Archive for the ‘Acts of the Apostles 16’ Category

Possession, Physical Illness, Mental Illness, and Exorcism   Leave a comment

Above:  Christ Exorcising Demons

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Roman Catholic Church has the proper attitude toward demonic possession.  That attitude is that demonic possession is real, but that not everything that looks like demonic possession is that.  This is why mental and psychological examinations precede exorcisms, and not every request for an exorcism results in one.  Sometimes, the problem is a matter for doctors and/or therapists, not exorcists and their assistants.  Someone may actually have a mental illness, for example.  

I have heard hints and stories of possessions.  I have heard them from people I know to be credible, lucid, grounded in reality, and not given to flights of fantastical thinking.  I am content to take their word for it when they have described what they witnessed.

I used to be in a relationship with a woman who suffered from mental illness.  I knew from my culture and education that her problems were treatable via medications.  Unfortunately, she did not always take her pills.  At the end, her figurative demons overpowered her, and she died violently.  Having been so close for a about decade to one afflicted with mental illness, I understand how someone whose education and culture do not contain the category of mental illness may misidentify it as demonic possession.

Other conditions, such as epilepsy, have allegedly been symptoms of demonic possession, in the Bible, folk belief, and historical documents.

A partial list of Biblical citations that include references to exorcism or possession follows:

  1. 1 Samuel 16:14-16; 18:10; 19:9;
  2. Tobit 6:7, 16-17; 8:3;
  3. Matthew 8:16; 10:1; 12:28
  4. Mark 1:25; 5:8; 6:7; 9:25, 38; 16:17;
  5. Acts 16:18; 19:13-14.

Sometimes I read one of these passages or another one that belongs on this list and quickly arrive at a non-demonic or non-ghostly explanation for the problem.  Someone may have been under too much stress, for example.  (In some cultures, ghostly possession is the understanding of what my culture calls too much stress.)   Or perhaps I just read a description of an epileptic seizure.  Maybe I read a description of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or multiple personalities disorder.  In Biblical times, of course, people ascribed these afflictions to possession, so the texts they wrote did, too.  

When I read such a text, I seek to understand what was really going on in that text.  I apply the cultural, medical, and psychiatric categories I have learned.  Doing so does not always yield a clear answer to my question, though.  I affirm that that the demonic exists.  I reject the label “supernatural” for it, for I reject that label, period.  That which we humans usually call “supernatural” is merely natural, but not in the same way as ponds, rocks, and kittens.  That which we mere mortals often label supernatural is part of God’s created order.  It is, therefore, natural.  That which is angelic or demonic is natural.  And I do not always know, when reading certain Biblical texts, what kind of natural phenomenon of which I read.  My categories are not those of the ancient authors of canonical books.  

However, sorting out what caused the predicament in a given Biblical story may not necessarily be the main point anyway.  If I read a story of Jesus exorcising/healing (whatever) someone, the main point may be that Christ restored him or her to health, wholeness, and his or her family and community.  Or the main point may be that the Kingdom of God was present in the activities of Jesus.  

So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 31, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF CHARLES FREDERICK MACKENZIE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF NYASALAND, AND MARTYR, 1862

THE FEAST OF ANTHONY BÉNÉZET, FRENCH-AMERICAN QUAKER ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF LANZA DEL VASTO, FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE ARK

THE FEAST OF MENNO SIMONS, MENNONITE LEADER

THE FEAST OF MARY EVELYN “MEV” PULEO, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PHOTOJOURNALIST AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Idolatry, Part V   Leave a comment

Above:  Luggage Icon

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity, Year 2

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

O Lord, we beseech thee, let thy continual pity cleanse and defend thy Church;

and because it cannot continue in safety without thy succor,

preserve it evermore by thy help and goodness;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 212

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

1 Kings 17:1-16

Psalm 1

Acts 16:19-40

Matthew 6:24-34

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Do we–collectively and individually–trust in God?  Or do we trust in idols?

As St. Augustine of Hippo told us very long ago, sin is disordered love.  Idolatry–one sin in particular–is loving God less than we–or one–should, and loving something or someone more than we–or one–should.  Wealth (Matthew 6:24) is morally neutral.  However, an unhealthy attachment to it is not.  Attachments to imaginary deities constitute another variety of idolatry.

St. Lydia of Thyatira, introduced in Acts 16:14 and present in today’s assigned portion of Acts, offers an example of how to be wealthy without idolizing wealth.  The narrative tells us that she received the Gospel gratefully, then that she extended hospitality to St. Paul the Apostle and St. Silas.  Acts 16:40 records that St. Lydia hosted the evangelists, who

saw and encouraged the brothers….

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Each of us needs a daily idolatry check, for each one of us as at least one spiritually unhealthy attachment.  Letting go may prove psychologically challenging.  So be it.  Carrying around too much luggage is burdensome.  It is a self-imposed burden.  By grace, we can let go of that luggage and find our full freedom in Christ.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 22, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN JULIAN, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF ALEXANDER MEN, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1990

THE FEAST OF SAINT LADISLAO BATTHÁNY-STRATTMANN, AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PHYSICIAN AND PHILANTHROPIST

THE FEAST OF LOUISE CECILIA FLEMING, AFRICAN-AMERICAN BAPTIST MISSIONARY AND PHYSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT VINCENT PALLOTTI, FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY FOR THE CATHOLIC APOSTALATE, THE UNION OF CATHOLIC APOSTOLATE, AND THE SISTERS OF THE CATHOLIC APOSTOLATE

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Gratitude, Part VI   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of St. Lydia of Thyatira

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity, Year 2

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Keep, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy Church with thy perpetual mercy;

and because the frailty of men without thee cannot but fail,

keep us ever by thy help from all things hurtful,

and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 210

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Proverbs 4:14-23

Psalm 19

Acts 16:1-18

Luke 17:11-19

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

How grateful are we toward God–perhaps Jesus, in particular?

The reading from Luke 17 brings us to the familiar story of ten “lepers.”  Whatever medical condition they suffered from, it was not Hansen’s Disease.  It did, however, render the “lepers” ritually impure and separate them from their families and communities.  Their cleansing restored them to their families and communities.  Yet only one “leper” returned to express gratitude.

God, present in the Law of Moses and in the witness of the prophets, was also present in Jesus of Nazareth.  God was present, furthermore, in the witness of St. Paul the Apostle.  St. Lydia of Thyatira received the message of Jesus gratefully, then acted accordingly.

May we respond favorably to God every day.  “Thank you” is a good start.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 21, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MIROCLES OF MILAN AND EPIPHANIUS OF PAVIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ALBAN ROE AND THOMAS REYNOLDS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1642

THE FEAST OF EDGAR J. GOODSPEED, U.S. BAPTIST BIBLICAL SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN YI YON-ON, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN KOREA, 1867

THE FEAST OF W. SIBLEY TOWNER, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Sacred Vocations, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Good Shepherd

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Acts 16:11-34

Psalm 23

2 Thessalonians 3:6-18

John 10:1-18

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

2 Thessalonians 3:6-18, in context, contains a crucial message:  Do not use waiting for the Second Coming of Jesus as an excuse for idleness.  Mutuality, a value from the Law of Moses, remains germane.  We all depend on are are responsible to and for each other.  As The Book of Common Prayer (1979) reminds us, we depend upon each other’s labor.

Performing the labor God has assigned to us may get us into trouble, as it did in Acts 16:11-34.  If so, perhaps an opportunity for evangelism will arise from the circumstance.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  Such a shepherd deserves our best efforts, does he not?  May we, by grace, not fail him.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 11, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEODOSIUS THE CENOBIARCH, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF CHARLES WILLIAM EVEREST, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MIEP GIES, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS II OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH OF AQUILEIA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD FREDERICK LITTLEDALE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2021/01/11/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-of-easter-year-d-humes/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Faithful Community, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Zacchaeus, by Niels Larsen Stevns

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as pass our understanding:

Pour into our hearts such love toward you, that we, loving you above all things,

may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 139

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Exodus 20:1-20

Psalm 8

Acts 16:1-10

Luke 19:1-10

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Zacchaeus was a tax chief.  He collected taxes for the occupying Roman Empire.  Zacchaeus also became wealthy by collecting more than his Roman superiors required.  That was how the tax farming system worked; one had to steal in order to earn one’s livelihood.  Jesus restored Zacchaeus to community.  The tax collector’s repentance was evident in the fact that he held himself to the most stringent standards of restitution.  According to Leviticus 6:5, the rate of restitution applicable to Zacchaeus was 120%.  He volunteered to pay 400% instead.

The life of community, defined by following God, is the theme that unites the readings for this week.  Within a relatively homogenous group this can prove difficult.  That is more so when one adds the element of a heterogeneous population.  Just as one should avoid creating a theocracy, one should also grasp that people depend upon, are responsible to, and are responsible for each other.  Mutual respect goes a long way toward proper living in community.

Another characteristic of faithful community is that it encompasses more people over time.  Sometimes God surprises us by expanding it in an unexpected direction, as in Acts 16:10.  So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF FELIX MANZ, FIRST ANABAPTIST MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH ANN SETON, FOUNDRESS OF THE AMERICAN SISTERS OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY OF LANGRES, TERTICUS OF LANGRES, GALLUS OF CLERMONT, GREGORY OF TOURS, AVITUS I OF CLERMONT, MAGNERICUS OF TRIER, AND GAUGERICUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN LUDWIG FREYDT, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Glory of the Lord, Part II   1 comment

Tabernacle in the Wilderness

Above:  The Tabernacle in the Wilderness

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

O God, form the minds of your faithful people into one will.

Make us love what you command and desire what you promise,

that, amid all changes of this world, our hearts

may be fixed where true joy is found,

Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 35

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 40:16-38

Psalm 29

Acts 16:35-40

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

And in the temple of the LORD

all are crying, “Glory!”

–Psalm 29:9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Presence/glory of God was manifest as a cloud in the Tent of Meeting in Exodus 40.

In Acts 16 the Presence/glory of God worked through Sts. Paul and Silas at Philippi, where they delivered a young woman from exploitation, found themselves incarcerated on false allegations of disturbing the peace, and evangelized their jailer and his family before spending time with the church in the city.

We encounter the Presence/glory of God in many places, such as nature, scripture, sacred places, and our fellow human beings.  Often we meet the Presence/glory of God in people quite different from ourselves.  Do we welcome this reality or do we fall back on tribal identities?  Do we hold fast to divine glory or do we exchange it for a lesser glory?

We might choose a lesser glory without being malevolent.  Acts 16:16-19 is clear that those who profited from a slave girl with a spirit of divination (until St. Paul the Apostle exorcised her) were greedy and had exploited her.  Many others, however, simply have spiritual blind spots and proceed from false assumptions.  They do not know what they are really doing.  That description applies to most people at least partially, does it not?  Fortunately, grace is available.  Will we accept it?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 8, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THORFINN OF HAMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF GALILEO GALILEI, SCIENTIST

THE FEAST OF HARRIET BEDELL, EPISCOPAL DEACONESS

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/01/08/devotion-for-monday-after-the-seventh-sunday-of-easter-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Seeking, Finding, and Following Divine Guidance   1 comment

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Above:  Zacchaeus, by Niels Larsen Stevns

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Beautiful God, you gather your people into your realm,

and you promise us food from your tree of life.

Nourish us with your word, that empowered by your Spirit

we may love one another and the world you have made,

through Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 34

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 2:1-5 (Thursday)

Proverbs 2:6-8 (Friday)

Proverbs 2:9-15 (Saturday)

Psalm 67 (All Days)

Acts 15:36-41 (Thursday)

Acts 16:1-8 (Friday)

Luke 19:1-10 (Saturday)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

May God be merciful to us and bless us,

show us the light of his countenance and come to us.

Let your ways be known upon earth,

your saving health among all nations.

Let the people praise you, O God;

let all the peoples praise you.

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,

for you judge the peoples with equity

and guide all the nations upon earth.

Let the peoples praise you, O God;

let all the peoples praise you.

The earth has brought forth her increase;

may God, our own God, give us his blessing.

May God give us his blessing,

and may all the ends of the earth stand in aw of him.

–Psalm 67, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Seeking divine guidance, which God provides, is a noble and frequent occurrence.  But how commonplace is discerning that guidance properly versus mistaking one’s inner voice or the opinions of others for divine guidance?  St. Paul the Apostle sought to spread the Gospel in certain regions yet God’s purpose was for him to so in Macedonia instead.  One can seek to do something to glorify God and still misunderstand God’s call on one’s life, this story has taught for almost 2000 years.

Sometimes texts can prove to be ambiguous.  Does Proverbs 2:1-15 indicate that knowing and acting on the will of God protects one from evildoers?  If so, the passage is falsely optimistic.  If, however, it is in the spirit of Matthew 10:28a (“Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul….”), Proverbs 2:1-15 is true.

Luke 19:1-10 (verse 8, specifically) contains other subtleties.  The passage is the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus, a tax collector who has been defrauding his neighbors for years.  He was literally a tax thief for the Roman Empire.  According to Exodus 22:7, the rate of restitution in the case of the theft of money or goods from someone’s house was 200%.  In Luke 19:8b (Revised Standard Version–Second Edition, 1971, consistent with the Greek text), Zacchaeus said,

Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold.

–present tense.

That sentence can mean one of two things–that Zacchaeus did that already or planned to do that.  The translation of the Bible or a portion thereof is an act of interpretation.  Thus, in the New International Version (1978, 1984, and 2011 permutations) and in Today’s New International Version (2005) one reads:

Look, Lord!  Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.

The “here and now,” not present in the original Greek text, occurs also in The New English Bible (1970) and The Revised English Bible (1989).  Other translations opt for the future tense, as in the case of The New Revised Standard Version (1989).

The context of Luke 19:1-10 indicates that Zacchaeus repented–turned around, changed his mind–that Jesus approved, and that Zacchaeus found restoration to his community.  He had violated the Biblical injunction not to exploit others and paid the price for it.  Resolving to do the right thing then following through set him on the path to justice.  Zacchaeus did even more than the Law of Moses required him to do.  This course of action was costly in material terms yet much more rewarding spiritually and socially.

I do not pretend to be an expert on the practical, circumstantial details of the will of God, but I have paid attention to certain Biblical principles.  Among them is the fact that economic exploitation is sinful.  The Law of Moses, Hebrew prophets, Jesus, and Revelation 18 agree on this point.  Opposing economic exploitation might place one opposite certain corporate leaders and most of the hosts on the FOX News Channel, but so be it.  One can follow mammon or Jesus, but not both.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 4, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF FELIX MANZ, FIRST ANABAPTIST MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH SETON, FOUNDER OF THE AMERICAN SISTERS OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY OF LANGRES, TERTICUS OF LANGRES, GALLUS OF CLERMONT, GREGORY OF TOURS, AVITUS I OF CLERMONT, MAGNERICUS OF TRIER, AND GAUGERICUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN LUDWIG FREYDT, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/01/04/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-sixth-sunday-of-easter-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

1 Samuel and Acts, Part III: The Hand of God   1 comment

aerial-view-of-ashdod-1932

Above:  Air Views of Palestine.  Air Route Over Cana of Galilee, Nazareth, Plain of Sharon, etc.  Ashdod.  Home of Dagon.  Encroaching Sand Waves in Distance.  1932.

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2010001379/PP/)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 4:1-22 (July 21)

1 Samuel 5:1-6:3, 10-16 (July 22)

1 Samuel 6:19-7:17 (July 23)

Psalm 19 (Morning–July 21)

Psalm 136 (Morning–July 22)

Psalm 123 (Morning–July 23)

Psalms 81 and 113 (Evening–July 21)

Psalms 97 and 112 (Evening–July 22)

Psalms 30 and 86 (Evening–July 23)

Acts 16:23-40 (July 21)

Acts 18:1-11, 23-28 (July 22)

Acts 19:1-22 (July 23)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Some Related Posts:

1 Samuel 4:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/week-of-1-epiphany-thursday-year-2/

Acts 16, 18-19:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-eighth-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/forty-third-day-of-easter-seventh-sunday-of-easter-year-c/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/forty-first-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/forty-second-day-of-easter/

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Ark of the Covenant was a mysterious and fearsome object.  It was, in the minds of some Israelites, the presence of God made tangible.  So, of course, they reasoned, its presence at a battlefield would guarantee military victory against the Philistine forces.  Wrong!  Yet God was not defeated.  Humiliations befell an idol of Dagon.  And, according to the narrative, Bubonic Plague befell many Philistines.  Eventually the Philistines returned the Ark, but those who had looked into the sacred object died.

This story, which I have kept unified across The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod’s daily lectionary of 2006′s daily divisions, contains some troubling aspects.  Would a loving God give anyone Bubonic Plague?  (The internal evidence, down to tumors and rodents, indicates Bubonic Plague.)  And the element of death for looking into the Ark indicates a God concept foreign to me, a Christian.  God, for me, is approachable; what is more approachable than the Incarnation?  Chronology aside, I reject the idea that God had a personality transplant.  We are, I propose, dealing with changing human understandings.

Speaking of changing human understandings, I have caused some controversy in college classrooms in Georgia (U.S.A.) when teaching World Civilization I by pointing out that lived Judaism used to be polytheistic.  This fact of history should come as no surprise to anyone who has studied the Old Testament (including 1 Samuel 7) and/or biblical archaeology and/or ancient comparative religion.  But some people become irrational, defensive, and oblivious to facts relative to religion; this is an unfortunate tendency.  I have nothing to fear from a verified fact about ancient theology.  Anyhow, Samuel was correct in 1 Samuel 7:3:

If you mean to return to the LORD with all your heart, you must remove the alien gods and the Ashteroth from your midst and direct your heart to the LORD and serve him alone….

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Paul, Silas, and Timothy served God alone.  Along the way they suffered beatings, imprisonments, and a lawsuit.  They also founded churches, converted people, and encountered fellow Christians who helped them.  The hand of God, which the Philistines could not defeat, also triumphed over the forces opposed to Paul and company.

Being on God’s side does not mean that no hardships will befall one.  Eli had to suffer the loss of his sons.  And Paul and company had to cope with the aforementioned difficulties, among others.  Also, not being on God’s side does not mean that one will face an unbroken series of hardships.  But, when one is on God’s side, one will never be alone in those difficulties; the hand of God will never be far away.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 11, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THAUMATURGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NEOCAESAREA; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF COMANA “THE CHARCOAL BURNER,” ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR AND BISHOP OF COMANA, PONTUS

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLARE OF ASSISI, FOUNDER OF THE POOR CLARES

THE FEAST OF JOHN HENRY NEWMAN, CARDINAL

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/devotion-for-july-21-22-and-23-lcms-daily-lectionary/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

1 Samuel and Acts, Part II: Answering the Call of God   1 comment

shiloh

Above:  Shiloh, 1898-1914

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2005002884/PP/)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 3:1-21

Psalm 104 (Morning)

Psalms 118 and 111 (Evening)

Acts 16:1-22

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Some Related Posts:

1 Samuel 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/week-of-1-epiphany-wednesday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/07/second-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/22/proper-4-year-b/

Acts 16:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-fifth-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-seventh-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-eighth-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/thirty-sixth-day-of-easter-sixth-sunday-of-easter-year-c/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/forty-third-day-of-easter-seventh-sunday-of-easter-year-c/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

When God speaks to us, do we recognize this reality?  And, if we do, how do we respond?  Samuel came to know that God was calling him.  Eli accepted the harsh news regarding his family.  Paul, Silas, and Timothy responded to God’s call by preaching to others.  Lydia and her husband responded by extending hospitality to those who had converted them.

The Larger Westminster Catechism begins:

Q:  What is the chief and highest end of man?

A:  Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.

That is an excellent summary of Christian vocation.  It is also a general statement.  Particulars depend on circumstances and other factors, such as who one is, where one is, and when one is there.

Recently I have been watching the Ronald D. Moore version of Battlestar Galactica from beginning to end again.  In one of the last episodes President Laura Roslin tells Lee Adama that she has one concern about him:  He is so determined to do the right thing that he does not always do the smart thing.  Indeed, managing to be wise yet innocent can prove difficult.  And, once one has lost innocence, can one regain it?  And how dirty can one get while trying to perform good deeds (or at least the best ones possible) in the real world before one becomes corrupted?

I lack good answers to these important questions.  They are hard questions, so easy answers will not suffice.  But, by grace, we can shed light in the real world, enjoy and glorify God, do the right and smart thing, and obey the call of God as it plays out where and when we are.  God has the answers; look there for them, O reader.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 10, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LAURENCE OF ROME, ROMAN CATHOLIC DEACON AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF EUNICE KENNEDY SHRIVER, FOUNDER OF THE SPECIAL OLYMPICS

THE FEAST OF SHERMAN BOOTH ABOLITIONIST

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/08/10/devotion-for-july-20-lcms-daily-lectionary/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Via Words and Deeds   1 comment

thomas-edison

Above:  Thomas Edison, 1925

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/npc2007014347/)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Acts 16:16-34 (Revised English Bible):

Once, on our way to the place of prayer, we met a slave-girl who was possessed by a spirit of divination and brought large profits to her owners by telling fortunes.  She followed Paul and the rest of us shouting,

These men are servants of the Most High God, and are declaring to you a way of salvation.

She did this day after day, until, in exasperation, Paul rounded on the spirit.

I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her,

he said, and it came out instantly.

When the girl’s owners saw that their hope of profit had one, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them to the city authorities in the main square; bringing them before the magistrates, they alleged,

These men are causing a disturbance in our city; they are Jews, and they are advocating practices which it is illegal for us Romans to adopt and follow.

The mob joined in the attack; and the magistrates had the prisoners stripped and gave orders for them to be flogged.  After a severe beating they were flung into prison and the jailer was ordered to keep them under close guard.  In view of these orders, he put them into the inner prison and secured their feet in the stocks.

About midnight Paul and Silas, at their prayers, were singing praises to God, and the other prisoners were listening, when suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the jail were shaken; the doors burst open and all the prisoners found their fetters unfastened.  The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open and, assuming that the prisoners had escaped, drew his sword intending to kill himself.  But Paul shouted,

Do yourself no harm; we are all here.

The jailer called for lights, rushed in, and threw himself down before Paul and Silas, trembling with fear. He then escorted them out and said,

Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

They answered,

Put your trust in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household,

and they imparted the word of the Lord to him and everyone in his house.  At that late hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds, and there and then he and his whole family were baptized.  He brought them up into his house, set out a meal, and rejoiced with his whole household in his new-found faith in God.

Psalm 97 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The LORD is King;

let the earth rejoice;

let the multitude of the isles be glad.

2 Clouds and darkness are round about him,

righteousness and justice are the foundations of his throne.

A fire goes before him

and burns up his enemies on every side.

4 His lightnings light up the world;

the earth sees it and is afraid.

The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the LORD,

at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.

The heavens declare his righteousness,

and all the peoples see his glory.

Confounded be all who worship carved images

and delight in false gods!

Bow down before him, all you gods.

Zion hears and is glad, and the cities of Judah rejoice,

because of your judgments, O LORD.

For you are the LORD,

most high over all the earth;

you are exalted far above all gods.

10 The LORD loves those who hate evil;

he preserves the lives of the saints

and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.

11 Light has sprung up for the righteous,

and joyful gladness for those who are truehearted.

12 Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous,

and give thanks to his holy Name.

Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

At the end of the visions I, John, heard these words:

See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.

Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates….It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.

The spirit and the bride say, “Come.”

And let everyone who hears say, “Come.”

Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift….

The one who testifies to these things says,

Surely I am coming soon.

Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus!

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints.  Amen.

John 17:20-26 (Anchor Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Yet it is not for these alone that I pray but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they all may be one, just as you, Father, in me and I in you, that they also may be [one] in us.  Thus the world may be brought to completion as one.  Thus the world may come to know that you sent me and that you loved them even as you loved me.  Father, they are your gift to me; and where I am, I wish them to be one with me, that they may see my glory which you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.  O Father most just, while the world did not know you (though I knew you), these men came to know that you sent me.  And to them  I made known your name; and I will continue to make it known so that the love you had for me may be in them and I may be in them.

The Collect:

O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Some Related Posts:

Forty-Third Day of Easter:  Seventh Day of Easter, Year A:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/forty-third-day-of-easter-seventh-sunday-of-easter-year-a/

Forty-Third Day of Easter:  Seventh Day of Easter, Year B:

 http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/forty-third-day-of-easter-seventh-day-of-easter-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-seventh-sunday-of-easter/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-seventh-sunday-of-easter/

 Acts 16:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-eighth-day-of-easter/

John 17:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/forty-seventh-day-of-easter/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Words can be powerful.  They can inspire one to act boldly or badly, for the benefit of others or to their detriment.  As an old U.S. Supreme Court ruling tells us, there is no constitutional protection for crying “fire” in a crowded theater.  And, in a related matter, speech which incites violence is illegal, so long as the state disapproves of that violence.  On the other hand, speech which decries state-approved violence, such as war, has, as history proves, often been criminalized, if not merely considered in appropriate.  Consider the examples of Eugene Victor Debs and a host of anti-World War I activists, for example.  And how much hell did Martin Luther King, Jr., catch for opposing the Vietnam War?

Yet, as powerful as words can be, actions matter more.  Sometimes one tries and fails, but at least one did something.  Failure has led to ultimate success, as the example of Thomas Edison attests.  We must not anathemize failure, just giving up when one ought to persist.  Edison did fail many times before he succeeded.  The light bulb in the floor lamp behind my head as I type these words attests to his ultimate success.

It is through the words and actions of others of many men and women who have preceded us that we know of Jesus Christ.  Actions flow from attitudes, and words explain deeds when deeds do not belie them.  So I emphasize deeds, along with the Letter of James and sound Roman Catholic theology.  Sometimes good and faithful works will get us into legal trouble, as in the case of Sts. Paul and Silas.  (Yet the incident gave them an opportunity to convert a household.)  And sometimes good and faithful works will lead to martyrdom, as in the case of those in Revelation 22 who had washed their robes in the blood of the lamb.  Yet may we persist in good and faithful deeds.  There will be (even if only in the afterlife),

joyful gladness for those who are truehearted.

–Psalm 97;11b, 1979 Book of Common Prayer

The company of the truehearted includes both those who are already in Christ and those whom the first group adds to their number.  This is about more than evangelism, which is vital.  It is also about discipleship and service.  To love one’s neighbor as oneself might entail social activism, for what use is it to wish one fed while not feeding him or her or supporting a system which keeps him or her hungry?  And what use is it to wish one at peace while supporting a system which keeps him or her at war?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 21, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL FAITHFUL MEMBERS OF THE CLERGY

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALOYSIUS GONZAGA, JESUIT

THE FEAST OF HENARE WIREMU TARATOA OF TE RANGA, COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEING

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN JONES AND JOHN RIGBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/forty-third-day-of-easter-seventh-sunday-of-easter-year-c/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++