Archive for the ‘Acts of the Apostles 19’ Category

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

Above:  Christ Exorcising Demons

Image in the Public Domain

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Other conditions, such as epilepsy, have allegedly been symptoms of demonic possession, in the Bible, folk belief, and historical documents.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

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Identity in Christ   Leave a comment

Above:  The Temple of Artemis (1886), Richard Knab

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity, Year 2

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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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Lord, we beseech thee, grant thy people grace to withstand

the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil;

and with pure hearts and minds to follow thee, the only true God;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 216

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Proverbs 16:1-9

Psalm 107:1-16

Acts 19:21-41

Luke 14:1-14

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The teachings and commandments of God may fall on deaf ears for many reasons.  One reason is that they constitute either a real or a perceived threat.  They may threaten ego or economic status, for example.

Ephesus was the site of a temple to Artemis.  This temple was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  Ephesian silversmiths had a vested interest in the continuation of the cult of Artemis, obviously.

Above:  The Ruins of the Temple of Artemis

Image Source = Google Earth

Relativizing commandments was a common practice in Second Temple Judaism.   Whenever practical considerations brushed up against provisions of the Law of Moses, selective violations of that Law may have occurred.  Saving lives was a frequently-cited justification for violating Sabbath laws, for example.  Christ’s healings on the Sabbath exceeded saving lives.  His Sabbath healings threatened perceptions of righteousness.

Christ’s subsequent teaching in Luke 14 threatened egos, too.

This seems like a good time to quote Proverbs 9:

Better a little with righteousness

Than a large income with injustice.

A man may plot out his course,

But it is the LORD who directs his steps.

–Verses 8-9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Wealth and human ego may be the two most popular idols.  I am uncertain which one of the two is more popular than the other.

Properly, a Christian’s identity relies on Jesus, not any other factor.  This is a lesson I grasp intellectually yet not psychologically.  Knowing what to do is the first step in accomplishing it.  Knowing what to do is also easier than accomplishing it.  I am working on this matter, by grace.

Perhaps you, O reader, are also struggling with the issue of proper Christian identity.  If so, do not give up.  Hang in there and trust God.  If, however, you do not have this problem, you have received a great blessing.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 24, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF THE ORDINATION OF FLORENCE LI-TIM-OI, FIRST FEMALE PRIEST IN THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION

THE FEAST OF GEORGE A. BUTTRICK, ANGLO-AMERICAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; AND HIS SON, DAVID G. BUTTRICK, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEN UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIE POUSSEPIN, FOUNDRESS OF THE DOMINICAN SISTERS OF CHARITY OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE VIRGIN

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF PODLASIE, 1874

THE FEAST OF SAINT SURANUS OF SORA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MARTYR, 580

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Enemies and Threats, Real and Perceived   1 comment

Above:  The Temple of Artemis (1886), by Ferdinand Knab

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Genesis 2:3-9 or Acts 19:23-41

Psalm 119:129-144

Revelation 1:1-8

John 5:19-47

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God has breathed life into we human beings and spoken to us.  God has spoken to us frequently and in different ways.  God has never ceased to speak to us.  God has even become incarnate.

But how many of us are listening to God?

The words from God can be extremely inconvenient sometimes.  Human nature is a constant factor.  Any perceived threat to the economy (as at Ephesus, in Acts 19:23-41) can become a cause of outrage.  This outrage may lead to a riot, therefore to possible peril for some, such as St. Paul the Apostle and his traveling companions.

Some of the politics of 85 C.E. or so (the time of the composition of Luke-Acts) probably informed the telling of Acts 19:23-41.  We human beings always filter the past through the lens of our present day, even when we recount the details accurately.  The depiction of Roman officials in Ephesus as protectors of St. Paul the Apostle and his traveling companions seems, in the present day of 85 C.E. or so, a political message:  Christians are not enemies of the Roman Empire.

Above:  Site of the Temple of Artemis, Ephesus

Image Source = Google Earth

Nevertheless, Christianity may be a foe of certain forms of commerce–the silver shrines of Artemis, in the case of Acts 19:23-41.  One consequence of living in such a way that one follows Jesus may be that one no longer purchases X.  And one consequence of the growth of Christianity may be that the market for X diminishes.  Some people, whose livelihoods depend upon a healthy market for X, may become fearful.  Then what might they do?

Nevertheless, one needs to continue to follow Jesus.  One needs to keep listening to God.  We need to persist in following Jesus and listening to God.

By the way, the great Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, once one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, is a ruin.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 14, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACRINA THE ELDER, HER FAMILY, AND SAINT GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE ELDER

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAESARIUS OF ARLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT CAESARIA OF ARLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS

THE FEAST OF EIVIND JOSEF BERGGRAV, LUTHERAN BISHOP OF OSLO, TRANSLATOR, AND LEADER OF THE NORWEGIAN RESISTANCE DURING WORLD WAR II

THE FEAST OF KRISTEN KVAMME, NORWEGIAN-AMERICAN HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT SAVA I, FOUNDER OF THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH AND FIRST ARCHBISHOP OF THE SERBS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/14/devotion-for-proper-8-year-d-humes/

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In Vain   2 comments

Above:  Christ and the Adulteress, by Rocco Marconi

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Acts 19:1-20

Psalm 97

3 John

John 8:1-11

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The name of Jesus has power, but only when people who believe in him use it.  Consider, O reader, the hilarious scene in Acts 19:11-20 and the serious issue (division of a congregation by one man) in the Third Letter of John.  God is the king and the earth should exult, as Psalm 97 reminds us.  However, some people still use religion self-servingly.

John 7:53-8:11 is a floating pericope.  Some ancient copies of the Gospel of Luke place it in different locations.  The final version of the Gospel of Luke lacks it.  And one can jump from John 7:52 to 8:12 without missing a beat.  This floating pericope is a compelling story–originally part of the Gospel of Luke–that has settled down as John 7:53-8:11.

Those who sought to entrap Jesus (yet again) used an adulteress as their pawn.  They seemed unconcerned about the whereabouts of the man with whom she had sinned.  Where was he?  His absence was conspicuous.

These Pharisees had distorted the Law of Moses to attempt to entrap Jesus.  They had focused on the death penalty (Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22) for one sinner and not the other one.  These Pharisees had also ignored the real issue at work in the Law of Moses vis-à-vis adultery:  the protection and stability of a man’s property.  Whatever Jesus wrote, he compelled the accusers to leave.  He reversed the trap.

Then Jesus forgave the woman.

The Law of God is not a blunt weapon to manipulate for one’s purposes.  Neither is the name of Jesus.

This point leads me back to Exodus 20:7:

You shall not misuse the name of Yahweh your God, for Yahweh will not leave unpunished anyone who misuses his name.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Robert D. Miller, II, of The Catholic University of America, offers a germane analysis of this commandment in his Understanding the Old Testament course (2019) for The Great Courses.  He explains:

This is a warning that there is no possibility of involving the name of God without something happening.

–Course Guidebook, 39

That something may involve ricochet.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 12, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT BISCOP, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT OF WEARMOUTH

THE FEAST OF SAINT AELRED OF HEXHAM, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT OF RIEVAULX

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY PUCCI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY ALFORD, ANGLICAN PRIEST, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, LITERARY TRANSLATOR, HYMN WRITER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND BIBLE TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGUERITE BOURGEOYS, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2021/01/12/devotion-for-the-seventh-sunday-of-easter-year-d-humes/

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Water   1 comment

Above:  Water in Desert

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Jeremiah 31:7-14

Psalm 29

Acts 19:1-7

Mark 1:9-13

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Water is an element in all four readings for today.  There is, of course, the water of baptism–the baptism of Jesus and of the unnamed people in Acts 19.  Yahweh, “upon the mighty waters,” is like yet unlike Baal Peor, the Canaanite storm god, in Psalm 29.  (Yet, of course, the presentation of God is quite different in 1 Kings 19:9-18, set after the killing of the priests of Baal Peor in Chapter 18.)  Finally, water is especially precious in the desert, as in Jeremiah 31.

God is tangibly present in each reading.  God is present in nature in Psalm 29, leading exiles out of exile through nature in Jeremiah 31, present via the Holy Spirit in Acts 19, and present in the flesh of Jesus in Mark 1.  God remains tangibly present with us in many ways, which we notice, if we pay attention.

One usually hears the theme of the Epiphany as being the Gospel of Jesus Christ going out to the gentiles.  That is part of the theme.  The other part of the theme is gentiles going to God–Jesus, as in the case of the Magi.  Today, in Mark 1 and Acts 19, however, we have the first part of the theme of the Epiphany.  The unnamed faithful, we read in Acts 19, had their hearts and minds in the right place; they merely needed to learn what they must do.

Acts 19:1-7 is an excellent missionary text for that reason.  The unnamed faithful, prior to their baptisms, fit the description of those who belong in the category of Baptism of Desire, in Roman Catholic theology.  As good as the Baptism of Desire is, baptism via water and spirit is superior.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 11, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARNABAS, COWORKER OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2019/06/11/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-humes/

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Empowered by God, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  Joshua and the Israelite People

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Lord of all power and might, you are the author and giver of all good things:

Graft in our hearts the love of your name,

increase in us true religion,

nourish us with all goodness,

and of your great mercy keep us in the same;

through Jesus Christ or Lord.  Amen.

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

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Numbers 27:12-14a, 15-20, 22-23

Psalm 9

Acts 18:24-19:6

John 10:1-10

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The theme of empowerment by God continues in these readings.  This empowerment might help one be a faithful follower of God or a leader of people; it is essential in both circumstances.  We human beings have little difficulty setting traps then stumbling into them.  We cannot save ourselves; only God can do that.

This brings me to John 10:1-10.  We need the Good Shepherd, for, bereft of Him, we become figurative food for predators.  We can recognize and follow Jesus via divine grace.  Will we?

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

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Choices   1 comment

Above:   Apollo and Artemis

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Judges 7:2-8, 19-23

Psalm 83

Acts 19:21-41

John 5:25-29

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Let them know that you alone,

whose name is the LORD,

are the Most High over all the earth.

–Psalm 83:18, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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All glory belongs to God; that is a Biblical principle.  We find it, for example, in Psalm 83.  We read of Gideon’s diminishing army in Judges 7.  All glory belongs to God.  The preaching of St. Paul the Apostle threatens the economic status of artisans who create idols for the cult of Artemis in Acts 19.  All glory belongs to God.

Encountering the divine glory imposes certain responsibilities upon one.  Grace is indeed free yet certainly not cheap.  How should we respond to the glory of God?  Will one accept it for what it is and acknowledge one’s inadequacy or will one double down on one’s idolatry?  The choice one makes will have consequences for one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 17, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDITH BOYLE MACALISTER, ENGLISH NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT EMILY DE VIALAR, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE APPARITION

THE FEAST OF JANE CROSS BELL SIMPSON, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS TERESA AND MAFALDA OF PORTUGAL, PRINCESSES, QUEENS, AND NUNS; AND SANCHIA OF PORTUGAL, PRINCESS AND NUN

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2017/06/17/devotion-for-proper-12-ackerman/

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The Proper Emphasis on God   1 comment

Above:   Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Judges 6:11-18, 36-40

Psalm 61

Acts 19:11-16

John 5:10-18

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In the first three readings the emphasis is on God and divine actions.  We learn of God disregarding social standing and calling Gideon and working through St. Paul the Apostle.  The Psalmist understands that he is subordinate to and dependent upon God, to be sure.

In John 5, however, the issue (and the charge of blasphemy) is relevant to who Jesus was and claimed to be:  Son of God, equal to God.  In the Johannine Gospels Jesus claims openly to be the Son of God.  This stands in contrast to the Christ of the Gospel of Mark, who does not deny being the Son of God, yet orders others not to spread the word yet.

Christ, of course, being the genuine article, gets to announce himself.  The rest of us are supposed to follow him in words and deeds.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 17, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDITH BOYLE MACALISTER, ENGLISH NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT EMILY DE VIALAR, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE APPARITION

THE FEAST OF JANE CROSS BELL SIMPSON, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS TERESA AND MAFALDA OF PORTUGAL, PRINCESSES, QUEENS, AND NUNS; AND SANCHIA OF PORTUGAL, PRINCESS AND NUN

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2017/06/17/devotion-for-proper-11-ackerman/

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Spiritual Blindness, Part I   1 comment

Ephesus

Above:  Ephesus

Photographer = Osmo Visuri

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-23106

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The Collect:

O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus,

you are the city that shelters us, the mother who comforts us.

With your Spirit accompany us on our life’s journey,

that we may spread your peace in all the world,

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 6:10-19 (Monday)

Jeremiah 8:4-13 (Tuesday)

Psalm 119:73-80 (Both Days)

Acts 19:21-27 (Monday)

Acts 19:28-41 (Tuesday)

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Your hands have made me and held me firm,

give me understanding and I shall learn your commandments.

–Psalm 119:73, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Among the sins of people in Jeremiah 6 and 8 was having an attitude other than that manifested in Psalm 119:73-80.  If they did not know better, they should have.  They lacked any legitimate excuse for their sins, especially those that harmed the vulnerable.  This sinful population reaped what it sowed.

One might wonder if Demetrius, a silversmith of Ephesus, had a way of knowing better.  He profited by making and selling silver shrines of the goddess Artemis, and the spread of Christianity threatened his business.  Demetrius incited violence against traveling companions of St. Paul the Apostle.  Fortunately, the town clerk refused to submit to mob rule.  Judaism was not unknown among Gentile populations in the Hellenistic age, so perhaps that fact deprived Demetrius of an excuse.  Yes, Christianity was young and misconceptions regarding it were commonplace.  Even the Roman historian Tacitus repeated some inaccurate information regarding Christians and Christianity as if it were accurate.  He could have conducted a fact check easily, but he did not.  Likewise, Demetrius could have learned much about Christianity, for there was a church in the city.  He was also without an excuse.

Sometimes we humans become accustomed to certain sets of propositions, even those which are false.  Yet we might not recognize them as being such.  Greed is another spiritually blinding factor, as in Jeremiah 6 and Acts 19.  Righteousness becomes economically inconvenient.  Regardless of the reason(s) for our spiritual blindness, may we repent of it and may God forgive us for it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 12, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THE GREAT, BISHOP OF ROME

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/12/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-9-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Something Old, Something New   1 comment

Josiah

Above:  Josiah

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God,

increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and love;

and that we may obtain what you promise,

make us love what you command,

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 34:1-7 (Thursday)

2 Chronicles 35:20-27 (Friday)

2 Chronicles 36:11-21 (Saturday)

Psalm 71:1-6 (All Days)

Acts 10:44-48 (Thursday)

Acts 19:1-10 (Friday)

John 1:43-51 (Saturday)

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I find my security in you, LORD,

never let me be covered with shame.

You always do what is right,

so rescue me and set me free.

Listen attentively to me and save me.

Be my rock where I can find security,

be my fortress and save me;

indeed you are my rock and fortress.

My God, set me free from the power of the wicked,

from the grasp of unjust and cruel men.

For you alone give me hope, LORD,

I have trusted in you since my early days.

I have leaned on you since birth,

when you delivered me from my mother’s womb.

I praise you continually.

–Psalm 71:1-6, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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The story of King Josiah of Judah (reigned 640-609 B.C.E.) exists in two versions, each with its own chronology.  The account in 2 Chronicles 34:1-35:37 is more flattering than the version in 2 Kings 22:1-23:30.  Both accounts agree that Josiah was a strong king, a righteous man, and a religious reformer who pleased God, who postponed the fall of the Kingdom of Judah.  The decline of the kingdom after Josiah’s death was rapid, taking only about 23 years and four kings.

Josiah’s reforms met with opposition, as did Jesus and nascent Christianity.  The thorny question of how to treat Gentiles who desired to convert was one cause of difficulty.  The decision to accept Gentiles as they were–not to require them to become Jews first–caused emotional pain for many people attached to their Jewish identity amid a population of Gentiles.  There went one more boundary separating God’s chosen people from the others.  For Roman officialdom a religion was old, so a new faith could not be a legitimate religion.  Furthermore, given the commonplace assumption that Gentiles making offerings to the gods for the health of the empire was a civic, patriotic duty, increasing numbers of Gentiles refusing to make those offerings caused great concern.  If too many people refused to honor the gods, would the gods turn their backs on the empire?

Interestingly enough, the point of view of much of the Hebrew Bible is that the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah fell because of pervasive idolatry and related societal sinfulness.  The pagan Roman fears for their empire were similar.  How ironic!

The pericope from John 1 is interesting.  Jesus is gathering his core group of followers.  One Apostle recruits another until St. Nathanael (St. Bartholomew) puts up some opposition, expressing doubt that anything good can come out of Nazareth.  St. Philip tries to talk St. Nathanael out of that skepticism.  “Come and see,” he replies.  Jesus convinces that St. Nathanael by informing him that he (Jesus) saw him (St. Nathanael) sitting under a fig tree.  Father Raymond E. Brown spends a paragraph in the first of his two volumes on the Gospel of John listing a few suggestions (of many) about why that was so impressive and what it might have meant.  He concludes that all such suggestions are speculative.  The bottom line is, in the words of Gail R. O’Day and Susan E. Hylen, is the following:

The precise meaning of Jesus’ words about the fig tree is unclear, but their function in the story is to show that Jesus has insight that no one else has…because of Jesus’ relationship with God.

John (2006), page 33

Jesus was doing a new thing which was, at its heart, a call back to original principles.  Often that which seems new is really old–from Josiah to Jesus to liturgical renewal (including the revision of The Book of Common Prayer).  Along the way actually new developments arise.  Laying aside precious old ideas and embracing greater diversity in the name of God for the purpose of drawing the proverbial circle wider can be positive as well as difficult.    Yet it is often what God calls us to do–to welcome those whom God calls insiders while maintaining proper boundaries and definitions.  Discerning what God calls good and bad from one or one’s society calls good and bad can be quite difficult.  May we succeed by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 5, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DAVID NITSCHMANN, SR., “FATHER NITSCHMANN,” MORAVIAN MISSIONARY; MELCHIOR NITSCHMANN, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR; JOHANN NITSCHMANN, JR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; ANNA NITSCHMANN, MORAVIAN ELDRESS; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, MISSIONARY AND FIRST BISHOP OF THE RENEWED MORAVIAN CHURCH

THE FEAST OF BRADFORD TORREY, U.S. ORNITHOLOGIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HARRY EMERSON FOSDICK, NORTHERN BAPTIST PASTOR AND OPPONENT OF FUNDAMENTALISM

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED REFORMED CHURCH, 1972

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/10/05/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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