Archive for the ‘Acts of the Apostles 28’ Category

St. Paul the Apostle in Rome   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Paul the Apostle

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LXXIV

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Acts 28:15-31

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Acts 28:15-31 spans 61-63 C.E.  The scene is that of St. Paul the Apostle, living under house arrest, proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Rome.  He proclaimed the message to Jews and Gentiles alike; he called Roman Jews “brothers.”

Luke-Acts opens with the Incarnation and closes with St. Paul preaching in an apartment in Rome.  The ending omits the martyrdom of St. Paul in Rome, during the persecution by the Emperor Nero, in the middle 60s C.E.

Certainly, St. Luke, writing circa 85 C.E., knew about the martyrdom of St. Paul.

Did St. Paul ever visit Spain?  (See Romans 15:24.)  The jury is out on that question.  The chronological tables in The Jerusalem Bible (1966) and The New Jerusalem Bible (1985) state that Roman authorities released St. Paul in 63 C.E. and hypothesize that he traveled to Spain and perhaps elsewhere.  Maybe this is accurate.  On the other hand, these tables also indicate that St. Paul wrote or dictated 1 Timothy.  (I reject that idea.)

St. Luke told the story he wanted to tell, not the story we may have wanted him to tell.  So be it.

Dennis Hamm, S. J., provides a fine analysis of the inconclusiveness of Acts 28.  This inconclusiveness:

…serves to remind us that we are invited to continue the story with our lives.

–In Daniel Durken, ed., The New Collegeville Bible Commentary:  New Testament (2009), 435

We are Acts 29.

Thank you, O reader, for joining me on this journey through Luke-Acts.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 5, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES WILLIAM SCHAEFFER, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HISTORIAN, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT CATERINA CITTADINI, FOUNDER OF THE URSULINE SISTERS OF SOMASCO

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDMUND IGNATIUS RICE, FOUNDER OF THE INSTITUTE OF THE BROTHERS OF THE CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS OF IRELAND AND THE CONGREGATION OF PRESENTATION BROTHERS

THE FEAST OF FRIEDRICH VON HÜGEL, ROMAN CATHOLIC INDEPDENDENT SCHOLAR AND PHILOSOPHER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS HONORATUS OF ARLES AND HILARY OF ARLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; AND SAINTS VENANTIUS OF MODON AND CAPRASIUS OF LERINS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

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St. Paul’s Voyage to Rome   Leave a comment

Above:  Paul the Apostle, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LXXIII

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Acts 27:1-28:14

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St. Luke seems to have accompanied St. Paul the Apostle and Aristarchus to Rome.  Notice the instances of “we,” starting in 27:10, O reader.

Reading Acts 27:1-28:14 is enjoyable; it is a good story, told well.  The setting, by the way, is the winter of 60-61 C.E.

I choose not to retell the story.  Instead, I opt to focus on a few themes:

  1. St. Paul knew about sailing and shipwrecks.  (See 2 Corinthians 11:25, too.)  The “I told you so” moment was fun.
  2. Storms at sea reinforce why ancient Near Eastern mythology associated the deep with chaos.
  3. 27:35-38 echoes Eucharistic language.
  4. Providence is a major theme.
  5. The language of salvation becomes literal in the text.  Associated with this, jettisoning cargo–a necessity in this case–functions also as a spiritual mentor.
  6. Another parallel between St. Paul and Jesus is that Jesus was sailing in Luke 8:23, in the story of the calming of the storm (Luke 8:22-25).
  7. In a cultural motif, surviving a disaster indicated divine favor.  God vindicated St. Paul.
  8. The shipwreck created an opportunity for another healing.

The journey through Luke-Acts has one more stop left.  I encourage you, O reader, to complete the journey with me.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 4, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CEFERINO JIMENEZ MALLA, SPANISH ROMANI MARTYR, 1936

THE FEAST OF ANGUS DUN, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF WASHINGTON, AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT BASIL MARTYSZ, POLISH ORTHODOX PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1945

THE FEAST OF SAINT JEAN-MARTIN MOYË, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MISSIONARY IN CHINA, AND FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE AND THE CHRISTIAN VIRGINS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN HOUGHTON, ROBERT LAWRENCE, AUGUSTINE WEBSTER, HUMPHREY MIDDLEMORE, WILLIAM EXMEW, AND SEBASTIAN NEWDIGATE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 1535

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The Births and Infancies of St. John the Baptist and Jesus   Leave a comment

Above:  On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART IV

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Luke 1:47-2:40

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The stories of St. John the Baptist and Jesus continue to intertwine in the earliest chapters of the Gospel of Luke.  Foreshadowing continues, too.  We read that Jesus and St. John the Baptist came from devout Jewish families, as well.

As we–you and I, O reader–march through the Gospel of Luke, I will address a topic a breach initially in this post.  One unfortunate tradition within Christianity distances Jesus from Judaism.  This erroneous tradition places our Lord and Savior in opposition to Judaism.  This tradition exists within my family tree.  I have some of the hand-written sermon notes of the Reverend George Washington Barrett (1873-1956), my great-grandfather and a minister in the North Georgia Conference of the old Methodist Episcopal Church, South.  I have the book in which he wrote that Jesus

grew up in a Christian home.

Rather, one should understand Jesus within the context of Judaism.

Luke 2 poses historical problems:

  1. No such census occurred.  No empire-wide census took place during the reign of the Emperor Augustus.  Quirinius, who became the Governor of Syria in 6 C.E., did preside over a provincial census, though–in 6 C.E., ten or so years after the birth of Jesus.
  2. No Roman census required such movement of populations.

To quote a spiritual mentor of mine:

What is really going on here?

Theology is going on here:

  1. St. Luke introduced a divine plan that culminated in St. Paul the Apostle preaching in Rome in Acts 28.  The plan launched with the fictional empire-wide census.
  2. The angelic announcement of the birth of Jesus was an imperial proclamation.  Officially, Augustus was the savior of the world and the Son of God; currency proclaimed this.  The angels sang for Jesus, not Augustus.  Jesus was greater than Augustus.
  3. The text set the Roman Empire and the Kingdom of God in opposition to each other.
  4. Luke 2:7 created a reason to have Jesus born in Bethlehem, with its Davidic connection.
  5. The text, in doing so, portrayed the Roman Empire negatively.  The text also depicted Augustus as a pawn of God.

Luke 2:7 may not refer to an inn.  The New Jerusalem Bible (1985) renders the germane Greek word as “dwelling-place.”  This is a reference to a two-story home in which the people lived upstairs and the animals were downstairs.  In this scenario, the scene is of a crowded home, in which St. Mary gave birth downstairs, away from the in-laws.

I knew nothing about this alternative translation and interpretation as a child.  In the rural United Methodist congregations in which my father served, I learned that the “inn” was an inn–a caravansary, to be precise.  I also suffered through nativity plays that depicted the innkeeper as a brusque, unsympathetic figure.  To be fair, my father defended the innkeeper for not turning out paying customers.

Likewise, “manger” can also be “stable.”

In the play Cotton Patch Gospel (1982), the birth of Jesus occurred in an abandoned trailer behind the Dixie-Delite Motor Lodge, about two miles outside Gainesville, Georgia.  Joe Davison and Mary Hagler were en route to Atlanta for a federal tax audit.

Notice, O reader, the parallelism between 1:28 and 2:40, regarding divine favor.  The Gospel of Luke is a theological and literary work.  It has a structure that indicates much thought and effort.  It is, as the prologue says, “an orderly account.”

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 22, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK TEMPLE AND WILLIAM TEMPLE, ARCHBISHOPS OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS CHAEREMON AND ISCHYRION, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, CIRCA 250

THE FEAST OF CHICO MENDES, “GANDHI OF THE AMAZON”

THE FEAST OF SAINT DEMETRIUS A. GALLITZIN, RUSSIAN-AMERICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST; “THE APOSTLE OF THE ALLEGHENIES”

THE FEAST OF HENRY BUDD, FIRST ANGLICAN NATIVE PRIEST IN NORTH AMERICA; MISSIONARY TO THE CREE NATION

THE FEAST OF ISAAC HECKER, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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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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Glorifying God VII   1 comment

Above:  The Tower of Babel, from Metropolis (1927)

A Screen Capture

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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 11:1-9 or Acts 28:16-31

Psalm 135:1-14

Revelation 6:1-17

John 9:1-41

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The gospel of Christ will always stand in judgment of the things that are happening in the political, economic, and social spheres of communities and nations.  And if this is so, then martyrdom is not as far away as we think.  The word “martyr” in Greek is the same word from which we get the word “witness.”

–Ernest Lee Stoffel, The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), 49-50

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To be a witness to God can be risky.  The risk may or may not involve violence, injury or death.  However, even under the best of circumstances, to ignore or minimize that risk is foolish.  Risk may even come from conventionally religious people–from powerful ones, perhaps.

I detect an element of humor in John 9:1-41.  (Reading the Bible in such a way as to miss humor is far too common.)  By the time a reader arrives at the end of the story, one may imagine steam pouring out of the ears of some of the Pharisees, if this story were in the form of a Looney Tunes cartoon.  This would make for a wonderful scene in verse 27, with the healed man’s question, 

Do you want to become his disciples yourselves?

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

At the end of that story, the healed man found himself expelled from the synagogue.  His plight must have resonated with members of the Johannine Jewish Christian community, on the margins of their Jewish communal life.  Therefore, some Jews referred to other Jews as “the Jews.”

At the end of the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul the Apostle lived under house arrest in Rome.  Ultimately, he did via beheading.

God may have struck down many enemies and oppressors of Israel, but many of the faithful have suffered and/or died for the faith, too.

The story of the Tower of Babel is a myth.  Anyone consulting it in search for a reliable source of linguistic origins is on a doomed mission.  That is not to say, however, that the story contains no truth.

This is a story about the folly of self-importance–collective self-importance, in this case.  Verse 5 reads:

The LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the people had built.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

That verse conveys the insignificance of human achievements relative to God.

The desire to make a name for ourselves–collectively and individually–is a great value in many societies.  It is not, however, a value the Bible champions.  Psalm 135 reads, in part:

Hallelujah.

Praise the name of the LORD;

give praise, you servants of the LORD,

who stand in the house of the LORD,

in the courts of the house of our God.

Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good;

sing hymns to His name, for it is pleasant.

For the LORD has chosen Jacob for Himself,

Israel, as His treasured possession.

–Verses 1-4, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

If we–collectively or individually–have a name that should last for generations, centuries, and millennia, God will give it to us.  That name may not persist in human memory, though.

Some of them left a name behind them, 

so that their praises are still sung.

While others have left no memory

and disappeared as though they had not existed.

They are now as though they had never been,

and so too, their children after them.

–Ecclesiasticus 44:8-9, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

So be it.

To seek to glorify God and to maintain divine standards of political, economic, and social justice can be dangerous.  At minimum, the risk is social marginalization and scorn.  Much of this contempt may come from conventionally devout people who should know better.  To serve God or to serve Caesar.  To glorify God or to glorify oneself?  To worship God or to worship country?  The decisions are ours to make?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 23, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE ALMSGIVER, PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES KINGSLEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST, NOVELIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD GRUBB, ENGLISH QUAKER AUTHOR, SOCIAL REFORMER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JAMES D. SMART, CANADIAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF PHILLIPS BROOKS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF MASSACHUSETTS, AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/23/devotion-for-proper-18-year-d-humes/

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The Victory of Suffering Love   1 comment

Above:  The Logo of the Moravian Church

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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Genesis 8:13-22; 9:12-17 or Acts 28:1-10

Psalm 134

Revelation 5:1-14

John 8:48-59

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Revelation 5:1-14 provides the keynote for this blog post.  This scriptural text is one I cannot read without hearing the finale of Handel’s Messiah thundering inside my cranium.

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by his blood, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.

Ernest Lee Stoffel, writing in The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), summarized verses 6-14 with five words:

THE VICTORY OF SUFFERING LOVE.

Stoffel elaborated:

What is this really saying?  I believe it is saying the suffering love of God is the key that will help us live with our suffering and ourselves.  There is something in the universe that has not been defeated by pain and evil and sin.  That something is the crucified love of the Creator.  I have to believe that love is the key to the world’s destiny, and that it will triumph over my pain and sin.  I believe I can give my pain and sin to that love, which is also wisdom….

–43-44

I go off the Humes lectionary briefly to bring in a germane text:

“I have told you all this

so that you may find peace in me.

In the world you will have hardship,

but be courageous:

I have conquered the world.”

–John 16:33, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Divine, suffering love has triumphed and conquered.  This love figuratively hung up its bow of war in the beautiful mythology of Genesis 9:12-17.  This divine love called and accompanied St. Paul the Apostle.  This love has long inspired people to bless the Lord.

What should a person or a faith community do with the “victory of suffering love” in the context of heartbreaking, preventable human suffering?  I write this post during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The news is mostly grim.  The temptation to curse God, fate, or whatever, then to curl up in a ball of despair is great.  Yes, vaccines are available, to an extent.  Yes, more vaccines are in the process of gaining official approval.  And yes, people continue to die needlessly, before they can receive a vaccination.  We, as a species, will spend a long time digging our way out of the wreckage of this pandemic.  Furthermore, many people will never recover from the economic carnage.  Many people will always have health-related effects of COVID-19.  And the dead will remain deceased.  None of this had to happen.

Do we trust that the crucified love of the Creator has remained unconquered?  Do we trust that Jesus has conquered the world?  Depending on the time of day, I may or may not so trust.  Yet I know that I must take my fears and doubts to the foot of the cross of Christ and deposit them there.  Having faith is not living free of doubts.  No, having faith entails wrestling with them and even with God.  Having faith entails never giving up the idol of false certainly and resisting the allure of easy answers to difficult questions.

God is faithful.  God is faithful when we neglect to be faithful.  God is faithful when we strive unsuccessfully to be faithful.  God is faithful when we are faithful.  May we stand, sit, or assume any posture we can in the presence of God wherever we are.  And may we bless the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth, whose love remains unconquered.  May we cooperate with that love.  May it conquer our despair and grief.  May it heal the world.

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

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/22/devotion-for-proper-17-year-d-humes/

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Religious Persecution IV: Endurance   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of St. Paul the Apostle

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Eternal God, who hast taught us that we shall life if we love thee and our neighbor:

help us to know who is our neighbor and to serve him, that we may truly love thee;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 125

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1 Kings 3:3-14

Acts 28:23-31

Matthew 10:16-25

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This set of readings is interesting; the first pericope seems not to fit with the other two, at least initially.

St. Paul the Apostle ended his days under house arrest in Rome.  He was free to preach there, until he died of beheading.  His martyrdom was a form of religious persecution.

Religious persecution is recognizable.  If one, for example, risks severe penalties (such as incarceration or death), legal or informal, for attending the church of one’s choice, one suffers from religious persecution.  Many of my fellow Christians live their faith under religious persecution.  I, a citizen and resident of the United States of America, do not suffer religious persecution, fortunately; nobody interferes with my church-going.  Yet I do know of incidents of domestic terrorists burning churches or vandalizing houses of worship, often out of racism or xenophobia.  These actions constitute forms of religious persecution.  Yet legal authorities in the United States often deal with those domestic terrorists.

Wise governance can minimize, although not prevent, informal religious persecution.  Wise governance certainly prevents official religious persecution.  Yet there is no such thing as absolute freedom.  I know, for example, of some extreme cases in which child abusers have attempted to hide behind appeals to religious freedom.  However, religious freedom does not excuse domestic violence; prosecution of that offense does not constitute religious persecution.

When Christianity endures religious persecution, the faith emerges stronger for the ordeal.  The blood of the martyrs truly waters the Church.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 11, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE TENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF LUKE OF PRAGUE AND JOHN AUGUSTA, MORAVIAN BISHOPS AND HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT KAZIMIERZ TOMAS SYKULSKI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF LARS OLSEN SKREFSRUD, HANS PETER BOERRESEN, AND PAUL OLAF BODDING, LUTHERAN MISSIONARIES IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SEVERIN OTT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Of God, Kings, and an Emperor   Leave a comment

Above:  Beheading of Saint Paul

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O God, who hast summoned us to be doers of the Word:

grant us strength to fulfill thy commandments;

to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thee;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 125

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1 Samuel 12:6-15

Romans 15:22-29

Matthew 9:35-10:4

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St. Paul the Apostle was one of the laborers who went out to work in God’s fields, for the harvest; he focused on Gentiles.  He, writing, probably in the 50s C.E., addressed the church at Rome, a congregation he had not yet visited.  The Apostle, concerned about his safety, was planning a trip to Jerusalem, to deliver the collection for the church there.  He was also planning to visit Rome.  St. Paul arrived in that city eventually–as a prisoner.  (Read Acts 27-28.)  He died there.

St. Paul, a Roman citizen, knew who his king was; God was his king.  Unfortunately, St. Paul’s emperor as Nero.  Many of St. Paul’s ancestors in 1 Samuel 12 did not understand, however, that their only proper king was God.  The majority of them and their descendants for a number of generations disregarded God.  One kingdom became two kingdoms, both of which fell.

St. Paul, for all his vices (including arrogance and excessive querulousness), followed Jesus after the road to Damascus.  He suffered also, but for the sake of righteousness.

Ultimately, in 64 C.E., he became a martyr via beheading.  The activities of St. Paul from the road to Damascus forward changed the world for the better.

Nero, Emperor of Rome, and most of the Kings of Israel and Judah did not.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 10, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE NINTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF PAUL EBER, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HOWELL ELVET LEWIS, WELSH CONGREGATIONALIST CLERGYMAN AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN ROBERTS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF ROBERT MURRAY, CANADIAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Jesus and Empires   Leave a comment

Above:  Annunciation to the Shepherds, by Anonymous

Image in the Public Domain

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For Christmas Day, First Service, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Glory be to thee, O God in the highest, who by the birth of thy beloved Son

has made him to be for us both Word and Sacrament:

grant that we may hear thy Word, receive thy grace,

and be made one with him born for our salvation;

even Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 118

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Isaiah 40:25-31

Galatians 4:1-7

Luke 2:1-14

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Luke 2 presents the honest, objective reviewer of history and the Gospel of Luke with a text full of factual holes yet profound truth and timeless meaning.  We cannot possibly line up all the historical details–the census and all those officeholders–at the same period in the past.

There never was a census of the whole Empire under Augustus (but a number of local censuses, and the census of Judea (not of Galilee) under Quirinius, the governor of Syria, took place in AD 6, probably at least ten years too late for the birth of Jesus.

–Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament (New Haven, CT:  Yale University Press, 1997), 233

The text of Luke 2:1-14, although factually inaccurate, is theologically true.

As Brown pointed out, the author of the Gospel of Luke, by linking the birth of Jesus to an imperial decree, introduced a divine plan that reached its culmination in Acts 28, when St. Paul the Apostle proclaimed the Gospel in Rome.  The song of the angels was for Jesus, not Augustus.  It constituted an imperial proclamation of a sort, too.

Code:  Jesus is more important than Augustus and his successors even were.

In Isaiah 40:27 exiles lament:

“My way is hid from the LORD,

my cause is ignored by God.”

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

It is an understandable way of thinking.  It is also one of the following verses refute.

One meaning of the Incarnation is that God does not ignore we human beings.  In contrast, God loves us enough to become one of us, alive among us, and save us.

Merry Christmas!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 23, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES OF JERUSALEM, BROTHER OF JESUS

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God Cares, Part IV   Leave a comment

Above:  Ruth Swearing Her Allegiance to Naomi, by Jan Victors

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Let your merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of your humble servants;

and, that they may obtain their petitions, make them to ask such things as shall please you;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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

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Ruth 1:1, 4-9, 16-19a

Psalm 14

Acts 28:16-20, 23-34, 30-31

Luke 15:1-10

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Most English-language translations of Psalm 14, nearly identical to Psalm 53, do not do the text justice, especially in the first verse.  The “fools” are actually wicked, for example.  Furthermore, the saying that “there is no God” is not a statement of modern-style atheism.  No, it means that God does not care and is absent from the world in any meaningful way.  That misperception leads the wicked deeper into their perfidy.

God is present in the world in meaningful ways.  God also cares–deeply.  We read this in Luke 15:1-10, the Parable of the Lost Sheep.  We read this also in the entire Book of Ruth.  We read of God’s concern repeatedly in the writings of St. Paul the Apostle, who ended his days in Rome.  And, if we affirm that God cares, we acknowledge that we should do the same.  If we recognize the presence of God in meaningful ways in the world, and if we are spiritually honest, we must then admit that we have an obligation to be present in the world in meaningful ways also.

These are great challenges.  They might even prove to be more than inconvenient to us.  Nevertheless, grace–the only way we can rise to this challenge–is available, fortunately.

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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