Archive for the ‘1 John 4’ Category

To the Church in Ephesus   Leave a comment

Above:  Ruins at Ephesus, Between 1850 and 1880

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-108956

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READING REVELATION, PART II

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Revelation 2:1-7

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Cultural accommodation can be a challenging issue.  Being a faithful Christian does not entail serial, default contrariness.  The outside culture gets some matters right.

The culture at the time of the composition of Revelation was pagan and Hellenistic.  Most religions were polytheistic.  Conventional expressions of patriotism included emperor-worship.  The culture was hostile to young Christianity.  The Nicolaitans favored cultural accommodation.  The church at Ephesus loathed the Nicolaitans, at least.  They had that much right.

Nevertheless, I have this complaint to make:  you have less love now than you used to.

–Revelation 2:4, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Recall the First Epistle of John, O reader.  The text prized theological orthodoxy–especially Christological orthodoxy.  It also valued love.

Anyone who fails to love can never have known God,

because God is love.

–1 John 4:8, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

The church at Ephesus had an opportunity to correct its error–or else.

Perhaps you, O reader, can think of at least one congregation strong in theological orthodoxy yet weak in love.  You may have been part of this congregation, been a neighbor of it, or heard of it second-hand.  Divorcing orthodoxy and orthopraxy from each other is foolish.  The love of God in Christ is part of Christian orthopraxy.  Maybe you, O reader, have struggled with this matter individually.

As I think about the mission of the church, as I hear calls for “more evangelism” and a stronger application of the Gospel to the social issues of the day, I wonder if we can do either unless we can love first–love each other and love the world, for Christ’s sake.

–Ernest Lee Stoffel, The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), 27

To that I add more quote:

If I have the eloquence of men or of angels, but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing.  If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are, and knowing everything, and if I have faith in all its fulness, to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing at all.  If I give away all that I possess, piece by piece, and if I even let them take my body to burn it, but am without love, it will do me no good whatever.

–1 Corinthians 13:1-3, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Love takes work.  Love provides much satisfaction.  Love hurts.  Love laughs.  Love cries.  Love builds up.

This is much of the work of the Church.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 7, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILHELM WEXELS, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; HIS NIECE, MARIE WEXELSEN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN NOVELISGT AND HYMN WRITER; LUDWIG LINDEMAN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN ORGANIST AND MUSICOLOGIST; AND MAGNUS LANDSTAD, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, FOLKLORIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

THE FEAST OF BRADFORD TORREY, U.S. ORNITHOLOGIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CLAUS WESTERMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHANN GOTTFRIED WEBER, GERMAN MORAVIAN MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, AND MINISTER

THE FEAST OF JOHN WOOLMAN, QUAKER ABOLITIONIST

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Love and Faith   Leave a comment

READING THE GENERAL EPISTLES, PART XVI

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1 John 4:7-5:21

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My dear people,

let us love one another

since love comes from God

and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.

Anyone who fails to love can never have known God,

because God is love.

–1 John 4:7-8, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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When one reads 1 John 4:7-5:21 in textual, cultural, and historical context, the text speaks for itself in a clear voice.  Think, O reader, of a Johannine community, a branch of a small and marginal yet growing Jewish sect to which Gentiles also belonged.  Think, O reader, about a Johannine community troubled by false teachers who refuted the Incarnation, therefore the foundation of Christianity.  Think, O reader, of a Johannine community that schism has rent asunder.  Then the meaning and power of 1 John 4:7-5:21 ought to become obvious.

 

Regarding sin in First John, I refer you, O reader, to the first post about this epistle in this series.

 

I can speak and write only for myself.  I leave you, O reader, to speak and write for yourself.  I read 1 John 4:7-8, apply it to myself, and recognize how spiritually lacking I am.  Loving some people is easy.  Yet I really others to “get theirs”–and not for the sake of justice.  I fall short of the divine standard.  I persist in faith, however; I take that sin to God.  I am insufficiently in Christ.  I pray to grow deeper in Christ.

Moral perfectionism is an impossible and cruel standard.  It is cruel because it is impossible.  Yet one can–and must–strive to improve, to mature spiritually.  If I did not mature spiritually with experiences and the passage of time, I would be in a terrible predicament.

Thank you, O reader, for joining me, on the journey through First John.  I invite you to remain on the trail for my final stop–Second John and Third John.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 4, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF FRIARS MINOR

THE FEAST OF AGNETA CHANG, MARYKNOLL SISTER AND MARTYR IN KOREA, 1950

THE FEAST OF ERNEST WILLIAM OLSON, SWEDISH-AMERICAN LUTHERAN POET, EDITOR, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF H. H. ROWLEY, ENGLISH BAPTIST MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN CLARKE, ENGLISH BAPTIST MINISTER AND CHAMPION OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY IN NEW ENGLAND

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Posted October 4, 2021 by neatnik2009 in 1 John 4, 1 John 5

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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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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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Prophecy and Prophets   1 comment

Above:  Ezekiel, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

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READING EZEKIEL, PART VIII

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Ezekiel 12:21-14:11

Ezekiel 15:1-8

Ezekiel 20:45-22:31 (Anglican and Protestant)

Ezekiel 21:1-22:31 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

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In the ancient Near East, certain assumptions were ubiquitous.  Two of these were:

  1. the multiplicity of deities, and
  2. the defeat of B’s gods by A’s gods when A conquered B.

Yet YHWH remained unconquered when Judah fell.  As the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.) approached, come claimed that the prophecies of this event were for the distant future.  They were wrong (12:21-28).  Some (false) prophets of peace predicted peace and security for Judah (13:1-16).  They spoke for themselves, not for God.  Many people resorted to sorcery (13:17-23).  They were wrong.  Idolatry abounded, as usual (14:1-11).  Jerusalem was bound for destruction (15:1-8), regardless of what anyone said or desired in the final years before 586 B.C.E.  And God remained sovereign, regardless of what any human power did.  The Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire was the sword of the LORD, after all (20:45-21:17/21:1-22, depending on versification).  Both Judah and Ammon were destined for destruction, but a remnant of Judah would survive (21:23-22:31/21:18-22:31, depending on versification).

I will return to the prophecies of divine judgment against Ammon (already in Amos 1:13-15; Jeremiah 49:1-16; Ezekiel 21:33-37/21:28-32, depending on versification) when I cover Ezekiel 25:1-7.

I, as a Christian, affirm that “God is love,” as I read in 1 John 4:16.  Reading the entire verse is crucial, of course.  In the context of the indwelling of Jesus, we read:

Thus we have come to know and believe in the love which God has for us.

God is love; he who dwells in love is dwelling in God, and God in him.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

God is love, not a cosmic plush toy.  Grace is free, not cheap.

In Jewish terms, salvation comes by grace, just as it does in Christian terms.  In Jewish terms, salvation comes by birth into the Chosen People, the covenant people.  The covenant includes moral mandates.  Persistently and unrepentantly violating moral mandates causes people to drop out of the covenant.

God is love, not a cosmic plush toy.  Grace is free, not cheap.  And people read what they have sown.

JUNE 26, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ISABEL FLORENCE HAPGOOD, U.S. JOURNALIST, TRANSLATOR, AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREA GIACINTO LONGHIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF TREVISO

THE FEAST OF PHILIP DODDRIDGE, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THEODORE H. ROBSINSON, BRITISH BAPTIST ORIENTALIST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF VIRGIL MICHEL, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ACADEMIC, AND PIONEER OF LITURGICAL RENEWAL

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Grace and Enemies, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Bethany

Image in the Public Domain

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For Wednesday in Holy Week, 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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Assist us mercifully with thy help, O Lord God of our salvation;

that we may enter with joy upon the mediation of those mighty acts,

whereby thou hast given unto us life and immortality;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947),160

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Isaiah 62:11-63:7

Psalm 55:1-14

1 John 4:7-11

Matthew 26:1-16

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The attitude in Isaiah 62:11-63:7 and Psalm 55 (in its entirety, not just verses 1-14) differs sharply from that in the other two readings.  In Isaiah 62:11-63:7, the love of God for Israel entails divine destruction of enemies (especially the Moabites) of Israel.  And, in Psalm 55, the love of God for an individual involves the destruction of his foe or foes.  In Matthew 26:1-16, however, divine love for people entails Jesus dying for them.  (I affirm a generalized atonement, not Penal Substitutionary Atonement.)  That sacrificial death is a topic in 1 John 4:7-11.

Do we affirm and trust that God loves us and our enemies?  Do we believe that our foes are within the grasp of redemption?  Do we prefer that our enemies reform or repent, or face destruction.  The answers to those questions reveal much about us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 9, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PEPIN OF LANDEN, SAINT ITTA OF METZ, THEIR RELATIONS, SAINTS AMAND, AUSTREGISILUS, AND SULPICIUS II BOURGES, FAITHFUL CHRISTIANS ACROSS GENERATIONAL LINES

THE FEAST OF EMILY GREENE BALCH, U.S. QUAKER SOCIOLOGIST, ECONOMIST, AND PEACE ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF JULIA CHESTER EMERY, UPHOLDER OF MISSIONS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP II OF MOSCOW, METROPOLITAN OF MOSCOW AND ALL RUSSIA, AND MARTYR, 1569

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JONES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND MUSICIAN

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Respecting the Image of God in Others, Part III   1 comment

Above:  Detail from The Creation of Adam, by Michelangelo Buonarroti

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 1:26-2:3

Psalm 24

1 John 4:1-21

John 1:14-18

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Genesis 1:26f tells us that human beings bear the image of God.  This is not a physical description.  No, the meaning of of “image of God” is profound.

Dr. Richard Elliott Friedman, a Jewish scholar of the Bible, tells us:

Whatever it means, though, it implies that humans are understood here to share in the divine in a way that a lion or cow does not….The paradox, inherent in the divine-human relationship, is that only humans have some element of the divine, and only humans would, by their very nature, aspier to the divine, yet God regularly communicates with them means of commands.  Although made in the image of God, they remain subordinates.  In biblical terms, that would not bother a camel or a dove.  It would bother humans a great deal.

Commentary on the Torah, with a New English Translation and the Hebrew Text (2001), 12

The commandment to do love to each other, especially the vulnerable and the marginalized, has long been a controversial order.  That this has been and remains so speaks ill of people.

Dr. Robert D. Miller, II, a professor at The Catholic University of America, and a translator of The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011), adds more to a consideration to the image of God.  The Hebrew word of “image” is tselem.  It literally means “idol.”

When Genesis 1 says that humanity is the tselem of God, it’s saying if you want to relate to God, relate to your fellow man?

Understanding the Old Testament–Course Guidebook (Chantilly, VA:  The Great Courses, 2019), 9

Biblical authors from a wide span of time hit us over the head, so to speak, with this message.  If we do not understand it yet, we must be either dense or willfully ignorant.

John 1 offers us the flip side of Genesis 1:  The Second Person of the Trinity outwardly resembles us.  Moreover, as one adds other parts of the New Testament, one gets into how Jesus, tempted yet without sin, can identify with us and help us better because of experiences as Jesus of Nazareth, in the flesh.  The theology of the Incarnation, with Jesus being fully human and fully divine, is profound and mysterious.  I know the history of Christian theology well enough to understand that Trinitarian heresies originated with attempts to explain the Trinity rationally.  I prefer to relish the mystery of the Trinity.

We bear the intangible image of God.  Jesus bore the physical image of human beings.   We reach out for God, who reaches out to us.  These are thoughts worthy of every day of the year, but especially during Advent and Christmas.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 25, 2020 COMMON ERA

CHRISTMAS DAY

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/12/25/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-of-advent-year-d-humes/

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“Love Casts Out Fear….” IV   Leave a comment

Above:  King Hezekiah

Image in the Public Domain

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For Christmas Day, 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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O God, who hast made this most holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light;

grant, we beseech thee, that as we have known on earth the mysteries of that Light,

we may also come to the fullness of his joys in heaven;

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 9:2-7 (Anglican and Protestant)/Isaiah 9:1-6 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

Psalm 89:1-27 (Protestant and Anglican)/Psalm 89:2-38 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

1 John 4:7-21

Matthew 1:18-25

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On one level, at least, the prophecy in Isaiah 9:1-6/9:2-7 (depending on versification) refers to the birth of the future King Hezekiah of Judah (reigned 727/735-698/687 B.C.E.).  The Bible is generally favorably disposed toward King Hezekiah, of whom one can read further in the following passages:

  1. 2 Kings 16:20;
  2. 2 Kings 18-20;
  3. 2 Chronicles 28:27;
  4. 2 Chronicles 29-32;
  5. Isaiah 36-39;
  6. Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 48:17-22; and
  7. Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 49:4.

We read in Ezekiel 34 that Kings of Israel and Judah were, metaphorically, shepherds–mostly abysmal ones.  Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 49:4 lists Hezekiah as one of the three good kings, alongside David and Josiah.

The steadfast love of God is the theme that unites these four readings.  This faithfulness may be evident in the Davidic Dynasty, a particular monarch, Jesus of Nazareth, or an ordinary human being or community of such people.  Such divine fidelity requires a human faithful response.  Grace is free, not cheap.

The epistle reading holds my attention most of all.  I write you, O reader, to read it again.  The text is fairly self-explanatory.  There is no fear in love.  Anyone who professes to love God yet hates a human being lies about loving God.

These are hard words to hear or read.  I can write only for myself; I know the emotion of hatred.  Perhaps you do, too, O reader.  All of us are imperfect; God knows that.  We can, by grace overcome that hatred.  We all sin.  We all stumble.  But we can lead lives defined by love, by grace.

I can think of people who define their lives according to hatred and resentment.  These are individuals who leave chaos and destruction in their wake.  They are pitiable.  They need to repent.  And, according to our reading from 1 John, they do not love God.  May perfect love drive out their fear, for their sake and for ours.

And may perfect love drive out the remaining unreasonable, destructive fear in the lives of the rest of us.  I refer not to proper, cautious fear.  I write during the COVID-19 pandemic.  A certain level of fear is positive and responsible; it leads to behavior that protects everyone.  No, I refer to fear that leads to selfish, destructive decisions.  I refer to fear that defines certain people as expendable, subhuman, deserving of fewer civil rights and civil liberties than the rest of us, et cetera.  I refer to fear that works against the common good and drags everyone down.  I refer to fear to violates the image of God in anyone.  I refer to fear that violates the principle of mutuality, enshrined in the Law of Moses, the teachings of Hebrew prophets, and the ethics of Jesus of Nazareth.

Merry Christmas, O reader!  May the love of God in Christ fill your life and transform you daily more nearly into his likeness.  May you love like Jesus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 1, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHARLES DE FOUCAULD, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF ALBERT BARNES, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, ABOLITIONIONST, AND ALLEGED HERETIC

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIOC, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT TUDWAL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF DOUGLASS LETELL RIGHTS, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD TIMOTHY MICKEY, JR., U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP AND LITURGIST

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A Covenant People, Part V   Leave a comment

Above:  A Crucifix

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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For Wednesday in Holy Week, 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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Assist us mercifully with thy help, O Lord God of our salvation;

that we may enter with joy upon the mediation of those mighty acts,

whereby thou hast given unto us life and immortality;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947),160

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Isaiah 42:1-12

Psalm 56

1 John 4:7-11

Matthew 26:6-13

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I have written many times about the anointing of Jesus, the pericope from Matthew 26.  I choose not to repeat myself on that story in this post, O reader.  If you want to read my thoughts about that incident, click on the germane tag.

I heard the following story as a firsthand account from a priest who visited and preached at my parish, St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia.  The described events occurred during the Civil Rights Movement, when the priest (who was Caucasian) was a juvenile.  He told this story about his father, mother, and paternal grandfather.

The father had lost his job in Texas, where the family resided.  The household, which included the paternal grandfather, moved to metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia, where the mother had relatives.  The transplants from Texas started pondering which Episcopal congregation to join.  One Sunday, they visited a socially active church.  There was no coffee hour after the service that day so that people could participate in a civil rights demonstration.  The grandfather, who lived his faith, went to the protest.  The mother, father, and future priest went home.

Hours passed.  The expected time for protesters to return to the parish also passed.  Those Episcopalians, including the grandfather, were in jail.  The father, galled, drove to the jail with his son in tow to bail out the grandfather.  The ride home was tense until the grandfather, excited, exclaimed that the parish had a fine program for welcoming newcomers, and that the family would join that congregation.  The family did.

The reading from Isaiah 42 includes a mandate to a covenant people.  We who come from a culture with an individualistic focus need to pay attention to the communitarian aspect of the Bible than others may need to do.  A covenant people has a mandate to be a light to the nations, to open eyes deprived of light, to rescue prisoners from confinement, and to rescue those who sit in darkness from the dungeon.  A covenant people has a mandate to help effect positive social change.  A covenant people opposes injustice and threatens it as the Kingdom of God breaks forth into the world.  Only God can establish the Kingdom of God, but a covenant people must testify via words and deeds to the Kingdom, breaking through.  A covenant people must confront injustice and tell agents thereof that they are lacking, compared to God’s righteousness/justice.

A Christian covenant people must love like Jesus, who loved self-sacrificially.  The servants are not greater than their master, after all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 31, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA SKOBTSOVA, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX, MARTYR, 1945

THE FEAST OF ERNEST TRICE THOMPSON, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND RENEWER OF THE CHURCH

THE FEAST OF FRANZ JOSEPH HAYDN AND HIS BROTHER, MICHAEL HAYDN, COMPOSERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOAN OF TOULOUSE, CARMELITE NUN; AND SAINT SIMON STOCK, CARMELITE FRIAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN DONNE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND POET

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A Light to the Nations IV   Leave a comment

Above:  A Map of the World, 1726

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-62077

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

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Eternal God, who by the birth of your beloved Son Jesus Christ gave yourself to humankind,

Grant that, being born in our hearts, he may save us from all our sins,

and restore within us the image and likeness of our creator,

to whom be everlasting praise and glory, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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

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Isaiah 42:1-9

Psalm 2

1 John 4:9-16

John 1:1-14

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The most probable identity of the servant of God in Isaiah 42:1-9 is the people of Israel themselves.  They, the Chosen People, have the responsibility to be a light to the nations, or Gentiles.  This is a light the subjects of Psalm 2 oppose; the light of God is not a priority for them.  Another proposed identity for the servant in Isaiah 42 is the Messiah.  This fits well with John 1:1-14 and 1 John 4:9-16.  We can also discern from 1 John 4 that faithful Gentiles get to share with Jews and the Messiah in being a light to the nations.

The light we are supposed to share is one that places the spotlight on God, not on ourselves.  As the Westminster Catechisms state, man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.  Discipleship entails humility before God.  May we shed light on God humbly, unabashedly, and dutifully, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 29, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE BEHEADING OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST

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Posted August 29, 2017 by neatnik2009 in 1 John 4, Isaiah 42, John 1, Psalm 2

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