Archive for the ‘Acts of the Apostles 11’ Category

Friendship   1 comment

St. Barnabas

Above:  St. Barnabas

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O Lord God, you teach us that without love, our actions gain nothing.

Pour into our hearts your most excellent gift of love, that,

made alive by your Spirit, we may know goodness and peace,

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 34

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 20:1-23, 35-42 (Monday)

2 Samuel 1:4-27 (Tuesday)

Psalm 133 (Both Days)

Acts 11:19-26 (Monday)

Acts 11:27-30 (Tuesday)

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Oh, how good and pleasant it is

when brethren live together in unity!

It is like fine oil upon the head

that runs down upon the beard,

Upon the beard of Aaron,

and runs down upon the collar of his robe.

It is like the dew of Hermon

that falls upon the hills of Zion.

For there the LORD has ordained the blessing,

life for evermore.

–Psalm 133, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Friendship is a form of such unity.

Jonathan remained David’s friend, even to the detriment of his (Jonathan’s) relationship with his father, King Saul.  In 1 Samuel 20:30 the monarch cursed out his son, although few versions in English have rendered the verse accordingly.  Saul’s reminder that Jonathan was also endangering his own potential kingship were rational yet ultimately unnecessary, for father and son died at about the same time.

St. Barnabas was a major ally of St. Paul the Apostle.  He assisted the former Saul of Tarsus, violent foe of nascent Christianity, who had become a convert to the faith recently.  St. Barnabas escorted St. Paul to meet with the understandably frightened remaining Apostles (Acts 9:26-28).  St. Barnabas, working among the Christians of Antioch, left to retrieve St. Paul from Tarsus and took him to Antioch (Acts 11:19-26).  Sts. Barnabas and Paul carried alms to Jerusalem (11:27-30).  The two men traveled together on evangelistic journeys (Acts 13:2).  St. Barnabas addressed the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:12), and he and St. Paul delivered the decree thereof to churches (Acts 15:22-31).  The two men parted company because they disagreed strongly over taking John Mark (St. Mark the Evangelist) with them, so Sts. Barnabas and Mark traveled together afterward (Acts 15:36-39).  Although St. Paul respected St. Barnabas (1 Corinthians 9:6 and Galatians 2:1, 9), he criticized his former traveling companion for, like St. Simon Peter, refusing table fellowship with Gentiles (Galatians 2:13).  Nevertheless, St. Barnabas had helped to make the former Saul of Tarsus the figure who became St. Paul the Apostle, vouching for him at a crucial juncture.  What if St. Barnabas had been wrong about St. Paul?  He took that risk.

Friends are people who stand by us at the most difficult times.  Such people are natural agents of divine grace.  May each of us have such friends and be such a friend to others, for the glory of God and for the common good.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 2, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE NINTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN KONRAD WILHELM LOEHE, BAVARIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND COORDINATOR OF DOMESTIC AND FOREIGN MISSIONS

THE FEAST OF SABINE BARING-GOULD, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/01/02/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-fifth-sunday-of-easter-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Purity, Inclusion, and Exclusion   1 comment

Peter's Vison of the Sheet with Animals

Above:  Peter’s Vision of the Sheet with Animals

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Stir up our hearts, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son.

By his coming strengthen us to serve you with purified lives;

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 4:2-6

Psalm 27

Acts 11:1-18

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One thing have I asked of the LORD;

one thing I seek;

that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life;

To behold the fair beauty of the LORD

and to seek him in his temple.

–Psalm 27:5-6, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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For the love of God is broader

than the measure of man’s minds

and the heart of the Eternal

is most wonderfully kind.

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But we make his love too narrow

by false limits of our own;

and we magnify his strictness

with a zeal he will not own.

–Frederick William Faber, “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy” (1854)

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The vision of Jerusalem in Isaiah 4 is that of a city purified from moral corruption, such as economic exploitation (3:13-15).   The purified city, which the text describes in imagery reminiscent of the Exodus, will be a glorious place.

That is all very nice, but I become nervous when mere mortals become judges of purity.  Then, in the worst cases, people undertake inquisitions, Donatism, and allegedly holy wars in the name of God.  Less extreme cases also offend me greatly, for they violate the inclusive spirit of Acts 11:1-18.  Besides, I fail the purity tests which other people design.  I recall something which Philip Yancey wrote in a book.  He attended a Bible college in the 1960s.  That institution’s grooming standards for men would have excluded Jesus, as artists have depicted him traditionally.  And there was no emphasis on social justice, such as civil rights.

So may we strive, by grace, to love our neighbors as ourselves and to respect the dignity of every human being.  May we not be too afraid to act compassionately toward each other.  May mere human decency be a hallmark of our behavior.  And may we leave matters of purity to God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 26, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 25:  THE TWENTIETH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALFRED THE GREAT, KING OF THE WEST SAXONS

THE FEAST OF SAINT CEDD, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF LONDON

THE FEAST OF DMITRY BORTNIANSKY, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF PHILLIP NICOLAI, JOHANN HEERMANN, AND PAUL GERHARDT, HYMN WRITERS

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/10/26/devotion-for-tuesday-after-the-second-sunday-of-advent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Jeremiah and Barnabas   1 comment

Antioch Hippodrome

Above:  Remains of the Hippodrome at Antioch, Turkey, Between 1934 and 1939

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-16684

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The Collect:

Stir up our hearts, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son.

By his coming strengthen us to serve you with purified lives;

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 85:8-13

Acts 11:19-26

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Show us your mercy, O LORD,

and grand us your salvation.

I will listen to what the LORD God is saying,

for he is speaking peace to his faithful people

and to those who turn their hears to him.

–Psalm 85:7-8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Jeremiah had a difficult vocation:  to prophesy to people who ignored his message at best and tried to kill him at worst.  The prophets’ youth was a serious problem, from his initial perspective.  Yet the power of God proved sufficient, as it always does.  Those whom God calls, God qualifies.  And why should youth function as a handicap when many foolish elders walk the earth?

Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, played a pivotal role in the early Christian Church.  He accompanied St. Paul of Tarsus to a meeting with the Apostles at Jerusalem and spoke on behalf of the former persecutor.  Joseph settled at Antioch, where people called him “Barnabas,” or “son of encouragement” or “son of consolation.”  There he encouraged and consoled Jewish and Gentile Christians alike.  He also traveled to Tarsus to retrieve St. Paul, with whom he traveled later.  St. Paul would not have become the great figure he became without St. (Joseph) Barnabas, properly an Apostle also.

Sometimes I read of allegedly self-made people.  The truth, however, is that we depend on God and each other.  Everything comes from God, of course.  And we rely on each other from the womb to the tomb.  St. Paul needed St. (Joseph) Barnabas, with whom he argued sometimes.  And we modern Christians owe a great debt of gratitude to both of these great men.  The prophet Jeremiah came to understand that he depended on God for his life.  He argued with God frequently, but theirs was an honest relationship.  (I have no problem with arguing faithfully with God.  In fact, I think that Jeremiah made some valid points.)

Jeremiah was the weeping prophet and St. (Joseph) Barnabas was the son of encouragement or consolation.  Jeremiah preached a harsh yet necessary message, but St. (Joseph) Barnabas declared an inclusive and positive Gospel.  Both men suffered for their faithful actions.  Jeremiah died in exile;  St. (Joseph) Barnabas became a martyr.  Yet the book of Jeremiah survives in Bibles, as do accounts of St. (Joseph) Barnabas, encourager of St. Paul and many other Christians.  Both men bequeathed living legacies to the human race.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 20, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARY A. LATHBURY, U.S. METHODIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERTILLA BOSCARDIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND NURSE

THE FEAST OF JOHN HARRIS BURT, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF TARORE OF WAHAORA, ANGLICAN MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/10/20/devotion-for-friday-before-the-second-sunday-of-advent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Joshua and Acts, Part VI: Love, Holiness, and Violence   1 comment

tel-deweir-lachish-1936

Above:  Tel Deweir (Lachish), 1936

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2010002159/PP/)

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Joshua 10:1-25

Psalm 143 (Morning)

Psalms 81 and 116 (Evening)

Acts 11:19-30

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A Related Post:

Acts 11:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/twenty-fourth-day-of-easter/

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Here is a story:

Once, a long time ago, a group of people moved into territory foreign to them.  They were descendants of people from that land, but those forebears had migrated from the land centuries previously.  These “returning” descendants made war on local inhabitants, burning towns and cities, killing kings, and slaughtering civilian populations.  They even enslaved a group of people whose leaders had tricked them (the “returning” descendants).  They did all this in the name of their deity.

Would you, O reader, think favorably of these “returning” descendants?  What if I told you that I have summarized part of the story of the Israelites during the conquest of Canaan?

I prefer the positive atmosphere in Acts 11:19-30.  Barnabas includes Paul, Gentiles come to God, and people raise funds to buy food for starving Christians.  That is a narrative which speaks of holiness.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 21, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALBERT JOHN LUTHULI, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS IN SOUTH AFRICA

THE FEAST OF J. B. PHILLIPS, BIBLE TRANSLATOR AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/21/devotion-for-july-4-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Joshua and Acts, Part V: Traditions and Questions   1 comment

joshua-burns-the-town-of-ai-gustave-dore

Above:  Joshua Burns the Town of Ai, by Gustave Dore

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Joshua 8:1-28

Psalm 65 (Morning)

Psalms 125 and 91 (Evening)

Acts 11:1-18

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Some Related Posts:

Acts 11:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/twenty-third-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/twenty-ninth-day-of-easter-fifth-sunday-of-easteryear-c/

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I have heard professing Christians cite the conquest of Canaan, complete with the deaths of civilian populations, as if God had ordered it.  Have these coreligionists thought deeply about how that portrays God?  Or have they affirmed notions of biblical inerrancy and/or infallibility blindly?  Religious training has proven to be quite powerful, but so has rational thought.

I, as a Christian, identify Jesus as the standard.  How many thousands of men and women would he have ordered killed?  And how many kings would he have impaled?

Speaking of standards, the prohibition against eating with Gentiles was traditional.  So why was Peter violating it?  Inquiring minds wanted to know, and he had a good answer:  God had spoken to him.  The Holy Spirit brought, among other things, equality.

“Ai” means “the ruin.”  This fact leads me to think that “Ai” is a name which later generations applied to that city.  This becomes fodder for a metaphor:  We who claim the name of Jesus ought to leave the tribal warrior deity theology behind, in the past, like a ruin.  And we ought, like those those who listened to Peter in Acts 11, be open to possibilities (in God) which we might not have considered otherwise because they reside outside our tradition.  This is easy for me to say, for I like exploring questions academically.  This tendency has gotten me into arguments with those who lacked this inclination.  Certain styles of religion prefer answers to questions or tend to reject most questions in favor of canned answers.  Those are unfortunate realities.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 21, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALBERT JOHN LUTHULI, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS IN SOUTH AFRICA

THE FEAST OF J. B. PHILLIPS, BIBLE TRANSLATOR AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/21/devotion-for-july-3-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Seemingly Upside-Down Yet Really Right Side-Up   2 comments

descent-of-the-new-jerusalem

Above:  Descent of the New Jerusalem

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Acts 11:1-18 (Revised English Bible):

News came to the apostles and the members of the church in Judaea that Gentiles too had accepted the word of God; and when Peter came up to Jerusalem those who were of Jewish birth took issue with him.

You have been visiting men who are uncircumcised,

they said,

and sitting at table with them!

Peter began by laying before them the facts as they had happened.

I was at prayer in the city of Joppa,

he said,

and while in a trance I had a vision:  I saw something coming down that looked like a great sheet of sailcloth, slung by the four corners and lowered from heaven till it reached me.  I looked intently to make out what was in it and I saw four-footed beasts, wild animals, reptiles, and birds.  Then I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter, kill and eat.’  But I said, “No, Lord!  Nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’  A voice from heaven came a second time:  ‘It is not for you to call profane what God counts clean.’  This happened three times, and then they were all drawn up again into heaven.  At that very moment three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea arrived at the house where I was staying; and the Spirit told me to go with them.  My six companions here came with me and we went into the man’s house.  He told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house who said, ‘Sent to Joppa for Simon Peter.  He will speak words that will bring salvation to you and all your household.’ Hardly had I begun speaking, when the Holy Spirit came upon them, just as upon us at the beginning, and I recalled what the Lord had said:  ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’  God gave them no less a gift than he gave us when we came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.  How could I stand in God’s way?’

When they heard this their doubts were silenced, and they gave praise to God.

This means,

they said,

that God has granted life-giving repentance to the Gentiles also.

Psalm 148 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hallelujah!

Praise the LORD from the heavens;

praise him in the heights.

2 Praise him, all you angels of his;

praise him, all his host.

3 Praise him, sun and moon;

praise him, all you shining stars.

Praise him, heaven of heavens,

and you waters above the heavens.

5 Let them praise the Name of the LORD;

for he commanded, and they were created.

He made them stand fast for ever and ever;

he gave them a law which shall not pass away.

Praise the LORD from the earth,

you sea-monsters and all deeps;

8 Fire and hail, snow and fog,

tempestuous wind, doing his will;

9 Mountains and all hills,

fruit trees and cedars;

10 Wild beasts and all cattle,

creeping things and winged birds;

11 Kings of the earth and all peoples,

princes and all rulers of the world;

12 Young man and maidens,

old and young together.

13 Let them praise the Name of the LORD,

for his Name only is exalted,

his splendor is over earth and heaven.

14 He has raised up strength for his people

and praise for all his loyal servants,

the children of Israel, a people who are near him.

Hallelujah!

Revelation 21:1-6 (New Revised Standard Version):

I  saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

See, the home of God is among mortals.

He will dwell with them as their God;

they will be his peoples,

and God himself will be with them;

he will wipe every tear from their eyes.

Death will be no more;

mourning and crying and pain will be no more,

for the first things have passed away.

And the one who was seated on the throne said,

See, I am making all things new.

Also he said,

Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.

John 13:31-35 (New Revised Standard Version):

When he had gone out, Jesus said,

Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.   If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.  Little children, I am with you only a little longer.  You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

The Collect:

Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Twenty-Ninth Day of Easter:  Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/twenty-ninth-day-of-easter-fifth-sunday-of-easter-year-a/

Twenty-Ninth Day of Easter:  Fifth Sunday of Easter,Year B:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/08/01/twenty-ninth-day-of-easter-fifth-sunday-of-easter-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/03/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-fifth-sunday-of-easter/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/03/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-fifth-sunday-of-easter/

Acts 11:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/twenty-third-day-of-easter/

Revelation 21:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/fourth-day-of-christmas-feast-of-the-holy-innocents-december-28/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/02/devotion-for-the-third-day-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

John 13:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/devotion-for-march-8-and-9-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-seventh-day-of-lent-wednesday-in-holy-week/

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Jesus was about to die; that was the context for John 13:31-35.  Soon the forces of violence would take him away.  Yet he rose from the dead, and was therefore beyond their power.  The expanding definition of acceptability became obvious in Acts 11:1-18, with Simon Peter’s vision of foods unclean according to Leviticus 11.  Yet now God declared them clean.  Our Lord’s death had been scandalous; cursed was anyone who died on a tree.  Yet his death, in the Gospel of John, was his glorification.  Then, in Revelation 21, John of Patmos had a vision of the inauguration of God’s order on earth.  The new order was quite different from the old one.  In God, relative to many human ways, matters seem upside-down.

I invite you, O reader, to examine your society, culture, and subculture. Also examine your attitudes relative to the standard of compassion.  In which ways do you see practices and attitudes consistent with loving others with Christ’s love?  (John 13:34-35)  Where do you recognize inconsistencies?  And what will you do about them?

Our mission during this time of extended liminality is to love others with Christ’s love regardless of what that costs us.  Jesus died for it, as did most of his Apostles.  Many faithful Christians have become martyrs doing this.  Others have suffered persecution yet not death.  And we who have not suffered are the fortunate ones.  If loving others with Christ’s love means violating religious traditions, so be it, for people matter more than traditions.  Jesus taught us that in the Gospels.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; SAINT AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND SAINTS DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

THE FEAST OF EVELYN UNDERHILL, ANGLICAN MYSTIC

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/twenty-ninth-day-of-easter-fifth-sunday-of-easteryear-c/

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Grace and Congregational Life   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Jesus

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Acts 11:19-26 (Revised English Bible):

Meanwhile those who had been scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen made their way to Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, bringing the message to Jews only and to no others.  But there were some natives of Cyprus and Cyrene among them, and these, when they arrived at Antioch, began to speak to Gentiles as well, telling them the good news of the Lord Jesus.  The power of the Lord was with them, and a great many became believers and turned to the Lord.

The news reached the ears of the church in Jerusalem; and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.  When he arrived and saw the divine grace at work, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to hold fast to the Lord with resolute hearts, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.  And large numbers were won over to the Lord.

He went off to Tarsus to look for Saul; and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch.  For a whole year the two of them lived in fellowship with the church there, and gave instruction to large numbers.  It was in Antioch that the disciples first got the name of Christians.

Psalm 87 (Revised English Bible):

The city of the LORD founded stands on the holy hills.

He loves the gates of Zion

more than all the dwellings of Jacob.

Glorious things are spoken about you, city of God.

I shall count Rahab and Babylon among those who acknowledge me;

of Philistines, Tyrians, and Nubians it will be said,

Such as a one born there.

Of Zion it will be said,

This one and that one were born there.

The Most High himself establishes her.

The LORD will record in the register of the peoples:

this one was born there.

Singers and dancers alike say,

The source of all good is in you.

John 10:22-30 (Anchor Bible):

It was winter, and the time came for the feast of Dedication at Jerusalem.  Jesus was walking in the temple precincts, in Solomon’s Portico, when [some of] the Jews gathered around him and demanded,

How long are you going to keep us in suspense?  If you really are the Messiah, tell us so in plain words.

Jesus answered,

I did tell you, but you do not believe.  The works that I am doing in my Father’s name give testimony for me, but you refuse to believe because you are not my sheep.  My sheep hear my voice; and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.  No one will snatch them from my hand.  My Father, as to what he has given me, is greater than all, and from the Father’s hand no one can snatch away.  The Father and I are one.

The Collect:

Grant, Almighty God, that the commemoration of our Lord’s death and resurrection may continually transform our lives and be manifested in our deeds; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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I grew up in a series of rural United Methodist congregations in southern Georgia.  This formative experience had both positive and negative consequences.  On one hand, I received a helpful theological education almost by osmosis.  On the other hand, I witnessed the dark underbelly of small, rural church life.  No matter how long one belongs to a congregation which consists of interlocking extended families, one is not really a part of said congregation unless one is related closely by genetics or marriage.  And too many times I witnessed one person or a small cadre of people driving away another is a series of pastors as other church members said that they had to live with him, her, or them, so “sorry,” but not really.  I have become somewhat jaded about congregational life, a fact which helps explain why I have remained a lay person.  As churchy as I am, I might seem a natural choice for an order of the clergy (probably the Diaconate), but do not feel attracted or called to it at this time.

So I respond strongly to the description of congregational life in Acts.  And I think about certain troubled people who caused trouble in some of the churches my father pastored and think that they did not act as Jesus’ sheep.  Yet I recall something my father told me:  “Troubled people cause trouble.”  Also, I remember that I need to be slow to judge these matters and people involved in them.  Perhaps these individuals did the best they could, as they understood it.  Maybe they believed they were acting properly.

Nevertheless, my faith survived my youthful church experiences.  That faith is in God, not any human beings or institutions.  And my faith tells me to act as Barnabas, Saul (Paul), and many Christians at Antioch:  engaging in fellowship, rejoicing in the wondrous acts of God, and instructing.  My faith compels me to help create and to nourish positivity and to reject negativity.  It commands me not to give up on organized religion just because I have crossed paths with some severely troubled people with imbalanced egos and destructive (to the congregation) agendas.  They are not my concern, and they and I stand in dire need of grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 6, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF ALBRECHT DURER, MATTHIAS GRUNEWALD, AND LUCAS CRANACH THE ELDER, ARTISTS

THE FEAST OF DANIEL G. C. WU, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MISSIONARY TO CHINESE AMERICANS

THE FEAST OF FREDERIC BARKER, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF SYDNEY

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/twenty-fourth-day-of-easter/

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