Archive for the ‘1 Thessalonians 5’ Category

Rejecting Grace, Part II   1 comment

Above:  The Parable of the Talents

Image in the Public Domain

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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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Hosea 11:1-4, 8-9

Psalm 90:12-17 (LBW) or Psalm 90:13-17 (LW)

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Matthew 25:14-30 (LBWLW) or Mathew 24:3-14 (LW)

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Stir up, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people

to seek more eagerly the help you offer,

that, at the last, they may enjoy the fruit of salvation;

through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 29

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O God, so rule and govern our hearts and minds

by your Holy Spirit that, being ever mindful

of the end of all things and your just judgment,

we may be stirred up to holiness of living here

and dwell with you forever hereafter;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 90

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Rejecting grace is a frequent behavior, sadly.  Hosea 11:1-9 and Matthew 25:14-20 speak of it.

The difference between the blessed and the cursed is one thing and one thing only:  the blessed accept their acceptance and the cursed reject it; but the acceptance is already in place for both groups before either does anything about it…. The difference between heaven and hell, accordingly, is simply that those in heaven accept endless forgiveness, while those in hell reject it.  Indeed, the precise hell of hell is its endless refusal to open the door to the reconciled and reconciling party that stands forever on its porch and knocks, equally endlessly, for permission to begin the Supper of the Lamb (Rev. 3:20).

–Robert Farrar Capon, Kingdom, Grace, Judgment:  Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus (2002), 356-357

Or, as C. S. Lewis wrote, the doors to Hell are locked from the inside.

As some of the other assigned readings indicate, the lectionary has turned toward Advent.  Certain Confessional Lutheran denominations have labeled the last four Sundays before Christmas the End Times Season.  In England, in 1990, the Joint Liturgical Group prepared a four-year lectionary that starts nine Sundays before Christmas.

I cannot argue with the logic of both systems.  The Joint Lecitonary Group’s lectionary violates centuries of Western Christian tradition, but so be it.  I know of an Episcopal congregation that celebrates eight Sundays of Advent.

Psalm 90 contextualizes human rebellion, divine judgment, and divine grace within the contrast between divine permanence and human impermanence.  I reject the idea that we must respond favorably to God before we die, or else.  I reject any limitation of grace.  However, I affirm that responding favorably to God consistently and as soon as possible is the best possible strategy, one which gladdens God’s heart.

Receiving grace requires extending it to others.  This principle applies to groups and individuals alike.  As St. Paul the Apostle wrote to the church at Thessalonica:

So give encouragement to each other, and keep strengthening one another, as you do already.

–1 Thessalonians 5:11, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

God seeks everyone.  Divine love pursues and accompanies all of us.  Will we–collectively and individually–accept it or reject it?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 23, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARTIN DE PORRES AND JUAN MACIAS, HUMANITARIANS AND DOMINICAN LAY BROTHERS; SAINT ROSE OF LIMA, HUMANITARIAN AND DOMINICAN SISTER; AND SAINT TURIBIUS OF MOGREVEJO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF LIMA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCISZEK DACHTERA, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1944

THE FEAST OF THEODORE O. WEDEL, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; AND HIS WIFE, CYNTHIA CLARK WEDEL, U.S. PSYCHOLOGIST AND EPISCOPAL ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF THOMAS AUGUSTINE JUDGE, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST; FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARY SERVANTS OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY, THE MISSIONARY SERVANTS OF THE MOST BLESSED TRINITY, AND THE MISSIONARY CENACLE APOSTOLATE

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Adapted from this post

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The Parable of the Sower/the Four Soils   4 comments

Above:  The Parable of the Sower

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XX

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Luke 8:4-15

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Christian tradition has assigned names to the parables of Jesus.  Some of these names have proven to be partial, at best.  Consider the Parable of the Prodigal Son, for example, O reader.  It could have as easily been the Parable of the Loving Father or the Parable of the Resentful Brother.  Think also of the Parable of the Sower.  Although Matthew 13:18 uses that label, Christ focused on the soils, not the sower, in the parable.

We are reading the Lucan version of the parable, of course.  Luke 8 does not refer to this parable as the Parable of the Sower.

Biblical scholarly consensus holds that, in the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke, the explanation of the parable is an addition to the text.  Explanations of parables are rare in the canonical Gospels.

To critique the sower’s technique is to miss the point.  (I have heard priests do this in sermons.)  The sower in the parable follows the standard practice of farmers at the time and place.

The word of God (what God says) is for everybody.  The sower sows these seeds everywhere, therefore.  But not everybody receives or welcomes this word.  Some of the seeds go to waste.  People may be distracted, rootless, or deceived.  Spiritually rootless people have shallow faith; it may die for the obvious reason.  The deceived mean well but follow the wrong master.  The distracted are too busy for God.  Yet the seeds that land in rich soil prosper spiritually.

The parable asks each of us, “What kind of soil are you?”

When God is the sower and we are the ground, we are called to be good ground.

–St. Augustine of Hippo

Some saints spoke and/or wrote of the importance of not only praying, but of becoming prayer.  They described the fourth category of soil in this parable.  They described the state of praying without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

So, I ask you, O reader, what kind of soil are you?  And what kind of soil do you aspire to become or remain, by grace?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 30, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF ALLEN EASTMAN CROSS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WALLACE BRIGGS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN MAIN, ANGLO-CANADIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MONK

THE FEAST OF JOSIAH BOOTH, ENGLISH ORGANIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TUNE COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF FRANCES JOSEPH-GAUDET, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EDUCATOR, PRISON REFORMER, AND SOCIAL WORKER

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Eschatological Ethics IX   Leave a comment

Above:  Thessaloniki (Formerly Thessalonica), Greece

Image Source = Google Earth

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For the Sunday Next Before Advent, 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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Absolve, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy people from their offenses;

that from the bonds of our sins which, by reason of our frailty,

we have brought upon us, we may be delivered by thy bountiful goodness;

through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with

thee and the Holy Spirit, ever One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 236

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Isaiah 35:3-10

Psalm 148

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Luke 12:35-43

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The two primary themes of the Hebrew Bible are exile and exodus.  Both themes are present in Isaiah 35:3-10.  The exile is the Babylonian Exile.  The exodus is the return from the Babylonian Exile.  Placing this reading at the end of the church year makes sense, for the language transitions neatly into texts for Advent.

Psalm 148 is a beautiful hymn.  It reads like reality after God has finally vanquished evil.

Speaking of eschatology, the background of St. Paul the Apostle’s First Letter to the Thessalonians includes the realization that Jesus may not be returning as soon as many people expected.  The question in Chapter 5, then, is how to live while waiting.  The answer is to continue to live according to the Golden Rule, both collectively and individually.  Build each other up.  Repay evil with good.  Support one another.  Do not become discouraged in behaving properly.  The reading from Luke 12:35-43 agrees.

Even when dashed eschatological expectations are not a factor, many people may become discouraged.  For example, compassion fatigue is a real and labeled phenomenon in the context of serial appeals for assistance in the wake of disasters.  Having compassion and behaving compassionately can be emotionally exhausting.

The readings tell us not to give up, however.  However eschatology shakes out, may God find us living righteously, both collectively and individually, at any given moment.  We–as communities and individuals–have vocations from God.  We have work to do.  May we complete it well and faithfully, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 3, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANSKAR AND RIMBERT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOPS OF HAMBURG-BREMEN

THE FEAST OF ADELAIDE ANNE PROCTER, ENGLISH POET AND FEMINIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALFRED DELP, GERMAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1945

THE FEAST OF JEMIMA THOMPSON LUKE, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER; AND JAMES EDMESTON, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL DAVIES, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Building Up Each Other in Christ, Part IV   1 comment

Above:  Saint Paul and Saint Barnabas at Lystra, by Alessandro Salucci

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 13:14-16, 26-48

Psalm 114

1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

Luke 15:21-37

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We need to be careful not to read the text from Acts 123 in an anti-Semitic manner.

  1. To do so is sinful.
  2. Sts. Paul and Barnabas were Jewish.
  3. Many of their supporters were Jewish.
  4. “The Jews” refers to hostile Jews.

Also, Psalm 114 fits well with St. Paul’s full address, portions of which the lection from Acts 13 omits.

The Lukan apocalypse is one of the Synoptic apocalypses in the context of Holy Week.  The wrath of God will come and the new world order of God will replace the current world order.  All of this is solely in the divine domain.

In the meantime, we have a mandate to build up each other and to leave the world better than we found it.  We can start by never repaying evil with evil, and by refraining from every kind of evil.

Writing those words is easy, but living according to them can be difficult.  Even when we seek to live according to the Golden Rule, we may inadvertently commit evil.  Weakness and ignorance are formidable foes.

May we start by seeking to live according to the Golden Rule and by trusting in God to guide us in understanding what that means (in detail) in various circumstances.  The Golden Rule is a timeless principle, but the proper application of timeless principles varies according to context, including who, when, and where one is.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 10, 2020 COMMON ERA

GOOD FRIDAY

THE FEAST OF PIERRE TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, SCIENTIST, AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT FULBERT OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF HENRY VAN DYKE, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF HOWARD THURMAN, U.S. PROTESTANT THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LAW, ANGLICAN PRIEST, MYSTIC, AND SPIRITUAL WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2020/04/10/devotion-for-the-seventh-sunday-of-easter-year-c-humes/

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The Scandal of Grace VIII   1 comment

Above:  The Return of the Prodigal Son, by James Tissot

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 13:1-12

Psalm 67

1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11

Luke 15:11-32

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Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, as indeed you do.

–1 Thessalonians 5:11, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

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That verse is a fitting counterpoint to the attitude of the elder brother in the story traditionally called the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  Or is it the Parable of the Resentful Older Brother?  Or is it the Parable of the Lost Son?  If so, which son was lost?  Or is the Parable of the Loving Father?  The text is too rich for one label to describe it adequately.  Psalm 67 begins, in the translation of Mitchell J. Dahood, S.J.:

May God have pity on us and bless us;

may he cause his face to shine,

may he come to us.

That fits well with the parable.  On the other hand, it does not mesh with the blinding of Elymar the sorcerer in Acts 13.

Back to the father with two sons, a formula for trouble since Cain and Abel…

Which son was really lost?  The younger one–the wastrel–came to his senses and acted accordingly.  The resentful, dutiful older son–a character easy with whom to identify–played by the rules and expected commensurate rewards.  Yet could he not have rejoiced that his brother had returned?  Perhaps the older brother was the lost one.

The parable ends with unresolved tension.  The ambiguous conclusion invites us to ask ourselves what we would do in the place of the older brother.

Grace is scandalous.  It does not seem fair, by our standards, much of the time.  It violates our definition of fairness frequently.  Grace may not be fair, but it is just.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 9, 2020 COMMON ERA

MAUNDY THURSDAY

THE FEAST OF DIETRICH BONHOEFFER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MARTYR, 1945

THE FEAST OF JOHANN CRUGER, GERMAN LUTHERAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN SAMUEL BEWLEY MONSELL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND POET; AND RICHARD MANT, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF DOWN, CONNOR, AND DROMORE

THE FEAST OF LYDIA EMILIE GRUCHY, FIRST FEMALE MINISTER IN THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA

THE FEAST OF MIKAEL AGRICOLA, FINNISH LUTHERAN LITURGIST, BISHOP OF TURKU, AND “FATHER OF FINNISH LITERARY LANGUAGE”

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2020/04/09/devotion-for-the-sixth-sunday-of-easter-year-c-humes/

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Preparation for the Parousia   1 comment

Above:  Parable of the Ten Virgins, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Lord Jesus, Judge and Savior:  put thy Word within our hearts

that we may be saved from disobedience and,

in the time of thy coming, be found faithful to thee.  Amen.

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

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Zephaniah 3:17-20

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Matthew 25:1-13

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Zephaniah 3:16, in which God is the King, encourages Zion to

have no fear

in the context of divine rule.  Oppressors should be afraid, we read, but the faithful should have no fear.

The other two readings encourage preparation for the parousia, whenever it will occur.

The passage of time has disproven many expectations of when the parousia will occur.  Those who made predictions could have learned from Jesus that only God (the Father) knows when that time will be.

A bumper sticker reads,

GOD IS COMING BACK.  LOOK BUSY.

It is either a good joke or a bad joke, depending on one’s sense of humor.  The message is definitely terrible theology.

Each of us has received a divine mandate to live according to the Golden Rule and to be salt and light in the world.  Details of how to do so have always varied from person to person.  God has told us what to do.

May we do that every day.  God will attend to the other details, such as the parousia.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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Judgment and Mercy, Part XII   1 comment

Above:  The Negev Desert

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Isaiah 61:1-11

Psalm 126

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

John 1:1-18

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Advent, in most lectionaries, begins with the Second Coming of Jesus and ends in a way that leads into the First Coming.  The Humes four-year lectionary follows that pattern.

The balance of divine judgment and mercy in these four readings is obvious.  In them judgment and mercy are like sides of a coin; one cannot have one without the other being present.  For example, in Isaiah 61, in the voice of Third Isaiah, divine mercy for exiles entails judgment of their oppressors.  The reading from 1 Thessalonians omits 5:15, unfortunately.

Make sure that people do not try to repay evil for evil; always aim at what is best for each other and for everyone.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

God reserves the right to repay evil with judgment.  Far be it from me to tell God when to judge and when to show mercy.

The lectionary’s turn toward the First Coming is especially obvious in John 1:1-18, the magnificent prologue to the Fourth Gospel.  According to this pericope, which emphasizes mercy (as the Johannine Gospel does), judgment is still present.  It is human judgment, though; those who reject the light of God condemn themselves.

That which we call divine wrath, judgment, and punishment is simply the consequences of our actions blowing back on us much of the time.  These can be occasions for repentance, followed by forgiveness and restoration.  Hellfire-and-damnation theology is at least as wrong as universalism; both are extreme positions.

As we prepare to celebrate the Incarnation, may we, trusting in God and walking with Jesus, recall these words (in the context of the Second Coming) from 1 Thessalonians 5:23:

…and may your spirit, life and body be kept blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 7, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VENERABLE MATTHEW TALBOT, RECOVERING ALCOHOLIC IN DUBLIN, IRELAND

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY GIANELLI, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARIES OF SAINT ALPHONSUS LIGUORI AND THE SISTERS OF MARY DELL’ORTO

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK LUCIAN HOSMER, U.S. UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SEATTLE, FIRST NATIONS CHIEF, WAR LEADER, AND DIPLOMAT

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2019/06/07/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-of-advent-year-b-humes/

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Resisting Evil Without Joining Its Ranks, Part III   5 comments

Above:  Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty God, who hast commanded us to love our enemies

and to do good to those who hate us;

grant that we may not be content with the affections of our friends

but may reach out in love to all thy children;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 124

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Jeremiah 15:15-21

1 Thessalonians 5:12-24

Matthew 7:15-29

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The topic of revenge, covered in the previous post, is germane to this post.

The conclusion of 1 Thessalonians uses the word “peace” twice.  People are to live in peace with each other, and God is the God of peace.  Living in mutual peace encompasses both correction and encouragement, always in love.

See to it that no one pays back wrong for wrong, but always aim at what is best for each other and for all.

–1 Thessalonians 5:15, The Revised English Bible (1989)

That is a far cry from

O LORD,…

Avenge me on those who persecute me;

Do not yield to your patience,….

–Jeremiah 15:15a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

I, having suffered far less than Jeremiah, know that feeling.  Yet the quest for revenge is a path to spiritual destruction.

May we, following Jesus and tapping into grace, overcome evil with good.  May we, in the process of resisting evil, not become evildoers.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 5, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA, FATHER OF CHRISTIAN SCHOLARSHIP

THE FEAST OF SAINT CYRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY TO THE FAR EAST

THE FEAST OF NELSON MANDELA, PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA, AND RENEWER OF SOCIETY

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Posted December 5, 2018 by neatnik2009 in 1 Thessalonians 5, Jeremiah 15, Matthew 7

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The Gestation of Hope   Leave a comment

Above:  The Annunciation, by El Greco

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

Grant that we may hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that, by patience, and comfort of your holy word, we may embrace and ever hold fast

the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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Lord God, heavenly Father, we ask that you so rule and guide us by your Holy Spirit

that we may receive your holy word with our whole heart,

that through your word we may be sanctified,

and may learn to place all our trust and hope in Jesus Christ your Son,

and following him may be led safely through all evil,

until through your grace we come to everlasting life;

through the same Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 69

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Isaiah 11:1-10

Psalm 23

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Luke 1:26-35

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Psalm 23 is a familiar text.  One problem associated with familiar texts of the Bible is that one might not be as familiar with them as one imagines, so one might go into unfortunate autopilot mode.  In Psalm 23 the author (allegedly David), although surrounded by enemies, expresses confidence in divine protection.  The enemies cannot keep up; only divine goodness and steadfast love pursue the author.  They do not merely follow; no, they engage in hot pursuit.

The setting of Isaiah 11:1-10 was shortly after the fall of the northern Kingdom of Israel and a generation before the fall of the southern Kingdom of Judah.  Threats to the continued existence abounded and bad monarchs were the rule, not the exception.  The description of the ideal king put the actual monarchs of Judah to shame.  The majority of Davidic kings did not build up the realm; no, they tore it down.

St. Paul the Apostle, writing to the Thessalonian church circa 51 C.E., did so in the context of widespread expectations of the imminent second coming of Jesus.  Some of the faithful had already died, however.  St. Paul, in Chapter 4, comforted his audience by telling them that the faithful deceased would not miss the great event.  In Chapter 5 the Apostle to the Gentiles urged the members of that church to encourage and build each other up.  The imminent end of days was no excuse to slack off morally, he insisted.

As of the writing of this post we are still waiting the second coming.  St. Paul’s advice from 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 remains current, however.

The presence of the reading from Luke 1 on the Second Sunday of Advent makes sense liturgically.  Its strongest connection, as best as I can tell, is to Isaiah 11:1-10, for Jesus is the ideal king.  He is not, however, a monarch in the sense of any human model–certainly not from the time of the Bible.  No, Jesus breaks the royal molds, as he should.  We read in John 6:14-15 that, after the Feeding of the 5000, Jesus withdrew to the hills by himself when he realized that a crowd wanted to declare him king in opposition to the Roman Empire.  No, the visions of Jesus as an ideal ruler put all earthly national leaders to shame.  Thus discussion of the Kingdom of God contains a strong element of social and political criticism of the status quo.

The Kingdom of God, which only God can usher into full reality, provides a lofty standard for the time being.  It is useful to remember that, as long as reality falls so far short of the ideal, that divine goodness and steadfast love continue to pursue the servants of God all the days of their lives and that enemies must look on as God sets a banquet table for the faithful.

Meanwhile, hope gestates.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 27, 2017 COMMON ERA

PROPER 16:  THE TWELFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

THE FEAST OF THOMAS GALLAUDET AND HENRY WINTER SYLE, EPISCOPAL PRIESTS

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Leaving the World Better Than We Found It   1 comment

The destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70AD -- a painting by David Roberts (1796-1849).

The destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70AD —
a painting by David Roberts (1796-1849).

Above: The Destruction of Jerusalem, by David Roberts

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

By your merciful protection alert us to the threatening dangers of our sins,

and redeem us for your life of justice,

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

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 18

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The Assigned Readings:

Nehemiah 9:6-15 (Thursday)

Nehemiah 9:16-25 (Friday)

Nehemiah 9:26-31 (Saturday)

Psalm 76 (All Days)

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 (Thursday)

1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 (Friday)

Luke 21:20-24 (Saturday)

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For all those who hope in you shall not be ashamed:

but only those who wantonly break faith.

–Psalm 25:2, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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One message from the Hebrew Bible is that God liberated the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and gave them orders to live in a just society.  Yet, as prophets attested, rebellion against God became the norm, not the exception to the rule.  Consequences ensued and God showed both judgment and mercy to the Hebrews.

The Jews of Nehemiah 9 were returned exiles living in a province (a satrapy, technically) of the Persian Empire.  They were home, but circumstances did not live up to high expectations and they lived in a foreign empire.  Living under occupation remained the reality of Jews in Judea for most of the time during the following centuries.  In the time of Jesus of Nazareth the occupying power was the Roman Empire, against whom many Jews fought a war from 66 to 73 C.E.  The writing of the four canonical Gospels occurred in the context of the First Jewish War, shaping the telling of stories of Jesus.  Certainly that context influenced the understanding of Luke 21:20-24.  Jesus might have said something similar to those words, but the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. by Roman forces made that text poignant after the fact.

In 1 Thessalonians, which St. Paul the Apostle probably dictated circa 50 C.E., about four decades prior to the composition of the Gospel of Luke, apocalyptic expectations were alive and well.  Some members of that community either used the hope that Jesus would return quite soon as a reason or an excuse to refrain from good works and necessary, even mundane tasks.  The Apostle’s sage advice was to keep working.  That remains wise counsel, for Jesus has yet to return as of the writing of this sentence, and the necessities of life continue to exist.  Waiting for God to act is a poor excuse not to work for justice and to attempt to leave one’s corner of the world better than one found it.  The world might not resemble the best hopes for it, but that fact is a reason to continue working, not to become lazy or to give into apathy or hopelessness.  God will save the world, but we have a moral imperative to leave it better than we found it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 10, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SCHEFFLER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORG NEUMARK, GERMAN LUTHERAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN HINES, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-first-sunday-of-advent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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