Archive for the ‘Acts of the Apostles 20’ Category

St. Paul’s Third Missionary Journey   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of St. Paul the Apostle

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LXX

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Acts 18:24-21:16

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The material for this post opens with St. Paul the Apostle back in Antioch in Syria, at the end of the Second Missionary Journey.

Meanwhile, we readers meet St. Apollos, a Jewish Christian recently arrived in Ephesus then in Corinth.  We read that Sts. Priscilla and Aquila (from Corinth) catechized him.  We also read that St. Apollos, who spoke boldly for Christ, had only experienced the baptism of St. John the Baptist.

Related to that point, St. Paul, en route overland back to Ephesus (where he had been recently in 18:19-21), encountered about twelve Christians who had never heard of the Holy Spirit.  This was not surprising; the religion was young, Trinitarian theology was in its infancy, and one could not purchase a catechism in a bookstore yet.

I know what I mean by “Holy Spirit,” but my understanding emerges from Roman Catholic tradition.  I even use the filoque clause, unlike the Eastern Orthodox.  Definitions of the Holy Spirit vary within Christianity.

I have read sufficiently deeply to know that St. Paul used “Jesus” and “Holy Spirit” interchangeably sometimes.  I posit that elements of St. Paul’s Trinitarian theology were heterodox, relative to the conclusions of subsequent, major ecumenical councils.  So be it.  Trying to explain more of the nature of God than we mere mortals can grasp (most of it) is a foolish undertaking.  Who am I to blame St. Paul for dying about two and a half centuries prior to the First Council of Nicaea?

St. Paul, who spent years in Ephesus, made powerful religious and economic enemies.  The growth of Christianity threatened the commerce related to the goddess Diana.  The town clerk (another good Roman official) talked down the rioting silversmiths, but St. Paul had to leave.

A few months later, at Troas, St. Paul and his entourage spent about a week.  One Eutychus, sitting in a window, fell asleep and feel three stories to his death.  St. Paul, like Jesus before him, restored the young man to life.

Sleep, in this case, represented moral laxity and spiritual dullness, as well as indicating a physical state.  Culturally, story legitimized Lord’s Day worship, in contrast to “nocturnal assemblies and associated immoralities” (to quote Charles H. Talbert).  These nighttime meetings were commonplace in the cultural setting.  St. Justin Martyr wrote of the pagan misapprehension that Christians at worship “extinguished the lights and indulged in unbridled sensuality.”  St. Luke took pains to mention that the room was well-lit (20:8).  St. Luke also used this story in 20:7-12 to refute allegations that Christians practiced child sacrifice.

Many ancient pagans harbored false notions regarding Christians and Christianity.  Frequently, correcting these misunderstandings would have required a minimum of effort.  The stubbornness of people in holding objectively inaccurate ideas has not ceased to be an element of human nature, sadly.

St. Paul, hurrying back to Jerusalem in time for Pentecost, bid farewell to the Ephesian elders in Miletus.  His farewell speech, reminiscent of Christ’s predictions of the Passion, included excellent advice and interesting historical information.

Presbyters (elders) and overseers (bishops) were interchangeable at the time.  Mutuality defined the farewell address.  And the Lucan motif of the Holy Spirit was present.

St. Paul and his entourage evangelized on the way to Jerusalem.  They visited St. Philip the Evangelist (Acts 6:5; 8:4-8, 26-40) and his four daughters, prophets, in Caesarea.  More predictions of St. Paul’s fate occurred, but the Apostle kept going to Jerusalem.  Like Jesus in Luke 9:51, St. Paul set his face toward Jerusalem.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 1, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP AND JAMES, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Introduction to Luke-Acts   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of St. Luke the Evangelist

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART I

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

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

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

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

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

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

Know six essential facts about me, O reader:

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

Make of all this whatever you will, O reader.

Shall we begin our journey through Luke-Acts?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-THIRD DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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

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

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

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

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

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To Glorify and Enjoy God III   Leave a comment

Above:  Some of My Great-Grandfather’s Sermon Notes, Dated 1905

“Reared in a Christian home.”  Really?

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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For the Eighteenth 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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O God, forasmuch as without thee we are not able to please thee;

mercifully grant, that thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 218

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2 Kings 18:1-18

Psalm 114

Acts 20:17-38

Matthew 22:34-36

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Jesus stood within Judaism, not outside of it.  Much of Christian tradition missed that point for a very long time–well into the twentieth century.  At the beginning of the twentieth century, my great-grandfather, the Reverend George Washington Barrett, of the North Georgia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, preached that Jesus grew up in a Christian home.  (I have the notes for that sermon.)  Despite advances in New Testament scholarship along the lines of Jesus being a devout Jew, much Gentile discomfort with “Jesus the Jew,” as Geza Vermes referred to our Lord and Savior in book titles, has persisted.

Jesus seems to have belonged to the school of Rabbi Hillel, based on Matthew 22:34-40.  Our Lord and Savior, quoted the great rabbi, stopping prior to

The rest is commentary.  Go and learn it.

Jesus knew the Law of Moses well.

The readings from 2 Kings 18 and Psalm 114 speak of God acting on behalf of the people of Israel.  2 Kings 18 (in its entirety) describes God defending Judah against Assyrian invaders.  Psalm 114 recalls the Exodus from Egypt.

Above:  The Ancient City of Miletus

Image Source = Google Earth

The reading from Acts 20 closes St. Paul the Apostle’s sojourn in Miletus.  He had functioned as an agent of grace to the Christian congregation there for three years.  To spend three years in the company of St. Paul must have been quite an experience.

St. Paul’s parting device at Miletus, combined with the words of Jesus in Matthew 22:34-40, constitute sound advice for any faith community.  That counsel is to love God fully, love neighbors (all people) as one loves oneself, and preserve the truth (in love).  Christianity is a faith in which doctrines matter.  Loving orthodoxy is good; orthodoxy minus love is no virtue.  I am not doctrinaire.  In fact, I fail most doctrinal purity tests spectacularly.  Nevertheless, I insist on at least a few doctrines as being essential.  These include:

  1. The existence of God,
  2. The Holy Trinity,
  3. The jealousy of God,
  4. The sovereignty of God,
  5. The Incarnation,
  6. The crucifixion of Jesus, and
  7. The Resurrection of Jesus.

Keep the faith, in other words, but be sure to do so lovingly.  Doctrine matters, but keeping orthodoxy does not constitute a saving work.

We Christians will do well to remember another fact:  each of us is a heretic, according to many other Christians.  Even fundamentalists of one stripe are heretics, according to fundamentalists of other stripes.  Can we Christians bring ourselves to admit that what we do not know outweighs what we do know?

Besides, we are all heretics, in the light of God.  Much of theology–even classical Christian theology–consists of best guesses.  Ultimate, divine reality exceeds the human capacity for comprehension.

May we mere mortals enjoy and glorify God forever, by grace.  May relatively unimportant doctrinal disputes and differences fall away.  And may we affirm what is essential.

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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Deeds and Creeds V   1 comment

Above:  Ruins of Ephesus

Image Source = Google Earth

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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 3:1-19 or Acts 20:17-38

Psalm 123

Revelation 2:1-7

John 6:16-24

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Words have power.  Libel and slander are threats.  Some words build up.  Other words tear down.  Some words make truths plain.  Other words confuse.  Some words heal, but other words harm.  And misquoting God is always a bad idea.

Consider Genesis 2:16-17, O reader:

The LORD God gave the man this order:  You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden, except the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  From it you shall not eat; when you eat from it you shall die.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Then, O reader, consider Genesis 3:2-3:

The woman answered the snake:  “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, “You shall not eat it or even touch it, or else you will die!”

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

God said nothing about touching the fruit in Genesis 2:16-17.

Misquoting God opens a door that should remain closed.

Nevertheless, I have this complaint to make; you have less love than you used to.

–Revelation 2:4, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Concern for resisting heresy can come at a high cost, if a congregation, person, et cetera, goes about affirming orthodoxy the wrong way.  That cost is too little love.  This is also a moral in Morris West’s novel Lazarus (1990), about the fictional Pope Leo XIV, a harsh yet extremely orthodox man.

The late Presbyterian minister Ernest Lee Stoffel offered useful analysis of the message to the church at Ephesus:

This is to say that a church can lose its effectiveness if it has no love.  As I think about the mission of the church, as I hear calls for “more evangelism” and a stronger application of the Gospel to the social issues of the day, I wonder if we can do either unless we can love first–love each other and love the world, for Christ’s sake.

The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), 27

To quote St. Paul the Apostle:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

–1 Corinthians 13:1-3, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

Orthodoxy without love is devoid of value.  May we who say we follow Jesus really follow him.  May we love as he did–unconditionally and selflessly.  May we–collectively and individually–love like Jesus.  May our orthodoxy and our orthopraxy be like sides of one coin.  May our deeds reveal our creeds and not belie our professions of faith.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 15, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER AND MARTYR, 1968

THE FEAST OF ABBY KELLEY FOSTER AND HER HUSBAND, STEPHEN SYMONDS FOSTER, U.S. QUAKER ABOLITIONISTS AND FEMINISTS

THE FEAST OF BERTHA PAULSSEN, GERMAN-AMERICAN SEMINARY PROFESSOR, PSYCHOLOGIST, AND SOCIOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF GENE M. TUCKER, UNITED METHODIST MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN COSIN, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF COSIN

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/15/devotion-for-proper-10-year-d-humes/

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Human Obliviousness and Disharmony with God   1 comment

Above:  Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, by Francisco Herrera the Elder

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 2:15-25 or Acts 20:1-12

Psalm 120

Revelation 1:9-10

John 6:1-15

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Genesis 2:15-25 presents, in the format of a myth, a portrait of life in harmony and innocence in the Garden of Eden.  That is not the kind of life known during any documented epoch of the human past, or the of the present.  Therefore, an encounter with God may seem frightening.  Or it may seem intimate and comfortable.  Or  it may astound.  Given the variety of encounters with God, both direct and indirect, as well as the range of people and circumstances, one cannot legitimately say that an encounter with God will definitely proceed in a given manner.

To ask that we have more than a very short-term memory of the encounter is reasonable, though.  We read of the Feeding of the Five Thousand in John 6:1-15.  If we keep reading, we reach the events of the next day, in the immediate area.  We read in John 6:30-31:

So they said, “What sign will you yourself do, the sight of which will make us believe in you?  What work will you do?  Our fathers ate manna in the desert; as scriptures says, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Jesus must have rolled his eyes and muttered an ancient equivalent of,

Oy vey!

The author of the Gospel of John did not record that reaction, of course.

Not being oblivious to God is one step toward living in harmony with God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 15, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER AND MARTYR, 1968

THE FEAST OF ABBY KELLEY FOSTER AND HER HUSBAND, STEPHEN SYMONDS FOSTER, U.S. QUAKER ABOLITIONISTS AND FEMINISTS

THE FEAST OF BERTHA PAULSSEN, GERMAN-AMERICAN SEMINARY PROFESSOR, PSYCHOLOGIST, AND SOCIOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF GENE M. TUCKER, UNITED METHODIST MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN COSIN, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF COSIN

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/15/devotion-for-proper-9-year-d-humes/

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God With Us, Part V   Leave a comment

Above:  Gideon

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Grant to us, Lord, we ask you, the spirit to think and do always such things as are right;

that we, who cannot do anything that is good without you,

may by you be enabled to live according to your will;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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

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Judges 7:2-7, 19-22

Psalm 13

Acts 20:17-28, 32

Matthew 10:16-33

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One might suffer for a variety of reasons.  In Matthew 10 and Acts 20 we read of suffering for the sake of righteousness.  We also read that, in such circumstances, we are never alone; God is with us, sometimes via human beings.

Regardless of the cause of one’s suffering, the occasion to recognize one’s complete dependence on God presents itself.  If one is wise, one will acknowledge one’s powerlessness and embrace the spiritual opportunity.  Such a one will learn the lesson of the story of Gideon–the saving power is that of God, not mere mortals.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 5, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN NEPOMUCENE NEUMANN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PHILADELPHIA

THE FEAST OF ANTONIO LOTTI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GENOVEVA TORRES MORALES, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS AND THE HOLY ANGELS

THE FEAST OF MARGARET MACKAY, SCOTTISH HYMN WRITER

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New Life I   1 comment

Above:   Samson in the Temple of Dagon, by Gustave Dore

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 16:1-5, 16-31

Psalm 119:17-24

Acts 20:7-12

John 6:37-40

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Samson was a foolish, reckless man who paved the way to his downfall.  His great accomplishment (deliverance for Israel) was also an act of revenge marked by a body count exceeding that to his life before then.  He was quite different from the author of Psalm 119, who was pious.

Eutychus was also foolish, for he fell asleep in a third-story window.  He suffered fatal injuries, but St. Paul the Apostle raised the young man from the dead.

New life is a theme in John 6:37-40, in which Jesus speaks of eternal and everlasting life.  In the Gospel of John eternal life is knowing God via Christ (17:3).  Everlasting life is simply the afterlife.  In Johannine theology there is no eternal life apart from God in Christ.  So may nobody commit the theological error of speaking or writing of eternity apart from God.

New life can be physical or spiritual, but it is also a gift from God.  May we use it for the glory of God.

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-13-ackerman/

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Sheep and Shepherds   1 comment

Good Shepherd

Above:   Christ, the Good Shepherd

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, powerful and compassionate,

you shepherd your people, faithfully feeding and protecting us.

Heal each of us, and make us a whole people,

that we may embody the justice and peace of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 50:1-7 (Monday)

Zechariah 9:14-10:2 (Tuesday)

2 Samuel 5:1-12 (Wednesday)

Psalm 100 (All Days)

Hebrews 13:17-25 (Monday)

Acts 20:17-38 (Tuesday)

Luke 15:1-7 (Wednesday)

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Shout joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;

serve the LORD with gladness;

come before him with joyful song.

Know that the LORD is God,

he made us, we belong to him,

we are his people, the flock he shepherds.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

his courts with praise.

Give thanks to him, bless his name;

good indeed is the LORD,

his faithfulness lasts through every generation.

–Psalm 100, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2010)

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All of the assigned readings for these three days speak of sheep and shepherds:

  1. God is the shepherd in Psalm 100.
  2. God is the shepherd-divine warrior who will end the Babylonian Exile in Jeremiah 50:1-7 and Zechariah 9:14-10:2.
  3. David, a troublesome character, is the shepherd-king in 2 Samuel 5:1-12.
  4. Jesus is the Good Shepherd in Luke 15:1-7.
  5. St. Paul the Apostle is the shepherd warning of “fierce wolves” in Acts 20:17-38.
  6. Faithful church leaders are the shepherds worthy of obedience in Hebrews 13:17-25.

Now I proceed to unpack some themes:

  1. The core of church doctrine, as in the question of the nature of Christ, developed over centuries, during which debates, arguments, and street brawls, and knife fights occurred in the name of sorting out proper theology.  Much of what we Christians take for granted these days came about over five centuries, give or take a few years.  Even the latest book in the New Testament did not exist until the end of the first century of the Common Era, and consensus regarding canonical status required more time to form.  In that context obeying orthodox bishops made a great deal of sense, although the definition of orthodoxy shifted over time.  Origen, for example, was orthodox in his day yet heterodox ex post facto.
  2. The parable from Luke 15:1-7 assumes a team of shepherds, so one shepherd could leave to seek a lost sheep without fear of losing more animals.
  3. That parable tells us that all people matter to Jesus.  They should, therefore, matter to us also.
  4. One metaphor for kings in the Bible is shepherds.  Some shepherds are good, but others are bad, unfortunately.  Good kings do what is best for all the people, especially the vulnerable ones.
  5. God is the best shepherd, protecting the flock, seeking an unbroken and unforgotten covenant with it, and searching for the lost sheep.  The flock can be bigger, and we can, by grace, function well as junior shepherds, subordinate to God, the senior shepherd.

I notice the community theme inherent in the metaphor of the flock.  We depend upon God, the ultimate shepherd, and upon the other shepherds in the team.  We also depend upon and bear responsibilities toward each other, for we follow the lead of others–often the lead of fellow sheep.  Sometimes this is for better, but often it is for worse.  Sticking together and following the proper leader is essential for group survival and for individual survival.

May we, by grace, recognize the voice of God, our ultimate shepherd, and follow it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 5, 2015 COMMON ERA

EASTER SUNDAY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF MILNER BALL, PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, LAW PROFESSOR, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS, AND HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT NOKTER BALBULUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/04/05/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-11-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Problem of Suffering   1 comment

Beheading of St. Paul

Above:  The Beheading of St. Paul, by Enrique Simonet

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God of creation, eternal majesty,

you preside over land and sea, sunshine and storm.

By your strength pilot us,

by your power preserve us,

by your wisdom instruct us,

and by your hand protect us,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 29:1-20 (Thursday)

Job 29:21-30:15 (Friday)

Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32 (Both Days)

Acts 20:1-16 (Thursday)

Acts 21:1-16 (Friday)

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Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

and his mercy endures for ever.

Let all those whom the LORD has redeemed proclaim

that he redeemed them from the hand of the foe.

–Psalm 107:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Placing that Psalm in the lectionary for these two days seems ironic, especially when considering the other two pericopes.

The titular character of the Book of Job suffered, but not because of any sin he committed.  Compounding his plight was the fact that he had to endure alleged friends, who blamed him for his plight.  They insisted that, since God does not punish the innocent, Job must have sinned, thus prompting his extreme suffering.  They advised him to repent of his sins, therefore.  Actually, the text tells us, God permitted the suffering as a test of loyalty.  Job protested his innocence and lamented his fate.  Anyone who speaks of the “patience of Job,” as if he had any, ought to pay better attention to the story.

Meanwhile, in the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul the Apostle was traveling to Jerusalem.  He hoped to arrive in time for the first day of Pentecost.  At Caesarea the Apostle learned that his journey would take him to a bad fate.  He accepted the prophecy calmly, saying,

…I am ready not only to be bound but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.

–Acts 21:13c, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

He went on to die for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ at Rome “off-camera,” so to speak, after the end of the Acts of the Apostles.

The alleged friends of Job thought that suffering resulted necessarily from sins.  Yet St. Paul the Apostle suffered for the sake for the sake of righteousness.

Nevertheless, the assumption that we suffer solely or primarily because of our wrongdoing persists.  Also commonplace is a related assumption which says that, if we live righteously, we will prosper and be safe and well.  This is the heresy of Prosperity Theology.

Tell that heresy to Jesus and to the Christian martyrs, if you dare,

I say.  I conclude that false ideas live on because too many people pay little or no attention to the evidence around them.  Perhaps these individuals are merely incurious.  (Many people are not very inquisitive, intellectually or otherwise.)  Or maybe they are distracted among the other details of life.  Regardless of the reason(s), they need to pay better attention and respond to the situation that is, not the situation they imagine exists.

To claim that God never punishes the innocent or permits them to suffer is to make a pious comment–one which is false.  What is the functional difference between permitting innocent people to suffer and punishing them?  I recognize none.  One is passive and the other is active, but the results are the same.  The problem of suffering is complicated for we monotheists, for we lack the luxury of blaming an evil deity for misfortune while letting a good deity off the hook.  Yes, how we live on this plane of reality affects the afterlife, but the rain still falls on the just and on the unjust in this life.  Wicked people still prosper and righteous people still suffer on this side of Heaven.  All of this can be difficult to reconcile with the idea of a loving and just God, hence bad theology in defense of God.  I prefer an honest question to a false certainty, however.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 24, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS ATTWOOD, “FATHER OF MODERN CHURCH MUSIC”

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIDACUS JOSEPH OF CADIZ, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF OSCAR ROMERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF SAN SALVADOR; AND THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR

THE FEAST OF PAUL COUTURIER, ECUMENTIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/24/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-proper-7-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Raised to New Life in Christ   1 comment

paul_raiseth_eutychus_to_life

Above:  Paul Raiseth Eutychus to Life, 1728

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, your Son came into the world to free us

from all sin and death.  Breathe upon us the power

of your Spirit, that we may be raised to new life in Christ

and serve you in righteousness all our days,  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 28

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 17:17-24 (29th Day)

2 Kings 4:18-37 (30th Day)

Psalm 143 (Both Days)

Acts 20:7-12 (29th Day)

Ephesians 2:1-10 (30th Day)

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Some Related Posts:

1 Kings 17:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/proper-5-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/devotion-for-august-30-and-31-lcms-daily-lectionary/

2 Kings 4:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/devotion-for-september-6-and-7-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Ephesians 2:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/06/week-of-proper-24-monday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-24-tuesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/devotion-for-september-1-2-and-3-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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My spirit faints within me;

my heart within me is desolate.

–Psalm 143:4, Common Worship (2000)

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The assigned readings for these two days pertain to death and restoration to life.  Elijah raised a widow’s son from the dead.  So did Elisha.  These deeds benefited the mothers in that society, making them less vulnerable economically.  Acts 20 tells us that St. Paul the Apostle, who probably spoke for too long into the night, restored young Eutychus, who had fallen asleep and fallen from a third-story window, to life.  Certainly the young man was important to his faith community.

The metaphor coexists with the literal fact in Ephesians 2:1-10.  Through Jesus, the text tells us, we who die in our trespasses find spiritual rebirth.  Although the Apostle does not say so in this passage, we then carry a mandate to bless others—to pass it on, to pay it forward.  We are responsible to and for each other.

May we act accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 27, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES INTERCISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEOLOGIAN

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/11/27/devotion-for-the-twenty-ninth-and-thirtieth-days-of-lent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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