Archive for the ‘1 Peter 1’ Category

Grace and Obligations   1 comment

sarah

Above:  Sarah

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, your Son makes himself known to all his disciples in the breaking of bread.

Open the eyes of our faith, that we may see him in his redeeming work,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 18:1-14 (16th Day)

Proverbs 8:32-9:6 (17th Day)

Psalm 134 (Both Days)

1 Peter 1:23-25 (16th Day)

1 Peter 2:1-3 (17th Day)

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 18:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/devotion-for-the-eleventh-and-twelfth-days-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/30/proper-6-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/14/week-of-proper-7-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/proper-11-year-c/

Proverbs:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/devotion-for-june-9-10-and-11-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/proper-15-year-b/

1 Peter:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/12/week-of-8-epiphany-wednesday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/16/week-of-8-epiphany-thursday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-november-28-in-advent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-november-29-in-advent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/twenty-second-day-of-easter-fourth-sunday-of-easter-year-a/

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Behold now, bless the LORD, all you servants of the LORD,

you that stand by night in the house of the LORD.

Lift up your hands in the holy place and bless the LORD;

the LORD who made heaven and earth bless you out of Zion.

–Psalm 134, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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In my corner of Christianity, that is Anglicanism-Lutheranism, spiritual regeneration, the topic of 1 Peter 1:22-2:3, is bound up with baptism, especially the hearing of the language of the baptismal rite.  In other words, baptism is more about what God is doing than about what we are doing.  Yet, as I know well, other interpretations of spiritual regeneration exist in Christianity.  According to some of them, I am not regenerate, despite my baptism, confirmation and two reaffirmations of faith, each of the last three in the presence of a bishop in Apostolic Succession from Jesus.  Anyone who says I am not regenerate is mistaken on that point.

I like the God-centered theology of baptism, for we humans do not occupy the center of theology; God does.  So baptism says more about grace (therefore God) than about us, and divine promises are rock-solid ones.  This latter point holds true even under the most unlikely circumstances, such as the pregnancy of Sarah.  And grace requires much of us, for it is free yet not cheap.  We must, to quote assigned readings for these days,

Lay aside immaturity, and live,

and walk in the way of insight.

–Proverbs 9:6, The New Revised Standard Version:  Catholic Edition (1993)

and rid ourselves

of all spite, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and carping criticism.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

We must respond favorably to God in Christ, laying aside judgmental attitudes and embracing mercy.

I have not achieved all of these goals.  Fortunately, my power, which is woefully inadequate to do that, is not at issue anyway.  No, I have come as far as I have by grace.  My desire to move in a positive direction has been good, of course, yet I interpret its existence as evidence of grace.  I wonder how far grace will carry me next.  And I am curious about how far it will continue to carry others, especially those I know and will know.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2013 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BENSON POLLOCK, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PROXMIRE, UNITED STATES SENATOR

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/12/15/devotion-for-the-sixteenth-and-seventeenth-days-of-easter-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Divine Preference for the Poor, Part II   1 comment

8c34203v

Above:  Slums, Richwood, West Virginia, September 1942

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/fsa/item/fsa2000055118/pp/)

Reproduction Number = LC-USF34-084072-E

Photographer = John Collier (1913-1992)

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The Collect:

O God, your Son makes himself known to all his disciples in the breaking of bread.

Open the eyes of our faith, that we may see him in his redeeming work,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 25:1-5 (12th Day)

Isaiah 26:1-4 (13th Day)

Isaiah 25:6-9 (14th Day)

Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19 (All Days)

1 Peter 1:8b-12 (12th Day)

1 Peter 1:13-16 (13th Day)

Luke 14:12-14 (14th Day)

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Some Related Posts:

Isaiah 25-26:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/fourth-day-of-advent/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-8-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/fifth-day-of-advent/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-9-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/devotion-for-december-29-and-30-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-the-eighth-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/28/first-day-of-easter-easter-sunday-year-b-principal-service/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/proper-23-year-a/

1 Peter 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/week-of-8-epiphany-monday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/09/week-of-8-epiphany-tuesday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-november-27-in-advent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-november-28-in-advent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/week-of-proper-3-monday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/09/week-of-proper-3-tuesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/devotion-for-november-27-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/devotion-for-november-28-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Luke 14:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/devotion-for-the-thirty-fourth-and-thirty-fifth-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/16/week-of-proper-26-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/proper-17-year-c/

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How shall I repay you, O LORD,

for all the good things you have done for me?

I will lift up the cup of salvation

and call upon the name of the LORD.

I will fulfill my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all the chosen people.

–Psalm 116:12-14, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Then [Jesus] said to his host, “When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relations or rich neighbours, in case they invite you back and so repay you.  No; when you have a party, invite the poor, the cripples, the lame, the blind; then you will be blessed, for they have no means to repay you and you will be repaid when the upright rise again.

–Luke 14:12-14, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The Gospel of Luke offers many reversals of fortune.  The first will be last and the last will be first.  The meek will inherit the earth.  Those who mourn will receive comfort.  The hungry will eat well.  And woe to those who are comfortable, it says.  An old saying tells me that the purpose of the Gospel of Jesus is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.  This applies especially well to the Gospel of Luke.

The context of Luke 14:12-14 is a Sabbath meal at the home of a leading Pharisee.  Our Lord and Savior has already cured a man with dropsy, or swelling of the body due to excessive liquid (verses 1-6).  Although nobody uttered a critical word, we know that people present were thinking many of them.  Then, in verses 7-11, Jesus has taught regarding seeking social places of honor; be humble and let others exalt one, he has said.  Now, in verses 12-14, he goes beyond that:  do good things for those who can never repay.  That is what God has done for all of us.

Regardless of how highly we might think of ourselves and/or others, God is no respecter of persons.  And God, as we read in the Bible, has a preference for the poor.  This exists in some of today’s readings, especially Luke 14:12-14 and Isaiah 25:4-5, the latter of which reads:

Truly you have been a refuge to the poor,

a refuge to the needy in their distress,

shelter from the tempest, shade from heat.

For the blast of the ruthless is like an icy storm

or a scorching drought;

you subdue the roar of the foe,

and the song of the ruthless dies away.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

That is one thread running through the Isaiah lections.  Another is fear of death, a dread heightened by the fact the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead did not debut in the canon of Jewish scripture until the Book of Daniel.  In 1 Peter that doctrine is present, reinforced by another one–the resurrection of Jesus.  If the original audience of that epistle was blessed to live in an age in which salvation in God had become manifest in a new way, how much more fortunate are we who live nearly 2000 years later?

One common belief of earliest Christianity was the Jesus would return within the lifetime of many people in what we call (after the fact) the first century of the Common Era.  That did not come to pass, obviously.  One unfortunate consequence of that common belief was an acceptance of the social order as it was.  God, people said, would fix everything soon.  My spiritual heroes, however, include those who, compelled by the love of Christ, have confronted society (as Hebrew prophets did) and changed it frequently.  Thus I admire Abolitionists and modern Civil Rights activists, for example.  Their legacies tell me not to wait, but to speak up–to refuse to consent to injustice when I perceive it.  And much injustice is economic.  The ruthless still exploit the poor.  Too often a living wage is nothing more than a dream for many while corporate profit margins swell.  There is enough for everyone to have enough in God’s economy.  Artificial scarcity is a sin of human economics, however.

God is watching us.  When God judges the ruthless for exploiting the poor, do we want to be among the ruthless?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2013 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BENSON POLLOCK, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PROXMIRE, UNITED STATES SENATOR

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/12/15/devotion-for-the-twelfth-thirteenth-and-fourteenth-days-of-easter-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Loving Each Other Intensely from the Heart in God   1 comment

Above:  A Crucifix Outside a Church

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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, and inwardly digest them,

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 2:1-22

Psalm 50 (Morning)

Psalms 14 and 16 (Evening)

1 Peter 1:13-25

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Some Related Posts:

Isaiah 2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/first-day-of-advent-first-sunday-of-advent-year-a/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/second-day-of-advent/

1 Peter 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/09/week-of-8-epiphany-tuesday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/12/week-of-8-epiphany-wednesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/09/week-of-proper-3-tuesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/12/week-of-proper-3-wednesday-year-2/

Lord, Whose Love Through Humble Service:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/09/04/lord-whose-love-through-humble-service/

Fill Our Hearts with Joy and Grace:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/07/11/fill-our-hearts-with-joy-and-grace/

O Christ, Who Called the Twelve:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/o-christ-who-called-the-twelve/

A Prayer for Compassion:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/a-prayer-for-compassion/

A Prayer to Embrace Love, Empathy, and Compassion, and to Eschew Hatred, Invective, and Willful Ignorance:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/a-prayer-to-embrace-love-empathy-and-compassion-and-to-eschew-hatred-invective-and-willful-ignorance/

An Advent Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/an-advent-prayer-of-confession/

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O House of Jacob!

Come, let us walk

By the light of the LORD.

–Isaiah 2:5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Since by your obedience to the truth you have purified yourselves so that you can experience the genuine love of brothers, love each other intensely from the heart….

–1 Peter 1:22, The New Jerusalem Bible

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Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and make good your vows to the Most High.

–Psalm 50:14, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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This day’s readings speak of the imperative of positive human responses to divine actions.

God will end the Babylonian Exile; get ready.

That is the essence of Isaiah 2.  Gratitude is in order of course.  But gratitude consists of more than saying, “Thank you!” or sending a note or card.  It is really a matter of attitude, which informs how we live.  1 Peter 1:22, set in the context of Christ’s sacrifice for us, tells us, in the lovely words of The New Jerusalem Bible, to

love each other intensely from the heart.

I like to listen to radio podcasts.  Recently I listened to an interview with Karen Armstrong on the topic of the Golden Rule.  She said that many of us prefer to be proved right than to live compassionately.  This statement rings true with me.  How often have I wanted to win an argument more than to live as a merely decent human being?  Too many times!  One instance is one time too many.

May we–you, O reader, and I–look around.  Whomever we see, may we love those individuals intensely from the heart.  That is what Jesus did.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 1, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST FROM NICHOLAS FERRAR, ANGLICAN DEACON

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHARLES DE FOUCAULD, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDMUND CAMPION, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIGIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-november-28-in-advent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Living Faith Versus Insincere Rituals and Ossified Doctrine   1 comment

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

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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 eternal life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 1:1-28

Psalm 33 (Morning)

Psalms 85 and 91 (Evening)

1 Peter 1:1-12

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Some Related Posts:

Isaiah 1:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/twelfth-day-of-lent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/week-of-proper-10-monday-year-2/

1 Peter 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/week-of-8-epiphany-monday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/09/week-of-8-epiphany-tuesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/week-of-proper-3-monday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/09/week-of-proper-3-tuesday-year-2/

A Prayer for Proper Priorities:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/a-prayer-for-proper-priorities/

O Lord, You Gave Your Servant John:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/o-lord-you-gave-your-servant-john/

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Wash yourselves clean;

Put your evil things

Away from My sight.

Cease to do evil;

Learn to do good.

Devote yourselves to justice;

Aid the wronged.

Uphold the rights of the orphan;

Defend the cause of the widow.

–Isaiah 1:16-17a, TANAKH:   The Holy Scriptures

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For the word of the LORD is right,

and all his judgments are sure.

He loves righteousness and justice;

the loving-kindness of the LORD fills the whole earth.

–Psalm 33:4-5, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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This is a great joy to you, even though for a short time yet you must bear all sorts of trials; so that the worth of your faith, more valuable than gold, which is perishable even if it has been tested by fire, may be proved–to your praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.  You have not seen him, yet you love him, and still without seeing him you believe in him and so are already filled with a joy so glorious that it cannot be described; and you are sure of the goal of your faith, that is, the salvation of your souls.

–1 Peter 1:6-9, The New Jerusalem Bible

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Rituals can have great value and convey great meaning.  Yet a ritual without sincerity is like a special effect without a relevant plot point; it is meaningless and distracting.  And what constitutes sincerity in this setting?  Isaiah tells us that holiness is the essential element, and that the standard for holiness is objective:  love of one’s fellow human beings and pursuit of social justice.  After all, as we read in Genesis 1, each person bears the image of God.  Faith, when it is what it ought to be, in inherently active.  So Christian faith, rooted in following the example of Jesus, must entail reaching out to the marginalized, as our Lord did.

This devotion is for a fixed date (November 27), one which can fall in either Advent or the Season after Pentecost, depending on the day of the week on which December 25 falls. The readings work well on both sides of the seasonal boundary line.  An old name for the Season after Pentecost or the latter part thereof is Kingdomtide, with an emphasis on demonstrated righteousness.  And Advent, as a preparatory season for Christmas, contains a penitential element.

The take-away for today is this:  Are you, O reader, keeping rituals yet mocking God by not even trying to uphold human dignity?  If so, what will you do about that?  The Incarnation of Jesus affirms the dignity of human nature, does it not?  Faith ought to be about lived orthodoxy, not adherence to fossilized and ossified doctrine consisting mostly or entirely of words.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 1, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST FROM NICHOLAS FERRAR, ANGLICAN DEACON

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHARLES DE FOUCAULD, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDMUND CAMPION, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIGIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-november-27-in-advent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Defending “Doubting Thomas”   2 comments

Above:  Exterior Statue of St. Thomas the Apostle from St. Thomas Catholic Church, Hyde Park, Chicago, Illinois

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Acts 2:14a, 23-32 (New Revised Standard Version):

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them…

You that are Israelites, listen to what I say:  Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know–this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by hands of those outside the law.  But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.  For David says concerning him,

“I saw the Lord always before me,

for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken;

therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;

moreover my flesh will live in hope.

For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,

or let your Holy One experience corruption.

You have made known to me the ways of life;

you will make me full of gladness with your presence.”

Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.  Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne.  Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying,

“He was not abandoned to Hades,

nor did his flesh see corruption.”

This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.

Psalm 16 (New Revised Standard Version):

Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.

I say to the LORD,

You are my Lord;

I have no good apart from you.

As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble,

in whom is all my delight.

Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows;

their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out

or take their names upon my lips.

The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;

you hold my lot.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

I have a goodly heritage.

I bless the LORD who gives me counsel;

in the night also my heart instructs me.

I keep the LORD always before me;

because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices;

my body also rests secure.

For you do not give me up to Sheol,

or let your faithful one see the Pit.

You show me the path of life.

In your presence there is fullness of joy;

in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

1 Peter 1:3-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith– being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire– may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

John 20:19-31 (New Revised Standard Version):

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said,

Peace be with you.

After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again,

Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.

When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,

Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him,

We have seen the Lord.

But he said to them,

Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said,

Peace be with you.

Then he said to Thomas,

Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.

Thomas answered him,

My Lord and my God!

Jesus said to him,

Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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My father served as pastor of Cooks Union United Methodist Church, about eight miles outside Colquitt, Georgia, in Miller County, from June 1985 to June 1986.  One Sunday morning during that year, a laywoman whose name I forget delivered a children’s sermon about St. Thomas.  She held a small book about the Apostles.  You, O reader, might have seen this book or even own a copy.  It features color paintings of each of the main Apostles with a brief profile on the facing page.  The book is thin, with a two-tone hard cover.  The church member explained that Thomas had doubted the resurrection of Jesus and that he had later taken the Gospel to India, where he died for the Christian faith.  So, she said, Thomas was not all bad.

But Thomas not all bad, anyway.  The presumption behind her concluding statement was that the Apostle’s doubt constituted a great stain on his character.  This was a great misunderstanding.

Let us back up for a few moments, though.

St. Thomas was a twin, hence the Greek designation Didymus, which means “twin.”  The canonical Gospels contain few details about him, and he did not write the Gnostic, non-canonical Gospel of Thomas.  (I have read the Gospel of Thomas in three translations, and think that its non-canonical status is proper.)  St. Thomas traveled through Persia all the way to India, where he introduced Christianity to the subcontinent by the 50s C.E.  The modern-day Mar Thoma Church is the heir of this efforts.  In India the Apostle met his martyrdom by spearing at Madras; Mylapore is his burial site.  Today one can visit his tomb at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Thomas at Mylapore.

St. Thomas was a healthy skeptic.  The resurrection was hardly a frequent event, so doubting it was natural.  The Apostle was not the only follower of Jesus at the time to harbor doubts.  The canonical Gospels indicate that St. Peter was initially skeptical, too.  Yet I hear about Doubting Thomases, not Doubting Peters.  Anyway, St. Thomas, the healthy skeptic, believed the evidence when he saw it, and dedicated the rest of his life to telling people about Jesus.

I am sufficiently a product of the Enlightenment to accept the premise that doubt is a legitimate path to knowledge.  I ask questions when I harbor doubts, and I seek answers when I ask questions.  Thus I increase the probability of finding answers when I experience and embrace doubt.  Thomas admitted his doubt, received his answer, accepted it, and lived accordingly.

So, let us treat the label “Doubting Thomas” as a great compliment.

Finally, a personal note:  St. Thomas is my favorite Biblical figure.  He was an honest doubter and seeker, a good skeptic.  So am I.  If I were a Biblical character, I would be St. Thomas the Apostle.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 20, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ONESIMOS NESIB, TRANSLATOR AND LUTHERAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/eighth-day-of-easter-second-sunday-of-easter-year-a/

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Holiness   1 comment

Above:  The Good Samaritan, by Rembrandt van Rijn

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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1 Peter 1:10-16 (Revised English Bible):

This salvation was the subject of intense search by the prophets who prophesied about the grace of God awaiting you.  They tried to find out the time and the circumstances to which the spirit of Christ in them pointed, when it foretold the sufferings in Christ’s cause and the glories to follow.  It was disclosed to them that these matters were not for their benefit but for years.  Now they have been openly announced to you through preachers who brought you the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.  These are the things that angels long to glimpse.

Your minds must therefore be stripped for action and fully alert.  Fix your hopes on the grace which is to be yours when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Be obedient to God your Father, and do not let your characters be shaped any longer by the desires you cherished in your days of ignorance.  He who called you is holy; like him, be holy in all your conduct.  Does not scripture say, “You shall be holy, for I am holy”?

Psalm 98 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Sing to the LORD a new song,

for he has done marvelous things.

With his right hand and his holy arm

has he won for himself the victory.

The LORD has made known his victory;

his righteousness has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.

He remembers his mercy and faithfulness to the house of Israel,

and all the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

Shout with joy to the LORD, all you lands;

lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing.

Sing to the LORD with the harp,

with the harp and the voice of song.

With trumpets and the sound of the horn

shout with joy before the King, the LORD.

Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it,

the lands and those who dwell therein.

Let the rivers clap their hands,

and let the hills ring out with joy before the LORD,

when he comes to judge the earth.

10 In righteousness shall he judge the world

and the peoples with equity.

Mark 10:28-31 (Revised English Bible):

What about us?

said Peter.

We have left everything to follow you.

Jesus said,

Truly I tell you:  there is no one who has given up home, brothers or sisters, mother, father, or children, or land, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive in this age a hundred times as much–houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and land–and persecutions besides; and in the age to come eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

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The Collect:

Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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For I am the LORD your God; you are to make yourselves holy, because I am holy….I am the LORD who brought you up from Egypt to become your God.  You are to keep yourselves holy, because I am holy.

–Leviticus 11:44a, 45 (Revised English Bible)

We are imperfect beings; God knows this well.  No matter how ardently we strive to walk in the paths of righteousness, love, and metanoia, we will falter from time to time.  God knows this well.  What matters is that we, trusting in divine mercies, try, and, when we stray, return to the path.

As I typed the lesson from 1 Peter, the end of the reading stood out in my mind.

…be holy in all your conduct,

it reads.  Holiness, in this context, cannot refer to moral perfectionism, for we humans are incapable of moral perfection.  We can, however, strive to be better and more moral, with morality, in my point of view, begin the same as loving God fully, loving one’s self in that context, and loving one’s neighbor as one’s self.  And, by grace, we can succeed more often than we fail.

There is a similar passage in Matthew 5:48.  Instead of holiness, though, the exhortation is one to be perfect, or devoted to the wholehearted service of God.  Another shade of meaning related to “perfection” is being a suitable sacrifice to God.  This is possible by grace.  This is about love, not judgmentalism and pietistic nitpicking.

The Revised English Bible, however, cuts to the chase nicely.  Instead of using the traditional English rendering, to be perfect, for God is perfect, the text says,

There must be no limit to your goodness, as your heavenly Father’s goodness knows no bounds.

That is a noble ambition, is it not?  That makes one a suitable sacrifice, does it not?  That is wholehearted devotion and service to God, is it not?

Sometimes I have acted in ways I thought were holy, but that were actually judgmental.  I am far from alone in this regard.  I might even be thinking in ways I think are holy but that are really judgmental as I type these words.  This is possible.  If I am to be spiritually honest, I must admit that possibility.  You see, O reader, I have far to go in spiritual matters, and I am not alone in this reality.  So, loving and accepting ourselves and each other, may we flawed human beings strive to do better, to be better, and to love more effectively and actively.  May we support each other in our journeys along the pathways of divine love and forgive ourselves and each other for our faults.  God does.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 9, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EARL WARREN, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE UNITED STATES

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/09/week-of-8-epiphany-tuesday-year-2/

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Posted January 19, 2012 by neatnik2009 in 1 Peter 1, Leviticus 1-11, Mark 10, Matthew 5, Psalm 98

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