Archive for the ‘1 Peter 5’ Category

Spiritual Unity   1 comment

Above:  Church Row, Louvale, Georgia

Image Source = Google Earth

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Acts 1:(1-7) 8-14

Psalm 47 (LBW) or Psalm 133 (LW)

1 Peter 4:12-17; 5:6-11

John 17:1-11

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Almighty and eternal God,

your Son our Savior is with you in eternal glory. 

Give us faith to see that, true to his promise,

he is among us still, and will be with us to the end of time;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

OR

God, our creator and redeemer,

your Son Jesus prayed that his followers might be one. 

Make all Christians one with him as he is with you,

so that in peace and concord

we may carry to the world the message of your love;

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 23

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O King of glory, Lord of hosts,

uplifted in triumph above all heavens,

we pray, leave us not without consolation,

but send us the Spirit of truth,

whom you promised from the Father;

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 57

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My theme in this post is unity.

John 17:1-11 opens with the Johannine definition of eternal life (knowing God via Jesus) and concludes with another Johannine motif–spiritual indwelling.

Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are.

–John 17:11b, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

In the Gospel of John, Jesus dwells in the Father.  Christians dwell in Jesus, therefore, they dwell in the Father.

In John 17:11b, the prayer is that God will keep the disciples as a unity, not as units–that the unity of the faith community will mirror the unity of Jesus and the Father.

Spiritual unity and organic unity differ.  One can exist in the absence of the other one.  Denominations or congregations may cooperate harmoniously while bitter infighting divides a denomination or congregation.  Organic unity may not always be desirable or feasible, but ecumenical cooperation may be effective.

Psalm 133 opens:

Oh, how good and pleasant it is when brethren live together in unity.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

One subtext to this may be hopes for the reunion of the northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah.  If so, we have an example of another dashed hope.  One may also recall the argumentative house churches in Corinth, thanks to epistles from St. Paul the Apostle.

Spiritual unity is a noble goal.  Yet I know from experience that it is frequently elusive on the small scale.  Within my family, for example, I feel as if I exist on a parallel spiritual track, even to the other professing, practicing Christians to whom I am related.  I own a tee-shirt that reads,

HERETIC.

I wear it with pride and defiance.  I also belong to a congregation that suffered a schism in 2012, before I moved to town.  And, as I write these words, my childhood denomination, The United Methodist Church, is proving that “Untied Methodist Church” is far more than a typographical error.  This contemporary manifestation of Donatism grieves me.

Such is life.  The ideal of spiritual unity persists.  It beckons.  How many of us are paying attention?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 24, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C

GENOCIDE REMEMBRANCE

THE FEAST OF SAINT EGBERT OF LINDISFARNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK; AND SAINT ADALBERT OF EGMONT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT FIDELIS OF SIGMARINGEN, CAPUCHIN FRIAR AND MYSTIC, 1622

THE FEAST OF JAKOB BÖHME, GERMAN LUTHERAN MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF JOHANN WALTER, “FIRST CANTOR OF THE LUTHERAN CHURCH”

THE FEAST OF SAINT MELLITUS, BISHOP OF LONDON, AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

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Adapted from this post

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Eschatological Ethics X   Leave a comment

READING THE GENERAL EPISTLES, PART X

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1 Peter 4:7-5:14

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The author of First Peter, who wrote between 70 and 90 C.E., expected Christ’s Second Coming to occur soon.

I write in late 2021 of the Common Era.  History’s verdict on that expectation is plain.

The ethics of 1 Peter 4:7-5:14 stand the test of time, however.  So does the caution against apostasy.  Sadly, persecution has never ceased to be a reality for Christians somewhere, at any given moment.  The imagery of wrapping up in humility and serving each other (5:5) summarizes the best way to live in family and community.  Mutuality before God, upon whom all of us depend, is the superior strategy for creating and maintaining the common good and resisting evil.

Thank you, O reader, for being by my side during this journey through First Peter.  I invite you to remain with me as I move along to Jude and Second Peter.  (Jude is a source for Second Peter.)

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 28, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JEHU JONES, JR., AFRICAN-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD MCGLYNN, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, SOCIAL REFORMER, AND ALLEGED HERETIC

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS TURNER PALGRAVE, ANGLICAN POET, ART CRITIC, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH HOSKINS, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LORENZO RUIZ AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARIES AND MARTYRS IN JAPAN, 1637

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Posted September 28, 2021 by neatnik2009 in 1 Peter 4, 1 Peter 5

Tagged with ,

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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Good Shepherds, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Good Shepherd

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third 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 God, the Protector of all that trust in thee,

without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy:

increase and multiply upon us thy mercy;

that thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal,

that we finally lose not the things eternal;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 188

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Joshua 24:14-27

Psalm 19

1 Peter 5:1-11

Matthew 5:1-6

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Joshua 24 and Psalm 19 remind us of the power and jawdropping, stunning awesomeness of the one deity, YHWH.  (“Fear of God” is a poor translation; “awe of God” is a good one.)  Joshua’s warning about idolatry remains germane.  The false gods may differ, however.  Human ego seems to be an evergreen idol, nevertheless.

The Good Shepherd is YHWH in the Hebrew Bible and Jesus in the New Testament.  The divine Good Shepherd has human good shepherds working under him in both Testaments.  As 1 Peter 5:1-11, set in the context of suffering, reminds us, good shepherds shepherd out of devotion, not compulsion.  They serve because they love.  They serve, not dominate to the detriment of the flock.

Blessed are the meek/gentle, we read in Matthew 5:4.  They will inherit the earth in the Kingdom of Heaven, the fully-realized Kingdom of God on earth.  They certainly will not inherit the earth in the dominant world order, in which the Golden Rule is to do unto others before they do unto you, or he who has the gold, makes the rules.

Indeed, blessed are the meek.  Blessed are the gentle.  Blessed are those who shepherd their flocks self-sacrificially and for the good of their flocks.  Blessed are they who take up their crosses and follow Christ.  Blessed are they who love like Jesus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 14, 2020 COMMON ERA

TUESDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF EDWARD THOMAS DEMBY AND HENRY BEARD DELANY, EPISCOPAL SUFFRAGAN BISHOPS FOR COLORED WORK

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANTHONY, JOHN, AND EUSTATHIUS OF VILNIUS, MARTYRS IN LITHUANIA, 1347

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FREDERICK HANDEL, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT WANDREGISILUS OF NORMANDY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT LAMBERT OF LYONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZENAIDA OF TARSUS AND HER SISTER, SAINT PHILONELLA OF TARSUS; AND SAINT HERMIONE OF EPHESUS; UNMERCENARY PHYSICIANS

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Suffering, Part III   1 comment

Above:  Saint Peter, by Marco Zoppo

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Acts 5:17-42

Psalm 46

1 Peter 4:12:5:11

Matthew 24:1-14

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Suffering and persecution are prominent in the assigned readings.  The passage from Matthew 24, set during Holy Week, precedes the crucifixion of Jesus.  Sometimes suffering is a result of obeying God, yet, as we read in Psalm 46:7 (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989),

The LORD of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our refuge.

One might also think of lyrics Doris Plenn wrote in response to McCarthyism:

When tyrants tremble, sick with fear,

And hear their death-knell ringing,

When friends rejoice both far and near,

How can I keep from singing?

In prison cell and dungeon vile,

Our thoughts to them are winging;

When friends by shame are undefiled,

How can I keep from singing?

After all, God transformed a Roman cross, a symbol of humiliation and a means of execution, into the ultimate symbol of grace and victory over death and sin.

Here ends the lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 2, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BLANDINA AND HER COMPANIONS, THE MARTYRS OF LYONS, 177

THE FEAST OF ANDERS CHRISTENSEN ARREBO, “THE FATHER OF DANISH POETRY”

THE FEAST OF MARGARET ELIZABETH SANGSTER, HYMN WRITER, NOVELIST, AND DEVOTIONAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN OF SWEDEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY, BISHOP, AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/06/02/devotion-for-the-seventh-sunday-of-easter-year-a-humes/

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Humility Before People and God, Part I   1 comment

Belshazzar's Feast

Above:   Belshazzar’s Feast, by Mattia Preti

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Holy God, our righteous judge, daily your mercy

surprises us with everlasting forgiveness.

Strengthen our hope in you, and grant that all the

peoples  of the earth may find their glory in you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 2:1-10 (Monday)

Daniel 5:1-12 (Tuesday)

Daniel 5:13-31 (Wednesday)

Psalm 84:8-12 (All Days)

1 Peter 4:12-19 (Monday)

1 Peter 5:1-11 (Tuesday)

Matthew 21:28-32 (Wednesday)

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O LORD of hosts,

happy are they who put their trust in you!

–Psalm 84:12, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Do not be arrogant, the readings for these three days tell us.  Trust in God instead, we read.  Daniel 5 tells us of Belshazzar, viceroy under this father, King Nabonidus (reigned 556-539 B.C.E.) of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  God, the story tells us, found Belshazzar wanting.  Furthermore, we read, God delivered the empire to the Persians and the Medes, and the Babylonian Exile ended shortly thereafter.

Cease your proud boasting,

let no word of arrogance pass your lips,

for the LORD is a God who knows;

he governs what mortals do.

Strong men stand in mute dismay,

but those who faltered put on new strength.

Those who had plenty sell themselves for a crust,

and the hungry grow strong again.

The barren woman bears seven children,

and the mother of many sons is left to languish?

–1 Samuel 2:3-5, The Revised English Bible (1989)

That is a timeless lesson.  We read of Jesus telling certain professional religious people that penitent tax collectors and the prostitutes will precede them in the Kingdom of God.  Later in 1 Peter, we read of the imperative to clothe ourselves in humility, when dealing with each other and God.  As Proverbs 3:34-35 tells us,

Toward the scorners he [God] is scornful,

but to the humble he shows favor.

The wise will inherit honor,

but stubborn fools, disgrace.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Persecution might come, but one must remain faithful.  That is a recurring message in the Bible, from Jeremiah to the Books of the Maccabees to the Gospels to 1 Peter to Hebrews to the Revelation of John.  It can also be a difficult lesson on which to act, as many chapters in the history of Christianity attest.  Fortunately, God is merciful than generations of Donatists (regardless of their formal designations) have been.  That lack of mercy flows from, among  other sources, pride–the pride which says,

I persevered.  Why did you not do likewise?  I must be spiritually superior to you.

We all need to acknowledge, confess, and repent of our sins.  We all need to change our minds and turn around spiritually.  We all need to be humble before God and each other.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-25-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Proper Leadership   1 comment

Licensed Wreckers in the Hands of the Receivers

Above:  Licensed Wreckers–In the Hands of the Receivers, 1882

A familiar event:  a greedy few benefit from the collapse of a corporation, by order of a court.

Artist = Joseph Ferdinand Keppler (1838-1894)

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-28458

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The Collect:

Sovereign God, raise your throne in our hearts.

Created by you, let us live in your image;

created for you, let us act for your glory;

redeemed by you, let us give you what is yours,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

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The Assigned Readings:

Judges 17:1-6 (Thursday)

Deuteronomy 17:14-20 (Friday)

Psalm 96:1-9 [10-13] (Both Days)

3 John 9-12 (Thursday)

1 Peter 5:1-5 (Friday)

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The themes of being a good example and of leading intertwine in these days’ assigned readings.  Indeed, one may have fine moral character and be a bad or ineffective leader, but a good leader–a fine shepherd of the people–will possess proper moral qualities.  As an old Greek maxim tells us, character is destiny.

We read of two bad examples–people not to emulate.  Micah of Ephraim (Judges 17:1-6) practiced idolatry.  He went on in the succeeding verses to hire a Levite as his priest.

Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, because the Levite has become my priest.

–Judges 17:13, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Yet the idolatry remained and no ritual, regardless of its sanctity, functioned as a talisman against the consequences of sin.  And Diotrephes (3 John 9-12) used a local congregation as his power base and lied about others to protect his status.  He disobeyed the advice in 1 Peter 5:1-5, for he used his position to lord it over the congregation.

Proper leadership entails functioning as a good example.  To exercise the trust that is a leadership role as one should is to build up the people–to work for the common good–and not to line one’s proverbial pockets.  Official corruption is one of the major causes of poverty, as numerous examples (especially in oil-rich areas with rampant poverty yet a relative few very wealthy people) demonstrate.  Also, how one behaves speaks more loudly than what one says.  Political talk is cheap, but actions count.  I recall an editorial in a Roman Catholic magazine in the middle 1990s.  The author, who had no kind words for politicians, who used the rhetoric of “family values” to win elections then did little or nothing to help the poor, much less families, wrote,

GET OFF YOUR VALUES AND GET TO WORK.

The criticism remains valid in a host of circumstances.

The words of Psalm 96:13 (The Book of Common Prayer, 1979) can function as both encouragement and as bad news.

He [the LORD] will judge the world with righteousness

and the peoples with his truth.

It is good news for the oppressed and the downtrodden and terrifying news for the oppressors and those who trod upon people.  So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 31, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 17:  THE TWELFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT AIDAN OF LINDISFARNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/08/31/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-proper-24-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Good and Bad Priorities   2 comments

Pool of Hezekiah

Above:  Pool of Hezekiah, Jerusalem, Palestine, Between 1898 and 1946

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-08508

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The Collect:

Lord of the feast, you have prepared a table before all peoples

and poured out your life with abundance.

Call us again to your banquet.

Strengthen us by what is honorable, just, and pure,

and transform us into a people or righteousness and peace,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 22:1-8a (Thursday)

Isaiah 22:8b-14 (Friday)

Psalm 23 (Both Days)

1 Peter 5:1-5, 12-14 (Thursday)

James 4:4-10 (Friday)

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At first glance, from a certain point of view, the official actions in Isaiah 22 were reasonable.  Strengthening defenses and securing the water supply at a time of military threat were good ideas.  Yet, according to First Isaiah, they were insufficient:

You counted the houses of Jerusalem, and you broke down the houses to fortify the wall.  You made a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the old pool.  But you did not look to him who did it, or have regard for him who planned it long ago.

–Isaiah 22:10-11, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

And, as the New Testament readings remind us, we must behave toward God and each other humbly if we are to act properly.  This ethic is consistent with the Law of Moses, which teaches that people have responsibilities to and for each other, depend on each other, and rely completely on God.  Rugged individualism is a lie, despite its popularity in many political and cultural sectors.

Among the recurring condemnations of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah in the Old Testament are:

  1. Idolatry,
  2. Overconfidence in human plans and actions,
  3. Failure to trust God,
  4. Official corruption, and
  5. Economic exploitation of the poor.

Those are timeless condemnations.   The identities of idols change, but idolatry seems to be a human pattern of thinking and acting.  We become enamored of ourselves and pay God too little attention.  Greed for wealth and power lead to corruption, one of the main causes of poverty and related social problems.  And many people either rig the system to create or perpetuate poverty or defend that system, criticizing critics as “Socialists” or other words meant to frighten and distract the oppressed from the real problem.  Yet there is no scarcity in the Kingdom of God, which indicts flawed systems of human origin.

Psalm 23 offers a vision of divine abundance and security.  Enemies are nearby, but safety and plenty are one’s reality:

Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

–Verse 6, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

More people would enjoy a reality closer to that in this life if more individuals had properly ordered priorities.  We human beings cannot save this world; only God can do that.  Yet we can leave the world a better place than we found it.  We have a responsibility to do that much.  And grace is available to empower us to fulfill our duties.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 29, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE BEHEADING OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST

THE FEAST OF JOHN BUNYAN, PROTESTANT SPIRITUAL WRITER

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Adapted from This Post:

Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Proper 23, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)

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Good Shepherds, Part I   1 comment

pope_francis_in_march_2013

Above:  His Holiness, Francis, Bishop of Rome

Image Source = casarosada.gob.ar via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pope_Francis_in_March_2013.jpg

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The Collect:

O God our shepherd, you know your sheep by name

and lead us to safety through the valleys of death.

Guide us by your voice, that we may walk in certainty and security

to the joyous feast prepared in your house,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

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:

Ezekiel 34:17-23 (23rd Day)

Ezekiel 34:23-31 (24th Day)

Jeremiah 23:1-8 (25th Day)

Psalm 100 (All Days)

1 Peter 5:1-5 (23rd Day)

Hebrews 13:20-21 (24th Day)

Matthew 20:17-28 (25th Day)

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Some Related Posts:

Ezekiel 34:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/15/devotion-for-january-11-and-12-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Jeremiah 23:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/advent-devotion-for-december-18/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/proper-11-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/devotion-for-november-10-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/proper-29-year-c/

1 Peter 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-3-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Hebrews 13:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/week-of-4-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/03/devotion-for-the-seventh-day-of-easter-saturday-in-easter-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Matthew 20:

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

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Know this:  The LORD alone is God;

we belong to the LORD, who made us,

we are God’s people and the sheep of God’s pasture.

–Psalm 100:2, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Sometimes the timing of the writing of these devotions astounds me.  I refer not to the fact that I drafted this post on December 9, 2013, or the reality that I am typing it on December 16, 2013.  No, that is typical of my pattern of writing ahead of schedule.  No, I mean the juxtaposition of current events in December 2013 to the content of the assigned readings.  Pope Francis has condemned unbridled capitalism (note the adjective “unbridled”) and supply-side (“trickle-down”) economics as immoral, triggering an avalanche of criticisms of him and his remarks.  Talk radio and Fox News Channel personalities are beside themselves.  The Holy Father is a Marxist, Rush Limbaugh says.  (Francis is not a Marxist.)  He has condemned an entire economic system, some say.  (The Holy Father has condemned what George H. W. Bush called “Voodoo economics” in 1980 and a culture of greed.)  But why let objective reality get in the way of a tantrum?  Pope Francis is standing in the tradition of the Hebrew prophets and Jesus, a good thing for a Pontiff to do.  All of this, in combination with the lections, reminds me of the thoughts of the late Bishop Bennett J. Sims (died in 2006) on leadership.  He favored servant leadership, that which builds up others and does not seek to control them.  This was his idea of business ethics and good government.

God will replace the predatory shepherds of Ezekiel 34:1-16 with good shepherds, the rest of that chapter says.  The sheep will benefit from the change.  1 Peter 5:1-5 encourages humility as a guide in dealing with others.  And we who follow Jesus are the sheep of his flock.  He is the Good Shepherd of a famous parable.  In his kingdom the servants are the greatest, the meek will inherit the earth, the grieving will receive comfort, the hungry will have their fill, and the poor will inherit the kingdom.  There is no artificial scarcity in God’s economics; no, there is enough for everyone to fill every need.

The facts that our world is not that reality and that the Pope’s words have sparked such an outcry indicate deeply ingrained sinfulness–spiritual blindness–especially of the type which seems leftover from reactionary Cold War politics.  Yet the prophetic words of God and of God’s servants regarding economics and human dignity stand as condemnations of those who disagree with them.  So be it.  That might open the door for repentance and conversion, the preferable subsequent course of action.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ADELAIDE, HOLY ROMAN EMPRESS

THE FEAST OF MARIANNE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/12/16/devotion-for-the-twenty-third-twenty-fourth-and-twenty-fifth-days-of-easter-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Web of Humanity   1 comment

Above:  Credit Mobilier Scandal Editorial Cartoon from 1873

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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 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 9:7/8-10:11 (depending on versification)

Psalm 122 (Morning)

Psalms 40 and 67 (Evening)

1 Peter 5:1-14

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Some Related Posts:

Isaiah 9-10:

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

1 Peter 5:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/forty-third-day-of-easter-seventh-sunday-of-easter-year-a/

Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/06/26/where-cross-the-crowded-ways-of-life/

Jerusalem:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/01/jerusalem-by-william-blake/

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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Ha!

Those who write out evil writs

And compose iniquitous documents,

To subvert the cause of the poor,

To rob of their rights the needy of My people;

That widows may be their spoil,

And fatherless children their booty!

What will you do on the day of punishment,

when the calamity comes from afar?

To whom will you flee for help,

And how will you save your carcasses

From collapsing under [fellow] prisoners,

From falling beneath the slain?

Yet His anger has not turned back,

And his arm is outstretched still.

–Isaiah 10:1-4, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Humility towards one another must be the garment you all wear constantly, because God opposes the proud but accords his favour to the humble.  Bow down, then, before the power of God now, so that he may raise you up in due time; unload all your burdens on him, since he is concerned about you.

–1 Peter 5:5b-7, The New Jerusalem Bible

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The reading from Isaiah spells out doom for Israel (the northern kingdom), Judah (the southern kingdom), and the Assyrian Empire.  Embedded among that gloomy news is yet another condemnation of economic injustice.  If I seem to beat this drum often in my devotional posts, I do; so do the texts from which I write many devotions.  The repetition of this theme ought to tell us to pay attention, correct our ways, and reform our legal, economic, and political systems accordingly.

Each of us bears the image of God.  This, I am convinced, constitutes the best basis of equality and mutual respect and humility.  God cares for all of us, so we ought to care for each other, not to use each other for selfish goals.  As the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., reminded us,

…injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.

What happens to my brother or sister affects me, for my brother or sister and I, although physically distinct, are not as separate as we might seem.  We are all connected to others, so what affects one person has consequences for others.

May we, by grace, make them positive effects.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 3, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN OWEN SMITH, UNITED METHODIST BISHOP IN GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN ASIA

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-3-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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