Archive for the ‘Acts of the Apostles 1’ 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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Enthronement   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Ascension of Christ

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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Acts 1:1-11

Psalm 110

Ephesians 1:16-23

Luke 24:44-53

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Almighty God, your only Son was taken up into heaven

and in power intercedes for us. 

May we also come into your presence

and live forever in your glory;

through 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), 22

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Grant, we pray, almighty God,

that even as we believe your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,

to have ascended into heaven,

so may also in heart and mind ascend and continually

dwell there with him;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 55-56

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Luke-Acts is a composite work.  Given this fact, the discrepancy in the timing of the Ascension confuses me.  Luke 24 places the Ascension on the same day as the Resurrection.  Yet Acts 1 times it forty days after the Resurrection and ten days before Pentecost.  O, well.

By the 300s, the Feast of the Ascension our Lord, set forty days after Easter Day, was commonplace.  St. Augustine of Hippo wrote that churches

all over the world

celebrated the feast.

I understand the Ascension as theological poetry, not theological prose, because of science.  I accept that, one day, Jesus was present with his Apostles until he left.  Given cultural and theological assumptions of the time, we have the metaphor of ascension.  May we–you, O reader, and I–not become lost in technical details.

The Feast of the Ascension is about enthronement–of Jesus, mainly.  It is about the enthronement of humanity itself.  To quote St. John Chrysostom:

Our very nature…is enthroned today high above all cherubim.

Happy Ascension Day!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 23, 2022 COMMON ERA

SATURDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF TOYOHIKO KAGAWA, RENEWER OF SOCIETY AND PROPHETIC WITNESS IN JAPAN

THE FEAST OF MARTIN RINCKART, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA MARIA OF THE CROSS, FOUNDER OF THE CARMELITE SISTERS OF SAINT TERESA OF FLORENCE

THE FEAST OF WALTER RUSSELL BOWIE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, SEMINARY PROFESSOR, AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post

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Limited Expectations and Vision   1 comment

Above: Supper at Emmaus, by Caravaggio

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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Daniel 12:1c-3 or Jonah 2:2-9

Psalm 150 (LBW) or Psalm 146 (LW)

1 Corinthians 5:6-8

Luke 24:13-49

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Almighty God, give us the joy of celebrating our Lord’s resurrection. 

Give us also the joys of life in your service,

and bring us at last to the full joy of life eternal;

through 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), 21

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Almighty God the Father,

through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ

you have overcome death and opened the gate of everlasting life to us. 

Grant that we, who celebrate with jo the day of the Lord’s resurrection,

may be raised from the depth of sin by your life-giving Spirit;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 49

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Major lectionaries for Sundays and other holy days usually provide readings without specifying a morning or an evening service.  Some exceptions exist.  There are, for example, the main and the evening for services for Easter Day, as well as the Easter Vigil.

The main purpose for the evening service on Easter Day is to tell the story in Luke 24:13-49–the road to Emmaus story.  One textual curiosity is the timing of the Ascension of Jesus–immediately after the events of Luke 24:13-49 or forty days later (Acts 1:6-12).  That the same author (St. Luke) wrote both accounts adds to the confusion.

Anyway, Luke 14:13-49 tells us that God prevented the disciples on the road to Emmaus from recognizing Jesus for a while.  That explanation seems unnecessary; one may surmise reasonably that those disciples did not expect to encounter Jesus.  Therefore, they did not recognize him.  Are you, O reader, likely to recognize someone walking around when you think that person is dead?  We humans tend not to see what we do not expect to see.  We look yet we do not see.

God acts.  The evidence surrounds us, and we miss much of it.  The proof is not wearing camouflage.  No, we are paying inadequate attention.  This statement applies daily.  In science, people speak of

life as we know it.

I suspect that the universe teems with life, most of it not life as we know it.  If we were to encounter it, we would probably not recognize it.   Blessings often assume forms we do not recognize.  We encounter a plethora of blessings daily and fail to recognize many of them.

How do you, O reader, and I need to expand our definitions and expectations so we can recognize more of what God has done and is doing?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 17, 2022 COMMON ERA

EASTER DAY

THE FEAST OF DANIEL SYLVESTER TUTTLE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF EMILY COOPER, EPISCOPAL DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF LUCY LARCOM, U.S. ACADEMIC, JOURNALIST, POET, EDITOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAX JOSEF METZGER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1944

THE FEAST OF WILBUR KENNETH HOWARD, MODERATOR OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA

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Adapted from this post

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Restoring the Apostolic Community   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Christ and the Twelve Apostles

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LIV

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Acts 1:12-26

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The Twelve had become the Eleven after the death of Judas Iscariot.  The Eleven had plenty of company, though; they belonged to a community of about one hundred twenty people–enough to constitute a new Sanhedrin.  And both men and women counted.

The account of the death of Judas Iscariot in Matthew 27:3-10 contradicts the version in Acts 1:16-20.  The Judas Iscariot of Matthew 27 was a penitent who committed suicide while overcome with guilt.  In contrast, the Judas Iscariot of Acts 1:16-20 was an unapologetic man who died when his bowels burst out.  The manner of Judas Iscariot’s death in Acts 1:16-20 echoed stories of the deaths of wicked people (2 Samuel 20:4-13; 2 Maccabees 9:5-6).  Another nuance may relate to the bowels metaphorically being the seat of emotions.  In Greek, “bowels” is splanchnon; “pity” or “compassion’ is splanchnizomai.  In Luke 10:33, the Good Samaritan, “moved by pity,” helped the man by the side of the road.  In Luke 15:20, the father of the Prodigal Son, “filled with compassion,” welcomed his son home.  Another implication, then, may be that Judas Iscariot lacked pity/compassion.

The metaphor of the bowels as the seat of emotions persisted in English for a long time.  In 1742, Charles Wesley wrote a hymn, “Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown.”  Two lines, in the original form, were:

To me, to all, thy bowels move,

Thy nature, and thy name is love.

Since 1893, however, God’s mercies have moved instead.

(Thanks to Brian Wren, Praying Twice:  The Music and Words of Congregational Song, 2000, for bringing this to my attention.)

Echoes of the metaphor remain in English.  We still have “gut feelings,” for example.

Restoring the Twelve had symbolic importance.  The candidates were some of the Seventy (or Seventy-Two).  St. Matthias won the election.  Symbolically, twelve (the number of tribes) indicated the restoration of Israel.  This restoration of the Twelve occurred shortly before God did something astounding.

May we never underestimate the value of symbols.  A symbol carries the meaning(s) people assign to it.  Symbols are, therefore, powerful.  Objectively, a flag is merely a piece of cloth.  Symbolically, however, people infuse flags with meanings, for example.  Symbols are tangible signs of that which is intangible.

Consider the symbols of the sacraments, O reader.  Something intangible is at work in a sacrament.  Yet we hear words in a ritual.  We see the water of baptism and the laying on of hands at an ordination.  We receive bread and wine at Eucharist.  All these are symbols and signs.  They are tangible; grace is intangible.  In the case of bread and wine, of course, the symbols become what they symbolize.  I leave the mystery as it is and thank God for it.

What symbols indicate grace for you, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 28, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES SOLOMON RUSSELL, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, EDUCATOR, AND ADVOCATE FOR RACIAL EQUALITY

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH RUNDLE CHARLES, ANGLICAN WRITER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GUNTRAM OF BURGUNDY, KING

THE FEAST OF KATHARINE LEE BATES, U.S. EDUCATOR, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF RICHARD CHEVNIX TRENCH, ANGLICAN ARCHBISHOP OF DUBLIN

THE FEAST OF SAINT TUTILO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND COMPOSER

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The Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Ascension, by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LIII

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Luke 24:50-53

Acts 1:1-11

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Given that I have written numerous blog posts about the Ascension, and given that they are available at this weblog, I do not seek to replicate them in this post.

As I continue through Luke-Acts, I notice a narrative contradiction.  Luke 24:50-53, read within the narrative context of chapter 24, dates the Ascension to Easter Day.  Yet Acts 1:3 dates the Ascension to forty days after Easter Day.  Interpretations of this discrepancy include:

  1. “Forty days” is symbolic,
  2. The forty days fill out the calendar, and
  3. Acts 1:3 corrects Luke 24 after St. Luke the Evangelist uncovered more information than he had when he wrote the Gospel of Luke.

I am not a fundamentalist.  Biblical inerrancy and infallibility are utter nonsense.  If St. Luke changed his mind, so be it.  If “forty days” is symbolic, so be it.  I do not know which interpretation is corect.

Forty is frequently a symbolic number in the Bible.  One may recall that the reign of King David lasted for about forty years, that the Hebrews wandered in the desert for forty years, that Jesus spent forty days in the desert, and that the mythical Great Flood lasted for forty days and forty nights.  Forty is a sacred number in the Bible.  It, therefore, recurs in the Bible for many more examples than i have cited.  Forty, symbolically, is a round number that designates a fairly long time in terms of human existence or endurance.

So, even if the forty days (Acts 1:3) are symbolic, they still contradict Luke 24, with Jesus’s resurrection and the Ascension occurring on the same day.

Anyway, “ascension” may not be the most accurate word for Jesus’ departure.  “Assumption” may be better.  Christ’s departure resembles the assumptions of Elijah (2 Kings 2:9-11; Sirach 48:9) and Enoch (Genesis 5:23-24; Sirach 49:14b), with apocalyptic imagery added.

The priestly gestures and blessings of Jesus before his departure, followed by worship, close the Gospel of Luke fittingly.  Recall Luke 1:20-23, O reader:  the priest Zechariah could not pronounce a blessing.

The Lukan accounts of the Ascension of Jesus also draw from Sirach 50:1-21, about the high priest Simon II.  The account of Simon II depicts him as the culmination of Israel’s history, at the point of the composition of that book.  Luke-Acts, which postdates Sirach, depicts Jesus as the culmination of Israel’s history.

In Luke 24, the Ascension is the fitting end of the story of Jesus.  In Acts 1, however, the Ascension is the beginning of the story of the mission of the Church.  Placing the two Lukan interpretations side-by-side provides the full picture.

I also detect one of St. Luke’s organizing principles in Luke 24 and Acts 1.  Luke-Acts finishes focusing on one story before focusing on another one, although the stories may overlap.  Consider the focus on St. John the Baptist (Luke 3) before the focus on Jesus (Luke  4-24), O reader.  Then we come to a different focus, starting in Acts 1.

The story of the mission of the Church, empowered by the Holy Spirit, follows.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 2, 2022 COMMON ERA

ASH WEDNESDAY

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The Temptations of Christ in the Desert   1 comment

Above:  Temptations of Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART VIII

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Luke 4:1-13

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The story of the tempting of Jesus in the desert is replete with meanings.  I cover some of them in this post.

The Lucan account begins with a reference to the Holy Spirit, a motif in Luke-Acts.

Forty is a symbolic number.  It is a round number that indicates a fairly long time in terms of human existence or endurance.  One may recall forty years–in the wilderness after the Exodus, the approximate length of King David’s reign, and the length of a generation.  One may also recall the forty days and forty nights of the mythical Great Flood, as well as the symbolic forty days between the resurrection and Ascension of Jesus in Acts 1.  (However, the resurrection and the Ascension occurred on the same day, according to Luke 24.)

Satan quoted scripture for his purposes.  Jesus quoted scripture in reply.

The Lucan treatment of this story fulfills four functions:

  1. To clarify the nature of Jesus’s work as the Son of God,
  2. To identify Jesus with the heritage of Israel (testing in the desert),
  3. To mirror the conflict of God’s reign with Satan’s reign, and
  4. To offer Christians a model for resisting temptation.

The temptation to turn a stone into bread has become the subject of competing interpretations:

  1. To be relevant,
  2. To exploit being the Son of God for his benefit,
  3. To express independence from God, and
  4. To perform a popular sign for the people.

This was a temptation with practical implications.  Jesus was hungry.  Also, bread was a precious commodity in a place where most land was not arable.  Turing stones into bread would have made Jesus popular, on the basis of what he could do for people.

In the first century C.E., Judaism affirmed that Satan was the power behind the great empires.  In that context, the temptation to gain worldly power by worshiping Satan fit, culturally.  This was the temptation to gain power by making improper compromises.  Yet Jesus affirmed God as the sole source of his identity.

The temptation to jump from the southwest corner of the Temple in Jerusalem was the temptation to be spectacular and to challenge God’s good faith.

I, as a historian, know better than to attempt to historicize the temptations of Jesus.  I do, however, apply them to myself and my society.  Little happens without compromises, so many compromises are necessary and proper.  Yet other compromises are wrong.  We need to be careful not to compromise ourselves, individually and collectively.  We also need to follow Jesus because of who he is and not because of what he can do for us.  And we should never challenge God’s good faith.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 25, 2021 COMMON ERA

CHRISTMAS DAY

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Posted December 25, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Acts of the Apostles 1, Luke 24, Luke 4

Introduction to Luke-Acts   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of St. Luke the Evangelist

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART I

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The whole of Luke’s gospel is about the way in which the living God has planted, in Jesus, the seed of that long-awaited hope in the world.

–N. T. Wright, Lent for Everyone:  Luke, Year C–A Daily Devotional (2009), 2

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The Gospel of Luke is the first volume of a larger work.  The Acts of the Apostles is the second volume.  One can read either volume spiritually profitably in isolation from the other one.  However, one derives more benefit from reading Luke-Acts as the two-volume work it is.

Each of the four canonical Gospels bears the name of its traditional author.  The Gospel of Luke is the only case in which I take this traditional authorship seriously as a matter of history.  One may recall that St. Luke was a well-educated Gentile physician and a traveling companion of St. Paul the Apostle.

Luke-Acts dates to circa 85 C.E.,. “give or take five to ten years,” as Raymond E. Brown (1928-1998) wrote in his magisterial An Introduction to the New Testament (1997).  Luke-Acts, having a Gentile author, includes evidence that the audience consisted of Gentiles, too.  The text makes numerous references to the inclusion of Gentiles, for example.  Two of the major themes in Luke-Acts are (a) reversal of fortune, and (b) the conflict between the Roman Empire and the Kingdom of God.  The smoldering ruins of Jerusalem and the Second Temple in 70 C.E. inform the present tense of the story-telling.

Many North American Christians minimize or ignore the imperial politics in the New Testament.  In doing so, they overlook essential historical and cultural contexts.  Luke-Acts, in particular, performs an intriguing political dance with the Roman Empire.  The two-volume work unambiguously proclaims Jesus over the Emperor–a treasonous message, by Roman imperial standards.  Luke-Acts makes clear that the Roman Empire was on the wrong side of God, that its values were opposite those of the Kingdom of God.  Yet the two-volume work goes out of its way to mention honorable imperial officials.

Know six essential facts about me, O reader:

  1. This weblog is contains other blog posts covering Luke-Acts, but in the context of lectionaries.  I refer you to those posts.  And I will not attempt to replicate those other posts in the new posts.  Finding those posts is easy; check the category for the book and chapter, such as Luke 1 or Acts 28.
  2. I know far more about the four canonical Gospels, especially in relation to each other, than I will mention in the succeeding posts.  I tell you this not to boast, but to try to head off anyone who may chime in with a rejoinder irrelevant to my purpose in any given post.  My strategy will be to remain on topic.
  3. My purpose will be to analyze the material in a way that is intellectually honest and applicable in real life.  I respect Biblical scholarship that goes deep into the woods, spending ten pages on three lines.  I consult works of such scholarship.  However, I leave that work to people with Ph.Ds in germane fields and who write commentaries.
  4. I am a student of the Bible, not a scholar thereof.
  5. I am a left-of-center Episcopalian who places a high value on human reason and intellect.  I value history and science.  I reject both the inerrancy and the infallibility of scripture for these reasons.  Fundamentalists think I am going to Hell for asking too many questions.  I try please God, not fundamentalists. I know too much to affirm certain theological statements.
  6. I am a sui generis mix of Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Anglican theological influences.  I consider St. Mary of Nazareth to be the Theotokos (the Bearer of God) and the Mater Dei (the Mother of God).  I also reject the Virgin Birth and the Immaculate Conception with it.

Make of all this whatever you will, O reader.

Shall we begin our journey through Luke-Acts?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-THIRD DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF BATES GILBERT BURT, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF BENJAMIN TUCKER TANNER, AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL BISHOP AND RENEWER OF SOCIETY

THE FEAST OF D. ELTON TRUEBLOOD, U.S. QUAKER THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JOHANN CHRISTOPH SCHWEDLER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MICHAL PIASCZYNSKI,POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1940

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The Death of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes   Leave a comment

Above:  The Punishment of Antiochus, by Gustave Doré

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART XVIII

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1 Maccabees 6:1-17

2 Maccabees 9:1-29

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Retribution is a theme in 2 Maccabees.  Enemies of pious Jews died ignominiously in that book.  Consider:

  1. Andronicus, who had killed High Priest Onias III (4:34), died via execution (4:38).  “The Lord thus repaid him with the punishment he deserved.”–4:39, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)
  2. High Priest Jason “met a miserable end” (5:8, RSV II).  He, shunned, died in exile in Egypt.  Nobody mourned him after he died.  Jason had no funeral (5:9-10).
  3. High Priest Menelaus died via execution.  He, pushed off a tower about 73 feet high, died in a pit full of ashes.  Nobody held a funeral for Menelaus (13:3-8).
  4. Nicanor, who had commanded the siege of Jerusalem, died in combat.  This his severed head hung from the citadel of Jerusalem.  Furthermore, birds ate his severed tongue (15:28-36).

Is this not wonderful mealtime reading?

Then we come to King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, an infamous blasphemer, “a sinful root” (1 Maccabees 1:10), and “a little horn” (Daniel 7:8) who made “war with the saints” (Daniel 7:21).

When we left off in the narrative, King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, short on funds, was traveling in the eastern part of the Seleucid Empire and raising money to finance the struggle against Judas Maccabeus and his forces (1 Maccabees 3:27-37).  At the beginning of 1 Maccabees 6 and 2 Maccabees 9, the blasphemous monarch was in the area of Susa, in the region of Elam.  King Antiochus IV Epiphanes was engaging in one of his favorite fund-raising tactics–trying to plunder a temple full of valuable treasures.  (Read 1 Maccabees 1:54f and 2 Maccabees 5:15f, O reader.)  He failed this time.  News of the developments in Judea reached the king, whose world was collapsing around him.  He died, allegedly penitent, in the year 164/163 B.C.E. (149 on the Seleucid/Hellenistic calendar).

2 Maccabees elaborates on the account in 1 Maccabees.  2 Maccabees describes vividly the pain in the monarch’s bowels (9:5f), the infestation of worms (9:9), his rotting flesh (9:9), and his body’s stench (9:9).

So the murderer and blasphemer, having endured the most intense suffering, such as he had inflicted on others, came to the end of his life by a most pitiable fate, among the mountains of a strange land.

–2 Maccabees 9:28, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

King Antiochus IV Epiphanes had appointed Philip the regent and the guardian of the new king, Antiochus V Eupator (reigned 164/163 B.C.E.).  There were two major problems, however:

  1. King Antiochus IV Epiphanes had previously appointed Lysias to both positions (1 Maccabees 3:32-33), and
  2. Lysias had custody of the young (minor) heir to the throne.

Philip attempted a coup d’état and failed (1 Maccabees 6:55-56).  Meanwhile, Lysias had installed the seven-year-old King Antiochus V Eupator on the Seleucid throne.  Philip, in mortal danger from Regent Lysias, fled to the protection of King Ptolemy VI Philometor (reigned 180-145 B.C.E.) in Egypt.  

1 and 2 Maccabees differ on the timing of the death of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes relative to the Temple in Jerusalem–the first Hanukkah.  1 Maccabees places the king’s death after the purification of the Temple.  2 Maccabees, however, places the death of the blasphemous monarch prior to the first Hanukkah.  Father Daniel J. Harrington, S.J., writing in The New Collegeville Commentary:  Old Testament (2015), 832, favors the relative dating in 2 Maccabees.  Harrington also proposes that news of the death of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes may have reached Jerusalem after the first Hanukkah.  That analysis is feasible and perhaps probable.

I agree with the evaluation of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 2 Maccabees.  I agree that his repentance was insincere and self-serving.  The monarch was like a criminal who regretted getting arrested and sentenced, not having committed a crime.

An interesting connection to the New Testament deserves comments here.  I start with the Wisdom of Solomon 4:17-20:

These [wicked] people [who look on, uncomprehending] see the wise man’s ending

without understanding what the Lord has in store for him

or why he has taken him to safety;

they look on and sneer,

but the Lord will laugh at them.

Soon they will be corpses without honour,

objects of scorn among the dead for ever.

The Lord will dash them down headlong, dumb.

He will tear them from their foundations,

they will be utterly laid waste,

anguish will be theirs,

and their memory shall perish.

The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

This is the reference in the Lukan account of the death of Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:15-20).  That account differs from the version in Matthew 27:3-10 (suicide by hanging, without his entrails bursting out), like that of Ahitophel (2 Samuel 17:23), during Absalom’s rebellion against King David.  (Ahitophel had betrayed King David.)  Both Acts 1:15-20 and 2 Maccabees 9:5-29 echo aspects of the Wisdom of Solomon 4:17-20.  The Lukan account of the death of Judas Iscariot purposefully evokes the memory of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

Obviously, one part of the Wisdom of Solomon 4:17-20 does not apply to King Antiochus IV Epiphanes and Judas Iscariot.  We know their names.

The evil that men do lives after them;

the good is oft interred with their bones.

–William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar

(I memorized that in high school, which was more years ago then I like to admit some days.)

In reality, we may know the names of evildoers in greater quantity than those of the righteous.  Think about it, O reader.  How many gangsters, serial killers, Nazis, Nazi collaborators, terrorists, dictators, would-be dictators, and genocidal dictators can you name?  And how many saints, humanitarians, and other kind-hearted people can you name?  Which category–evildoers or good people–has more names in it?

King Antiochus IV Epiphanes had started down his destructive path by seeking to impose cultural uniformity–Hellenism–on his culturally diverse empire.  He was neither the first nor the last ruler to commit some variation of the error of enforced cultural homogenization.  He learned that defining unity as enforced cultural homogeneity increased disunity by inspiring rebellion.

Cultural diversity adds spice to communal life.  The world would be boring if we were all homogenous.  Mutual respect, toleration, acceptance, and tolerance maintains unity in the midst of cultural diversity.  When acceptance is a bridge too far, tolerance may suffice.  However, there are limits, even to cultural diversity.  Tolerance is a generally good idea.  A good idea, carried too far, becomes a bad idea.  Correctly placing the boundaries of tolerance amid cultural diversity is both necessary and wise.  On the left (where I dwell), the temptation is to draw the circle too wide.  On the right, the temptation is to draw the circle too small.

I am a student of history.  My reading tells me that many rulers of culturally-diverse realms have succeed in maintaining unity.  They have done so by practicing respect for diversity in matters of culture and religion, although not absolutely.  But these rulers have not insisted that everyone fellow a monoculture.  Therefore, very different people have peaceably found their places in those societies.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 10, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SCHOLASTICA, ABBESS OF PLOMBARIOLA; AND HER TWIN BROTHER, SAINT BENEDICT OF NURSIA, ABBOT OF MONTE CASSINO AND FATHER OF WESTERN MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT OF ANIANE, RESTORER OF WESTERN MONASTICISM; AND SAINT ARDO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF JULIA WILLIAMS GARNET, AFRICAN-AMERICAN ABOLITIONIST AND EDUCATOR; HER HUSBAND, HENRY HIGHLAND GARNET, AFRICAN-AMERICAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND ABOLITIONIST; HIS SECOND WIFE, SARAH J. SMITH TOMPKINS GARNET, AFRICAN-AMERICAN SUFFRAGETTE AND EDUCATOR; HER SISTER, SUSAN MARIA SMITH MCKINNEY STEWARD, AFRICAN-AMERICAN PHYSICIAN; AND HER SECOND HUSBAND, THEOPHILUS GOULD STEWARD, U.S. AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL MINISTER, ARMY CHAPLAIN, AND PROFESSOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT NORBERT OF XANTEN, FOUNDER OF THE PREMONSTRATENSIANS; SAINT HUGH OF FOSSES, SECOND FOUNDER OF THE PREMONSTRATENSIANS; AND SAINT EVERMOD, BISHOP OF RATZEBURG

THE FEAST OF PHILIP ARMES, ANGLICAN CHURCH ORGANIST

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Stepping Up to the Plate   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Ascension, by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Ascension, 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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Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that like as we do believe

thy only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to have ascended into the heavens;

so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with him continually dwell,

who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 175

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Daniel 7:9, 10, 13, 14

Psalm 68:1-20

Acts 1:1-11

John 17:1-13

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The Ascension of Jesus is theological prose poetry, my twenty-first-century brain tells me.  After all, my understanding of the universe differs from that of a first-century Hellenistic Jew.  I do not assume that God lives beyond the sky.  Nevertheless, I accept that Jesus went home shortly prior to Pentecost.

What does that have to do with us?  That is an excellent question, to which I propose an answer.  We are not alone; we have the aid of the Holy Spirit.  We have vital work to do for God.  Jesus is not physically present to do much for us, so we need to step up to the plate, so to speak.  Praying can be a positive spiritual exercise, but it can also become an excuse for passiveness.  Sometimes we need to act, not pray.  When we need to act, we also need to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Writing those words was easy.  Know the difference between the Holy Spirit and an internal monologue has long been very difficult, however.

I offer no easy answers.  I do, however, hope that you, O reader, will, by grace, understand the difference in real time and act accordingly.

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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Posted April 9, 2020 by neatnik2009 in Acts of the Apostles 1, Daniel 7, John 17, Psalm 68

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Faithful Community, Part IV   Leave a comment

Above:   Enoch, by Theophanes the Greek

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Almighty God:  your Son Jesus promised that if he was lifted up,

he would draw all men to himself.  Draw us to him by faith,

so that we may live to serve you, and look toward life eternal;

through Jesus Christ the Lord.  Amen.

The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns (1972), 150

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Genesis 5:21-24

Acts 1:1-11

Luke 24:36-53

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Two of the assigned readings for the Feast of the Ascension are predictable; we read the two accounts of the Ascension of Jesus from Luke-Acts.  That is logical, given the occasion.

The reading from Genesis 5 (the assumption of Enoch) fits thematically.

I no more affirm the extremely advanced ages of people in the early chapters of Genesis than I think that Jesus literally ascended.  After all, I know that the cosmos is not three-tiered, with the Earth between the underworld and Heaven.  The story of the Ascension is correct, however, when it insists that Jesus departed bodily, however that happened.  The language of ascension functions as a prose poetry.

Genesis 5:22 tells that Enoch walked with God.  That is the mandate for every human being in every place and at every time.  Not one of us has to attempt to walk alone; God is with us.  We may experience persecution because of our walk with God, but God will remain beside us.  We may lead quiet, even prosperous lives of service; God will be with us then, too.  Circumstances beyond our control will determine much of what we will experience.

Nevertheless, acting in accordance with divine love–living the Golden Rule as nearly as humanly possible–will stir up opposition.  Ironically, many opponents will consider themselves pious followers of God.  We may even be among the opponents of those living according to the Golden Rule.  Each of us has spiritual blind spots, learned and otherwise.

May God cure us such blindness, so that we may serve Him faithfully and support each other in doing so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN AMOS COMENIUS, FATHER OF MODERN EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF THE CONSECRATION OF SAMUEL SEABURY, FIRST EPISCOPAL BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ROMANIS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Posted November 14, 2018 by neatnik2009 in Acts of the Apostles 1, Luke 24

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