Archive for the ‘2 Peter 1’ Category

False Teachers, Part III   Leave a comment

READING THE GENERAL EPISTLES, PART XII

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Jude

2 Peter 2:1-22

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The second chapter of Second Peter expands on the Epistle of Jude.  Almost all of the points in Jude exist in 2 Peter 2.

One may recognize the thematic relationship of 2 Peter 1 to Jude and 2 Peter 2.  False teachers, evil desires, and spiritually undisciplined lives provide the connective tissue.

We also read another repetition of the Biblical motif that divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.  In other words, we will reap what we have sown.  Grace is free, not cheap; it mandates a faithful response.  Yes, God imposes mandates.  Freedom is a gift to use properly, not to abuse and misuse.

References to the Hebrew Bible and the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha abound in Jude and 2 Peter 2.  I choose to explain the references:

  1. Jude 5 refers to Numbers 14 and 26:64-65.  Apostasy is possible, and carries with it the loss of salvation.
  2. Jude 6 and 2 Peter 2:4 refer to Genesis 6:1-4.  An elaborate version of the story of the “watchers” exists in 1 Enoch 6-19 (especially chapter 10).
  3. Jude 7 and 2 Peter 2:6-7 refer to Genesis 19:1-25, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.  The “unnatural vice” is rape, whether heterosexual or homosexual, and of a person or an angel.  Jude 7 and 2 Peter 2:6-7 present the scenario opposite of Jude 6 and 2 Peter 2:4, in which angels lusted after human women.
  4. The combination of the preceding two points indicates the grave consequences of violating God’s intended order for creation.
  5. Jude 9, drawing on Exodus 2:11-12, indicates familiarity with the Assumption/Testament of Moses, a text from the first century C.E.  Between one-third and one-half of that text is missing.  The lost portion includes the section depicting St. Michael the Archangel disputing with Satan over the body of Moses and quoting Zechariah 3:2:  “May the Lord rebuke you!”  Even angels do not rebuke Satan in Zechariah 3:2, Jude 9, and the Assumption/Testament of Moses.  The lesson in Jude 9 is that, if we mere mortals revile angels, we sin.
  6. Jude 11 refers to Cain (Genesis 4:8-16), Balaam (Numbers 16:1-25), and Korah (Numbers 31:16).  2 Peter 2:15-16 refers to Balaam and his talking donkey (Numbers 22:28-33).  Rebellion against God leads to punishment and reproof.
  7. 2 Peter 2:5 refers to Genesis 6:17.
  8. Jude 14-15 refers to 1 Enoch 1:9.

These false teachers did more than teach falsehoods; they behaved scandalously at agape meals (Jude 12, 2 Peter 2:13-14).  These false teachers doomed themselves and disrupted faith community.

I approach Jude and 2 Peter 2 from a particular background.  I grew up feeling like the resident heretic.  My heresies were asking “too many” questions, being an intellectual, accepting science and history, harboring Roman Catholic tendencies, and not being a Biblical literalist.  Some in my family regard me as a Hell-bound heretic.  I embrace the label “heretic.”  I even own a t-shirt that reads,

HERETIC.

I approach the label “false teacher” cautiously.  One ought to make accusations with great caution, and based on evidence.  False teachers abound.  I am not shy about naming them and their heresies.  These include the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mormons, Prosperity Theology, and the excesses of Evangelicalism.  The list is long.  The standards of orthodoxy and orthopraxy are as simple and difficult as the Incarnation, crucifixion, and Resurrection of Jesus; the Atonement; and the Golden Rule.  Proper love–in mutuality–builds up.  It does not tear people down.  Proper orthodoxy maintains divine standards and is generous, not stingy.  It is loving, not hateful.  And it leads to humility before God and human beings.

I affirm that I am doctrinally correct about some matters and wrong regarding others.  I also affirm that I do not know when I am wrong and when I am right.  The life of Christian discipleship is about trust in God, not about certainty.  The quest for certainty, when faith–trust–in God is called for is an idolatrous and psychologically comforting effort.  Proper Christian confidence–grounded in Christ alone–says:

I may be wrong, but I act as if I am right.  I can neither prove nor disprove this article of faith, but I act as if I am right.

May you, O reader, and I trust in the faithfulness of God.  May we walk humbly with God and live with our fellow human beings in loving, respectful mutuality.  We can do all of the above only via grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 30, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HONORIUS, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF JOANNA P. MOORE, U.S. BAPTIST MISSIONARY AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF MARY RAMABAI, PROPHETIC WITNESS AND EVANGELIST IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD CHALLONER, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC SCHOLAR, RELIGIOUS WRITER, TRANSLATOR, CONTROVERSIALIST, PRIEST, AND TITULAR BISHOP OF DOBERUS

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False Teachers, Part II   Leave a comment

READING THE GENERAL EPISTLES, PART XI

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2 Peter 1:1-21

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The pseudonymous author, of the second century C.E., presenting himself as St. Simon Peter, followed a practice his culture accepted.  This author, in the first chapter of Second Peter, made some timeless points.

I like the translation of verse 4 in The Jerusalem Bible (1966):

…to escape corruption in a world that is sunk in vice.

The variation of this line, in the Vulgate, translated as:

…the corruption of the vice that is in the world.

My survey of other translations yields mostly “lust” in lieu of “vice.”  However, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011) offers:

…after escaping from the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire.

In textual context and the cultural context of Hellenistic Judaism, the soul that escapes from this corruption participates in the divine nature and becomes incorrupt.  Christians, therefore, escape the fate of those who abuse their freedom and fall prey to corruption.

“Lust,” “vice,” or “evil desire,” depending on the translation one reads, indicates desire for the forbidden.  This desire may be sexual some or much of the time, but is not solely sexual in nature.  “Evil desire” is a fine translation, in this context.  Forbidden fruit is frequently the most popular kind of fruit.  My experience teaches me that forbidden fruits become boring relatively quickly.  The satisfying path for the long term is the road of the godly and the merely decent.  It is the road 1:5-11 explains.  Divine law does not forbid building up each other in mutuality.

The targets of 1:19-21 were false teachers.  Their class of people has existed at least since the days of the Hebrew Bible; prophets of God clashed with false prophets.  In the context of eschatology, apocalyptic expectations, “Peter” condemned false teachers who argued against the parousia.  The scriptural context of 2 Peter 1:19-21, replete with allusions to Numbers 24:17, Revelation 2:28, Revelation 22:16, Jeremiah 23:16-22, Ezekiel 13:1-7, Genesis 40:8, and 2 Esdras/4 Ezra 10:43, made the points of eschatology and the divine source of prophecy plain.

False teachers and prophets persist.  Many identify themselves as orthodox Christians.  Some of these retain audiences despite having made predictions of the Second Coming and lived long enough to witness the failure of their predictions.  I leave details of the parousia entirely to God.  Trying to live properly one day at a time can prove sufficiently challenging much of the time.  I have no time to spare to obsess about prophecy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 29, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MICHAEL AND ALL ANGELS

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Introduction to the General Epistles   Leave a comment

READING THE GENERAL EPISTLES, PART I

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This post opens a new series, one about the General (or Catholic or Universal) Epistles.  This category dates to circa 325 C.E., from the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius of Caesarea.

MY GERMANE OPERATIONAL BIASES AND ASSUMPTIONS

Know, O reader, that my academic background is in history.  I think historically, regardless of the topic du jour.  The past tenses constitute my usual temporal perspective.  Some people tell me that I ought not to think this way when considering the Bible or a television series that ceased production years or decades ago.  These individuals are wrong.  I defy them.

Some people tell me that the historical backgrounds of Biblical books do not matter or are of minimal importance.  The messages for today is what matters, they say.  The messages for today do matter; I agree with that much.  Yet the definition of those messages depend greatly on the historical contexts from which these texts emerged.  With regard to the General Epistles, whether one assumes relatively early or relatively late composition affects the interpretation.

I operate from the assumptions that (a) James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, and Jude are pseudonymous, and (b) they date to relatively late periods.  These two assumptions relate to each other.  The first assumption leads to the second.  In terms of logic, if x, then y.  Simultaneously, internal evidence supports the second assumption, which leads backward, to the first.

CONTEXTS

The General Epistles, composed between 70 and 140 C.E., came from particular societal and political contexts.  The Roman Empire was strong.  Religious persecutions of Christianity were mostly sporadic and regional.  Christianity was a young, marginalized, sect (of Judaism, through 135 C.E.) unable to influence society and the imperial order.  Christian doctrine was in an early phase of development.  Even the definition of the Christian canon of scripture was in flux.

I, reading, pondering, and writing in late 2021, benefit from centuries of theological development, ecumenical councils, and the definition of the New Testament.  I, as an Episcopalian, use scripture, tradition, and reason.  I interpret any one of these three factors through the lenses of the other two.  I, as a student of the past, acknowledge that scripture emerged from tradition.

The importance of theological orthodoxy was a major concern in the background of the General Epistles.  That made sense; ecclesiastical unity, threatened by heresy, was a major concern for the young, small, and growing sect.  Yet, as time passed and the Church’s fortunes improved, the definition of orthodoxy changed.  Some of the Ante-Nicene Fathers (notably Origen) were orthodox, by the standards of their time.  After 325 C.E., however, some of these men (notably Origen) became heretics postmortem and ex post facto.

Orthopraxy was another concern in the General Epistles.  Orthopraxy related to orthodoxy.  The lack of orthopraxy led to needless schisms and the exploitation of the poor, for example.  As time passed and the Church became dominant in parts of the world, the Church fell short on the standard of orthopraxy, as defined by the Golden Rule.  As Alfred Loisy (1857-1940), an excommunicated modernist Roman Catholic theologian, lamented:

Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God and what came was the Church.

Lest anyone misunderstand me, I affirm that theological orthodoxy exists.  God defines it.  We mere mortals and our theologies are all partially heretical.  We cannot help that.  Salvation is a matter of grace, not passing a canonical examination.  Also, the Golden Rule is the finest standard according to which to measure orthopraxy.  Orthopraxy is a matter of faithful response, which grace demands.  Grace is free, not cheap.

BRIEF INTRODUCTIONS FOR EACH OF THE GENERAL EPISTLES

The Epistle of James dates to 70-110 C.E.  The analysis of Father Raymond E. Brown (1928-1998) suggests that composition in the 80s or 90s was probable.  The “epistle,” actually a homily, used the genre of diatribe to address Jewish Christians who lived outside of Palestine.  James is perhaps the ultimate “shape up and fly right” Christian text.  James may also correct misconceptions regarding Pauline theology.

The First Epistle of Peter, composed in Rome between 70 and 90 C.E., is a text originally for churches in northern Asia Minor.  The majority scholarly opinion holds that First Peter is a unified text.  A minority scholarly opinion holds that 1:3-4:11 and 4:12-5:11 are distinct documents.

The Epistle of Jude, composed between 90 and 100 C.E., may have have come from Palestine.  Jude was also a source for Second Peter, mainly the second chapter thereof.

The Second Epistle of Peter is the last book of the New Testament composed.  Second Peter, probably composed between 120 and 140 C.E., addresses a general audience in eastern Asia Minor.  The second chapter expands on Jude.

The First Epistle of John is not an epistle.  No, it is a homily or a tract.  First John, composed circa 100 C.E., belongs to the Johannine tradition.  Anyone who has belonged to a congregation that has suffered a schism may relate to the context of First John.

The author of the Second and Third Epistles of John (both from circa 100 C.E.) may have written First John.  Or not.  “The Elder” (the author of Second and Third John) speaks down the corridors of time in the contexts of ecclesiastical schisms and personality conflicts.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.

 

I invite you, O reader, to remain with me as I embark on a journey through the Epistle of James first.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 19, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 20:  THE SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF GERARD MOULTRIE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLARENCE ALPHONSUS WALWORTH, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND HYMN WRITER; CO-FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE (THE PAULIST FATHERS)

THE FEAST OF SAINT EMILY DE RODAT, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE HOLY FAMILY OF VILLEFRANCHE

THE FEAST OF WALTER CHALMERS SMITH, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM DALRYMPLE MACLAGAN, ARCHBISHOP OF YORK, AND HYMN WRITER

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The Light of Christ, Part VI   2 comments

Above:  Icon of the Transfiguration

Image in the Public Domain

FOR THE FEAST OF THE TRANSFIGURATION (AUGUST 6)

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Appearances can deceive.  That statement is true in many contexts.  Consider the historical figure we call Jesus (or Jeshua or Joshua) of Nazareth, O reader.  I am Christologically orthodox, so I affirm the Incarnation, but I also make a distinction between the Second Person of the Trinity prior to the Incarnation and the person we call Jesus.  The distinction I make is a purely historical one; I refer to Jesus as the incarnated Second Person.  Perhaps I am splitting a hair.  If so, so be it.

As I was writing, appearances can deceive.  We do not know what Jesus looked like, but we can be certain that he did not look like a northern European.  Reconstructions I have seen plausibly depict Jesus as someone with dark skin, short hair, and brown eyes.  One may realistically state that his appearance most days was dramatically different from that on the day of the Transfiguration.  One may also ask how the Apostles knew the other two figures were Moses and Elijah, who were not wearing name tags.

The Gospels are more works of theology than history, as I, trained in historical methodology, practice my craft.  One should never underestimate the four canonical Gospels as works of finely-honed theology, complete with literary structure.  I know this, so I choose not to let the absence of name tags bother me.   I accept the theological point that Jesus was and remains consistent with the Law and the Prophets.  I also accept the theological point that the Transfiguration revealed the divine glory present in Jesus, en route to die in Jerusalem.  The prose poetry, with echoes of Moses encountering God on a mountain, accomplishes its purpose.

What are we supposed to do with this story of Jesus?  2 Peter 1:19 points to the answer:

…the message of the prophets] will go on shining like a lamp in a murky place, until day breaks and the morning star rises to illumine your minds.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

May the light of Christ illumine our minds and shape our lives.  (As we think, we are.)  May that light direct our private and public morality, so that we (both individually and collectively) will not betray Jesus in either our deeds or our words.  May we take that light with us as we travel with Jesus, and not attempt to box it up, even out of reverence.   May the light of Christ shine in us, both individually and collectively, as we, in the words of Michael Curry, the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church,

love like Jesus.

We know how Jesus loved, do we not?  We know that he loved unconditionally and all the way to the cross.  The call of Christian discipleship is the summons to follow Jesus, wherever he leads.  Details vary according to where, when, and who one is, but the call,

follow me,

is constant.  So is the command to transfigure societies, for the glory of God and for the common good, with the Golden Rule as the gold standard of private and public morals, ethics, and policies.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 7, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF COLBERT S. CARTWRIGHT, U.S. DISCIPLES OF CHRIST MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF GUGLIELMO MASSAIA, ITALIAN CARDINAL, MISSIONARY, AND CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN SCRIMGER, CANADIAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, ECUMENIST, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICTRICIUS OF ROUEN, ROMAN CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR AND ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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O God, who on your holy mount revealed to chosen witnesses your well-beloved Son,

wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening:

Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world,

may by faith behold the King in his beauty;

who with you, O Father, and you, O Holy Spirit,

lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Exodus 34:29-35

Psalm 99 or 99:5-9

2 Peter 1:13-21

Luke 9:28-36

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 509

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2019/08/07/devotion-for-the-feast-of-the-transfiguration-august-6/

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Breaking the Cycle of Resentment   Leave a comment

Above:  Joshua and the Israelite People

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Year 2, 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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Joshua 1:1-9

2 Peter 1:3-11

Luke 6:27-38

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God loves us and gives us commandments for our own good.  If we obey them, we will fare much better than if we disobey them.  We will reap what we sow.

The list of commended practices from 2 Peter 1:5-7 is:

  1. Keeping faith,
  2. Being good,
  3. Being understanding,
  4. Maintaining self-control,
  5. Persevering,
  6. Being kind to one’s brothers (and sisters, too), and
  7. Being loving.

Our Lord and Savior ordered people to love their enemies and, more broadly, to break the cycle of anger, resentment, revenge, and violence.

This is a difficult commandment; I know my struggles with it.  This commandment is vital, though; it is the only feasible way forward when dealing with enemies.  Justice is essential, but vengeance and the desire for it are destructive of those who harbor grudges.

As I write these words in 2019, I notice that resentment fuels many politicians (and their supporters) who think more of their weak egos and their strong resentments than of the common good, assuming that they place any value on the common good.  (That may be too much to assume reasonably.)  These politicians are public predators, not public servants.  They appeal to their power base, which includes people full of resentments.  Who will break this cycle of resentment?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 18, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMÉ DE LAS CASAS, “APOSTLE TO THE INDIANS”

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR PENRHYN STANLEY, ANGLICAN DEAN OF WESTMINSTER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD WILLIAM LEINBACH, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERARD, FIRST DEACONESS IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

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Posted July 18, 2019 by neatnik2009 in 2 Peter 1, Joshua 1, Luke 6

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Imaginary Righteousness   1 comment

Above:  St. Stephen, by Luis de Morales

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 7:48-60

Psalm 4

2 Peter 1:13-21

Mark 12:1-12

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Many of those who persecuted St. Paul the Apostle and who were complicit in the executions of Jesus and St. Stephen imagined themselves to be acting out of righteousness.  St. Paul, as Saul of Tarsus, had zealously martyred Christians and been present for the stoning of St. Stephen.

To read the assigned lessons and imagine that they have nothing to do with us, who have not martyred or persecuted anyone, would be convenient, would it not?  Yet we are guilty of, at a minimum, of consenting to the inhumane treatment of others–perhaps prisoners, immigrants, employees in deathtrap factories, et cetera.  We think we own the planet, but we are merely tenants.  Many of those who peacefully oppose injustice risk martyrdom or incarceration.

The minimal extent to which we are complicit is the degree to which we are invested in socio-economic-political structures that rely on and perpetuate violence and exploitation.  Yet we imagine ourselves to be righteous.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 27, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CORNELIUS HILL, ONEIDA CHIEF AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HUGH THOMSON KERR, SR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITURGIST; AND HIS SON, HUGH THOMSON KERR, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JAMES MOFFATT, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND BIBLE TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE GEORGIAN, ABBOT; AND SAINTS EUTHYMIUS OF ATHOS AND GEORGE OF THE BLACK MOUNTAIN, ABBOTS AND TRANSLATORS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2019/06/27/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-of-easter-year-b-humes/

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Martyrdom   1 comment

Above:  Stoning of St. Stephen, by Giovanni Battista Lucini

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 6:1-15

Psalm 133

2 Peter 1:1-12

Mark 16:9-20

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The solution to the lack of fraternal unity (see Psalm 133) in the church at Jerusalem was the creation of the diaconate.  St. Stephen was one of the first deacons.  His diaconal duties did lead to his martyrdom, though.  No, his preaching (see Mark 16:16) did.

The martyrdom of St. Stephen occurred soon after the crucifixion of Jesus.  The death of St. Stephen was the first Christian martyrdom.  The martyrdom of Christians has continued into the present day, unfortunately.  Many who have caused a host of these martyrdoms have done so in the name of God.  A plethora of Christians have gone to their martyrdoms at the hands of other Christians.

One can correctly derive more than one valid lesson from the death and resurrection of Jesus.  One of these lessons is never to take life in the name of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 27, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CORNELIUS HILL, ONEIDA CHIEF AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HUGH THOMSON KERR, SR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITURGIST; AND HIS SON, HUGH THOMSON KERR, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JAMES MOFFATT, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND BIBLE TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE GEORGIAN, ABBOT; AND SAINTS EUTHYMIUS OF ATHOS AND GEORGE OF THE BLACK MOUNTAIN, ABBOTS AND TRANSLATORS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2019/06/27/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-of-easter-year-b-humes/

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Posted June 27, 2019 by neatnik2009 in 2 Peter 1, Acts of the Apostles 6, Mark 16, Psalm 133

Tagged with ,

The Faithfulness and Generosity of God, Part VI   Leave a comment

Above:  The Parable of the Good Samaritan

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Almighty God, who hast given us thy Word as a lamp for our feet:

keep thy Word ever before us, so that, in times of doubt or temptation,

by the light of thy truth we may walk, without stumbling,

in the way of thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 120

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Jeremiah 9:23-24

2 Peter 1:16-21

Matthew 20:1-16

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The issue is not, “who is my neighbor?” but “can we recognize that the enemy might be our neighbor and can we accept this disruption of our stereotypes?”

–Amy-Jill Levine in The Jewish Annotated New Testament (New York:  Oxford University Press, 2011), 123

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Jesus’ interlocutor, the Jewish lawyer, holds a restrictive definition of “neighbor”:  his question, “Who is my neighbor” presupposes that some people are not neighbors.

–Michael Fagenblat, “The Concept of Neighbor in Jewish and Christian Ethics,” 542, in The Jewish Annotated New Testament (New York:  Oxford University Press, 2011)

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…the lawyer…attempted to save face by asking a further question, “Just a minute.  Exactly who is my neighbor?”…He was really asking, “How far does my responsibility go here?  What, in fact, constitutes neighborliness, and who qualifies to receive the love called for in the Law?”  He might have been asking, “What is the least I am required to do to get by?”…Jesus, however, turned in the other direction altogether and said, “You’re to think of yourself as a neighbor.”  The question isn’t, “Is such and such a person worthy of my love?” but rather, “Am I willing to take what I have, what I know, and what I can do and place all this at the disposal of another person’s needs or growth?”

–John Claypool, Stories Jesus Still Tells:  The Parables (New York:  McCracken Press, 1993), 101-102, 105

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Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance in the Bible.  God expects much of us and enables us to fulfill those expectations.  We usually experience God as the Holy Spirit, probably.  That, at least, is the theologically approved term, according to Christian orthodoxy.  I, without straying into heresy, note that the Greek word we translate as “person,” as in “First Person of the Trinity,” “Second Person of the Trinity,” and “Third Person of the Trinity,” means “masks.”

Our one acceptable glory is in God, who is generous, according to the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard.  The workers must work, of course, but all receive a daily wage, even if they work a partial work day.  The Kingdom of Heaven, we read, is like that employment situation in the vineyard.  Contrary to the ubiquitous Dalman consensus, the Kingdom of Heaven is not a reverential circumlocution, as Jonathan Pennington writes.  No, the Kingdom of Heaven is the fully realized reign/realm of God on the Earth.  No, the Kingdom of Heaven is apocalyptic.

God’s ways are not ours, overall.  They overlap occasionally, by accident, perhaps.  Extravagant divine extravagance, as in the parables, certainly contradicts the corresponding way of the world.  One function of the rhetoric of the Kingdom of Heaven is to point out the ways in which human patterns are deficient.

Go is generous, with standards for beneficiaries of grace to adopt.  We often prefer cheap grace, so we can blithely follow familiar patterns of thinking and behaving, without nagging moral qualms.  We are also frequently stingy certainly compared to God.  Often we are like the lawyer in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10); we ask,

Who is my neighbor?

We really mean,

Who is not my neighbor?

Jesus tells us that all people are our neighbors.  We do not like that answer.  Our ways are deficient.

They can be less so in this life, by grace, though.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 2, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL SOULS/THE COMMEMORATION OF ALL FAITHFUL DEPARTED

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Divine Glory and Sacrificial Love   2 comments

Above:  The Transfiguration, by Raphael

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-90565

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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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Exodus 24:12-18

Psalm 2

2 Peter 1:16-21

Matthew 17:1-9 (or 1-13)

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Interestingly, the Transfiguration account in Matthew follows on the heels of Jesus saying,

Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.

–16:28, The New American Bible (1991)

In that scene, Jesus, looking very much like Moses (and standing with Moses and Elijah) on a mountaintop, stands in divine glory.  We can read another version of the Transfiguration in Luke 9:28-36, shortly before Jesus sets his face literally and figuratively toward Jerusalem–to die.

It is appropriate that we read of the Transfiguration on the Sunday immediately preceding Lent, at the end of which are Good Friday and Holy Saturday.  We are supposed to recall the supreme divine love behind the Incarnation and the Atonement, as well as to remember that God calls us to love like Jesus, who loved all the way to a cross.

That is a variety of love that carries a high price tag.  The grace, although free, is certainly not cheap.  It is, however, the path to life at its fullest and most abundant.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 23, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY THE ILLUMINATOR AND ISAAC THE GREAT, PATRIARCHS OF ARMENIA

THE FEAST OF MEISTER ECKHART, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN AND MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF SAINT METODEJ DOMINIK TRCKA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICTORIAN OF HADRUMETUM, MARTYR AT CARTHAGE, 484

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/23/devotion-for-transfiguration-sunday-year-a-humes/

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The Oratory and Theology of Elihu, Part IV   1 comment

the-wrath-of-elihu-william-blake

Above:  The Wrath of Elihu, by William Blake

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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Job 34:21-37

Psalm 12

Matthew 7:1-12

2 Peter 1:1-15

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God cares for the poor and the oppressed, Elihu, Psalm 12, and Matthew 7 tell us.  Yet how do we explain the divine wager in Job 1 and 2, as well as the suffering of other innocent people?  It is a difficult theological question, one for which I, along with the Book of Job, refuse to offer any easy answers.  I not that, according to God in Job 42:7, Job had, unlike Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, spoken truthfully about God.  I remind you, O reader, that Job had spoken critically of God, who agreed with Job in Chapter 42 yet not in Chapters 38-41.  Such contradictions are par for course in a text with layers of authorship.

Elihu, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar should have followed timeless advice which the author of 2 Peter 1 summarized thusly:

…you should make every effort to add virtue to your faith, knowledge to virtue, self-control to knowledge, fortitude to self-control, piety to fortitude, brotherly affection to piety, and love to brotherly affection.

–1:5b-7, The Revised English Bible (1989)

They would have avoided being not only inhospitable but overreaching in statements in defense of God, as they understood God.  Elihu said:

But this is what all sensible folk will say,

and any wise man among my hearers,

“There is not wisdom in Job’s speech,

his words lack sense.

Put him unsparingly to the proof

since his retorts are the same as those that the wicked make.

For to him he adds rebellion,

calling justice into question in our midst

and heaping abuse on God.”

–Job 34:34-37, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

They would have refrained from heaping abuse on Job and would have been good friends had they acted according to the timeless advice the author of 2 Peter 1:5b-7 understood well.

May we–you, O reader, and I–act according to 2 Peter 1:5b-7 daily, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SALVIUS OF ALBI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF MORDECAI JOHNSON, EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT NEMESIAN OF SIGUM AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS AND MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2016/09/10/devotion-for-the-sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d/

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