Archive for the ‘2 Corinthians’ Category

Humility and Arrogance, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Embrace of Elizabeth and the Virgin Mary

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, in choosing the virgin Mary to be the mother of your Son,

you made known your gracious regard for the poor and the lowly and the despised.

Grant us grace to receive your Word in humility, and so made one with your Son,

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), 33

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 2:1-10

Psalm 113

Romans 12:9-16b

Luke 1:39-57

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Depending on the date of Easter, and therefore of Pentecost, the Feast of the Visitation can fall in either the season of Easter or the Season after Pentecost.

The history of the Feast of the Visitation has been a varied one.  The feast, absent in Eastern Orthodoxy, began in 1263, when St. Bonaventure introduced it to the Order of Friars Minor (the Franciscans), which he led.  Originally the date was July 2, after the octave of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 24).  Pope Urban VI approved the feast in 1389, the Council of Basel authorized it in 1441, propers debuted in the Sarum breviary of 1494, and Pope Pius V added the feast to the general calendar in 1561.  In 1969, during the pontificate of Paul VI, Holy Mother Church moved the Feast of the Visitation to May 31, in lieu of the Feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which Pope Pius XII had instituted in 1954.  The Episcopal Church added the Feast of the Visitation to its calendar in The Book of Common Prayer (1979).  The feast had long been July 2 in The Church of England and much of Lutheranism prior to 1969.  Subsequent liturgical revision led to the transfer of the feast to May 31 in those traditions.

The corresponding Eastern Orthodox feast on July 2 commemorates the placing of the Holy Robe of the Mother of God in the church at Blachernae, a suburb of Constantinople.

The theme of humility is prominent in the assigned readings and in the Lutheran collect I have quoted.  A definition of that word might therefore prove helpful.  The unabridged Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language (1951), a tome, defines humility as

Freedom from pride and arrogance; humbleness of mind; a modest estimate of one’s own worth; also, self-abasement, penitence for sin.

Humility refers to lowliness and, in the Latin root, of being close to the ground.  God raising up the lowly is a Lukan theme, as is God overthrowing the arrogant.  After all, the woes (Luke 6:24-26) follow the Beatitudes (6:20-25), where Jesus says,

Blessed are you who are poor,

not

Blessed are you who are poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3).

The first will be last and the last will be first, after all.

Wherever you are, O reader, you probably live in a society that celebrates the boastful, the arrogant.  The assigned readings for this day contradict that exultation of the proud, however.  They are consistent with the ethic of Jeremiah 9:22-23:

Yahweh says this,

“Let the sage not boast of wisdom,

nor the valiant of valour,

nor the wealthy of riches!

But let anyone who wants to boast, boast of this:

of understanding and knowing me.

For I am Yahweh, who acts with faithful love,

justice, and uprightness on earth;

yes, these are what please me,”

Yahweh declares.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

St. Paul the Apostle channeled that ethic in 1 Corinthians 1:31 and 2 Corinthians 10:17, among other passages.

That which he understood well and internalized, not without some struggle, remains relevant and timeless.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, CHRISTIAN APOLOGIST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA, BIBLE SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL STENNETT, ENGLISH SEVENTH-DAY BAPTIST MINISTER AND HYMN-WRITER; AND JOHN HOWARD, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/06/01/devotion-for-the-feast-of-the-visitation-of-mary-to-elizabeth-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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A Faithful Response, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Ash Wednesday Cross

Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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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:

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17

Psalm 51:1-17

2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10

Matthew 6:1-21 or 6:1-6, 16-21

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Ash Wednesday is an ancient holy day.  Its origins are as old as the early Church, which created methods of disciplining sinners, as well as restoring them to the communion of the Church.  The record of Church history tells us that the penitential season of Lent, which grew to forty days in the sixth century, used to begin on a Monday, but came to start of Wednesday in the 500s.  One can also read that the reconciliation of the penitents occurred at the end of Lent–on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday, depending on where one was, in the sixth century.

Interestingly, The Church of Ireland is unique in the Anglican Communion for having an Ash Wednesday ritual that does not require the imposition of ashes.

One function of the announcement of divine judgment is to prompt repentance–literally, turning one’s back to sin.  We cannot turn our backs to all our sins, given our nature, but (1) God knows that already, and (2) we can, by grace, improve.  Judgment and mercy exist in balance.  That God knows what that balance is, is sufficient.

That we do what we should matters; so does why we do it.  In Christianity and Judaism the issue is properly the faithful response to God; the issue is not the pursuit of legalism.  Stereotypes of Judaism (especially among many Christians) and Christianity aside, these are not legalistic religions when people observe them properly.  (There are, of course, legalistic Jews and Christians, hence the stereotypes.)  The standard of faithful response is love of God and, correspondingly, of one’s fellow human beings.  We have accounts of the unconditional and self-sacrificial love of God in the Bible.  The readings from 2 Corinthians and Matthew include commentary on that principle.  To paraphrase Rabbi Hillel, we should go and learn it.

May we do this while avoiding the trap of legalism, into which so many pious people fall easily.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 22, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK HERMANN KNUBEL, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA

THE FEAST OF GEORG GOTTFRIED MULLER, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN FOREST AND THOMAS ABEL, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1538 AND 1540

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIA OF CORSICA, MARTYR AT CORSICA, 620

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/05/22/devotion-for-ash-wednesday-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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Gratitude   Leave a comment

Above:  Home to Thanksgiving, Circa 1867

Image Creator = Currier & Ives

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-00780

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FOR THANKSGIVING DAY, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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O God, we praise you, we give you thanks for your bountiful providence,

for all the blessings and all the hopes of life.

Above all we praise and adore you for your unspeakable gift

in your only Son our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Let the memory of your goodness fill our hearts with joy and thankfulness to you;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 163

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Deuteronomy 8:7-18

Psalm 22

2 Corinthians 9:6-12

Luke 12:16-31

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The extravagant generosity of God, on whom we depend completely, is one theme in these assigned readings.  Another is the reality that grace, although free, is not cheap; it imposes certain obligations on its recipients.  Those who enter a land new to them must not imagine that they have succeeded by their own power when God has delivered them into that land.  One must never think vainly that life consists of the abundance of possessions.  One must trust in God in times of plenty as well as in times of scarcity.  One must help others as one is able.

For where your treasure is,

there your heart will be also.

–Luke 12:34, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Psalm 22 might seem like an odd pericope for Thanksgiving Day.  The text, a prayer for deliverance from a mortal illness, might remind one immediately of the crucifixion of Jesus (Mark 15:34), for example.  The psalm does take a turn toward gratitude early on, however.  The text is of a mixed mood until the end, when gratitude takes over.  The mixed mood of much of Psalm 22 is true to life.  We might feel forsaken by God, but we are probably not.  If we continue the spiritual struggle with despair long enough, we will understand that.  As we suffer, God keeps us company.  The light of God might seem brighter in the darkness, and we might find ourselves more grateful than we expected we would.  This is my experience.

A helpful spiritual practice I have adopted is to thank God for blessings throughout the day.  I do this quietly, in my non-demonstrative, introverted way.  I thank God that my car is consistently reliable, but especially at a particular moment.  I thank God that the sunlight shines beautifully on the Middle Oconee River.  I thank God that I enjoy reading good books–one particular book at a given moment, specifically.  I thank God that I have plenty of nutritious food readily available.  I thank God for many blessings over time.  Whatever is on my mind or in front of me dictates what I thank God for at any given moment.  I admit freely that I do not thank God as often as I should, but I continue to endeavor to become more mindful.  Anyhow, the goal is to cultivate an attitude of gratitude, not to compile a comprehensive list, which would be impossible anyway.  I understand that I rely completely on God, who has provided abundantly.  The least I can do is to be grateful and act accordingly.

Where are our treasures?  May it be in God.  May we be grateful daily.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 15, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER AND MARTYR

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Agents of Reconciliation   Leave a comment

Above:  Isaiah

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O almighty and most merciful God, of your bountiful goodness keep us,

we pray, from all things that may hurt us;

that we, being ready both in body and soul,

may cheerfully accomplish those things which you command;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship of Church and Home (1965), page 153

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Isaiah 6:1-8

Psalm 33

2 Corinthians 5:17-6:2

Mark 10:28-31

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In Genesis 11:1-9, the story of the Tower of Babel, people are impressed with themselves and their collective accomplishment.  That accomplishment is a tower that God, looking down from Heaven, can barely see because of its relative smallness.  Our accomplishments and might are puny compared to God, as Psalm 33 reminds us.  May we have proper perspective, that is, humility before God.

Humility before God would certainly be easy for one to have if one were in the position of Isaiah, eyewitness to a glorious vision.  Accepting the call of God, as continued in subsequent verses in Isaiah 6, is perhaps a greater challenge.  The consequences can be dire, even to the point of death.  Certainly obeying that call will make one a new creation.  Change–even of the positive variety–frequently scares many people, for it endangers their comfort zones.  God calls us away from complacency and into the unknown.  Sometimes, as in the cases of some Hebrew prophets, God calls us to enter the realm of the scandalous.  Ultimately, though, the result should be the reconciliation of people separated from God with God.

This goal offends many people, including some of the professing faithful.  One might think of the great satire that is the Book of Jonah, a criticism of post-Babylonian Exile excesses.  One lesson from the text is that God loves everyone and wants all people to repent.  God sends the reluctant Jonah on a mission.  The prophet succeeds, much to his dismay.  We have enemies, by whom we define our identities.  If they cease to be enemies, who are we?  The possibility of such drastic change frightens us, does it not?

Will we stand humbly before God and serve as willing agents of reconciliation?  Or will we remain in our comfort zones and function as agents of obstruction?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 6, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

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Empowered by God, Part IV   Leave a comment

Above:  Samuel Anoints David

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we are to pray,

and you are wont to give more than either we desire or deserve:

Pour down upon us the abundance of your mercy,

forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid,

and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask,

but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 140

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1 Samuel 16:1-13

Psalm 20

2 Corinthians 3:4-11, 17-18

Luke 11:1-4, 9-13

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Last week’s reading from 1 Samuel (9:15-17; 10:1) tells of the prophet Samuel anointing Saul the first King of Israel.  This week, after the divine rejection of Saul, we have the same prophet anointing David.  Saul remains on the throne for some time, however.

With a divine mandate comes great responsibility.  Part of that responsibility is maintaining a proper relationship with God.  Such a relationship is necessarily evident in our dealings with other people, along with whom we rely entirely on God.  This element can be challenging, for we will not like everyone we encounter–nor should we.  By grace we can, however, recognize the image of God in them and therefore treat them accordingly.  We might even see untapped and surprising potential in many of them.  Shall we at least try?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 5, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN NEPOMUCENE NEUMANN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PHILADELPHIA

THE FEAST OF ANTONIO LOTTI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GENOVEVA TORRES MORALES, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS AND THE HOLY ANGELS

THE FEAST OF MARGARET MACKAY, SCOTTISH HYMN WRITER

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Attachments, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Some of the Possessions of Charles Foster Kane, from Citizen Kane (1941)

A Screen Capture

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

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Almighty and everlasting God, who governs all things in heaven and earth:

Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and grant us your peace all the days of our life;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 119

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Deuteronomy 7:6-11

Psalm 49

2 Corinthians 5:1-10

John 16:16-22

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Much is transitory.  The body is transitory.  Wealth is transitory.   Joy is transitory.  We read in John 16 that the physical presence of Jesus with the 12 Apostles was transitory.

Nevertheless, God is everlasting.  Certain principles are constant.  Among these are grace and divine judgment and mercy.  We depend entirely on God; may we never neglect this reality.  May we seek to respond faithfully to God and, by grace, succeed.  Although transitory things can provide proper pleasures, may we recognize those pleasures as being transitory and not become too attached to them.  We cannot avoid all temporary attachments in this life and be well-adjusted; we are only human, after all.  May we simply know these attachments for what they are and acknowledge God as the only permanent attachment.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIULIA VALLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ISAAC HECKER, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Divine Justice, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Parable of the Unjust Judge

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Almighty God, who through your Son continually prompts us to conform our wills to yours:

Grant that we may love the thing you desire for us,

and find your commandments in the purified wishes of our hearts;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 96

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Lamentations 3:22-26, 31-33

Psalm 15

2 Corinthians 6:1-10

Luke 18:1-14

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The theme of persisting in righteousness and not losing heart unites these readings.  The hopeful voice in Lamentations 3 belongs to an exile.  Moral rectitude might quality one to dwell on God’s holy hill, but it will not always prevent suffering and other hardships.  Self-righteousness gets one nowhere with God quickly, but persistence, combined with humility, pleases God, who is just.

One major point of the Parable of the Unjust Judge in Luke 18 is that God is just, unlike the corrupt judge.  The woman has to resort to intimidation to receive justice from him.  The justice of God can be either encouraging  or frightening, depending on one’s perspective and deeds.  Divine justice takes into account both judgment and mercy, and is not necessarily fair, as we think of fairness.  That can work to our advantage, for our standards of fairness, applied to us, are probably harsher than divine justice.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2017 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON, ABOLITIONIST AND FEMINIST; AND MARIA STEWART, ABOLITIONIST, FEMINIST, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB AND DOROTHY BUXTON, FOUNDERS OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF MARY CORNELIA BISHOP GATES, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED HYMN WRITER

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