship for Church and Home (1945), and their successors.

The Feast of All Saints reminds us that we, as Christians, belong to a large family stretching back to the time of Christ.  If one follows the Lutheran custom of commemorating certain key figures from the Hebrew Bible, the family faith lineage predates the conception of Jesus of Nazareth.

At Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, Georgia, where I was a member from 1993 to 1996, I participated in a lectionary discussion group during the Sunday School hour.  Icons decorated the walls of the room in which we met.  The teacher of the class called the saints depicted “the family.”

“The family” surrounds us.  It is so numerous that it is “a great cloud of witnesses,” to quote Hebrews 12:1.  May we who follow Jesus do so consistently, by grace, and eventually join that great cloud.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PETER OF CHELCIC, BOHEMIAN HUSSITE REFORMER; AND GREGORY THE PATRIARCH, FOUNDER OF THE MORAVIAN CHURCH

THE FEAST OF GODFREY THRING, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JANE CREWDSON, ENGLISH QUAKER POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF NARAYAN SESHADRI OF JALNI, INDIAN PRESBYTERIAN EVANGELIST AND “APOSTLE TO THE MANGS”

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Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in the mystical body of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord:

Give us grace to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living,

that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit

lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Year A:

Revelation 7:9-17

1 John 3:1-3

Psalm 34:1-10, 22

Matthew 5:1-12

Year B:

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9 or Isaiah 25:6-9

Psalm 24

Revelation 21:1-6a

John 11:32-44

Year B:

Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18

Psalm 149

Ephesians 1:11-23

Luke 6:20-31

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2006), 663; also Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 59

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Revelation 7:(2-8), 9-17

1 John 3:1-3

Matthew 5:1-12

Lutheran Service Book (2006), xxiii

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Adapted from this post:

https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/09/13/devotion-for-the-feast-of-all-saints-november-1/

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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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Compassion, Not Checklists   1 comment

Above:   A Checklist

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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Isaiah 57:14-19

Psalm 106:47-48

1 John 3:11-14a; 4:1-6

Luke 1:1-4

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The assigned readings for this Sunday, taken together, speak of the importance of knowing God.  Those who love God keep divine commandments, or at least attempt to do so.  One can succeed by grace, fortunately.  The faithful who receive the crown of martyrdom are still more fortunate than those who trust in idols.

Discerning divine commandments does seem difficult sometimes.  As I read 1 John 3:14b-24, I find some guidance regarding that topic:

  1. Do not hate.
  2. Love each other so much as to be willing to die for each other.
  3. Help each other in financial and material ways.
  4. Do not mistake lip service for sincerity.

Those instructions are concrete, not abstract.  And, by acting accordingly, we demonstrate the presence of the Holy Spirit within ourselves.

I notice the emphasis on compassion, not checklists.  Legalism is a powerful temptation.  Indeed, many who fall into that trap do so out of the sincere desire to honor God.  Yet they wind up fixating on minor details and forgetting compassion frequently instead of remembering the big picture:  compassion, such as that of the variety that Jesus modeled all the way to the cross.

Living compassionately is far more rigorous a standard than is keeping a moral checklist.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 30, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF JAMES MONTGOMERY, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN ROSS MACDUFF AND GEORGE MATHESON, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTERS AND AUTHORS

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2017/04/30/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-after-christmas-ackerman/

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Posted April 30, 2017 by neatnik2009 in 1 John 3, 1 John 4, Isaiah 57, Luke 1, Psalm 106

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