Archive for the ‘Acts of the Apostles 4’ Category

Tenants, Not Landlords, Part II   1 comment

Above:  A Vineyard

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 5:1-7

Psalm 80:7-14 (LBW) or Psalm 118:19-24 (LW)

Philippians 3:12-21

Matthew 21:33-43

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Our Lord Jesus, you have endured

the doubts and foolish questions of every generation. 

Forgive us for trying to be judge over you,

and grant us the confident faith to acknowledge you as Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 28

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O God, whose almighty power is made known chiefly

in showing mercy and pity,

grant us the fullness of your grace

that we may be partakers of your heavenly treasures;

through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 84

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The Bible moves past preaching and immediately starts meddling.  Good!  It ought to do this.

The vineyard is an image of the people of God in the Bible.  In Isaiah 5, the image of vineyard full of wild (literally, noxious) grapes condemns the population doomed to suffer exile and occupation.  Psalm 80 likens the people of Israel to a vine and prays for the restoration of Israel in the midst of exile.  The Parable of the Tenants condemns fruitless religious authority figures–a timeless warning.

That parable also quotes Psalm 119 when the Matthean text refers to the cornerstone the builders had rejected.  The cornerstone is a messianic theme, as in Isaiah 8:14; 28:16; and Zechariah 3:9; 4:7.  For other applications of the cornerstone to Jesus, read Acts 4:11; Romans 9:33; 1 Peter 2:4f; Ephesians 2:20; and 1 Corinthians 3:11.

Years ago, I had a discouraging conversation with a female student at the college where I taught.  She told me before class one day that she did not care about what happened to and on the Earth, for her citizenship was in Heaven.  I vainly attempted to persuade her to care.  Her attitude contradicted the Law of Moses, the witness of the Hebrew prophets, the teachings of Jesus, and the epistles–Judaism and Christianity, in other words.

The Golden Rule requires us–collectively and individually–to care for and about each other and the planet.  Judaism and Christianity teach that people are stewards–not owners–of the planet.  (God is the owner.)  The state of ecology indicates that we are terrible stewards, overall.  The lack of mutuality during the COVID-19 pandemic proves that many people do not give a damn about others and the common good.

God remains God.  God still cares.  God cannot exist without caring.  That should comfort many people and terrify many others.  Divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 18, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ARTEMISIA BOWDEN, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EDUCATOR AND CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF ERDMANN NEUMEISTER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS JOHN MCCONNELL, U.S. METHODIST BISHOP AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF JONATHAN FRIEDRICH BAHNMAIER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PETTER DASS, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post

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In Trouble with the Sanhedrin Again   Leave a comment

Above:  The Sanhedrin

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LVIII

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Acts 5:12-42

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Acts 5:12-42 picks up from 3:1-4:31. Many of the comments in the post for 3:1-4:31 are germane to 5:12-42.

So [the apostles] left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.  And all day long, both at the temple and in their homes, they did not stop teaching and proclaiming the Messiah, Jesus.

–Acts 5:41-42, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

I write and speak only for myself, for I am qualified to do that much.  In the same position as these apostles, I, hypothetically, would have been cursing (in both meanings of that word), not rejoicing.  You, O reader, may write and speak for yourself.

We read of the nascent Church growing in Jerusalem and already scaring religious authorities there.  I wonder:  How scared of the Church are the authorities where you, O reader, dwell?  I do not refer to congregations and Christians getting into trouble for blatantly un-Christlike activities, such as needlessly endangering others and spewing hatred.  I recall, for example, news stories of abusive congregations that have practiced child abuse under the cover of the Bible and the freedom of religion.  Such criminals deserve legal penalties, and their victims deserve help and wholeness.

No, I refer to Christians and congregations who are behaving in Christlike ways–loving like Jesus, to borrow the advice of Bishop Robert C. Wright, of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta.  I refer, for example, to congregations who shelter immigrants and minister to homeless people–illegal activities, sometimes and in some places.  If Christians and congregations do not get into legal trouble for loving like Jesus, that is wonderful.  If, however, loving like Jesus causes them legal troubles, may they be like the apostles in Acts 5:41-42.

Another matter comes to my mind.  Many people of varying religious identities mistake obnoxiousness for piety.  Having studied all 73 books of the Bible closely, I cannot locate scriptural justification for obnoxiousness in the name of God.  Recent converts frequently cross the line and cross over into obnoxiousness in the zeal.  This pattern informs the cliché that recent converts often embarrass longtime adherents.

May we–individually and collectively–bring honor to God and Christ, regardless of our circumstances.  May we–individually and collectively–behave ourselves properly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 12, 2022 COMMON ERA

HOLY TUESDAY

THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; AND HIS NEPHEW, WILLIAM SLOANE COFFIN, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND SOCIAL ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAVID URIBE-VELASCO, MEXICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1927

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIUS I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZENO OF VERONA, BISHOP

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Life in Christian Community in Jerusalem   Leave a comment

Above:  The Death of Ananias, by Raphael

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LVII

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Acts 4:32-5:11

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Acts 2:42-47 relates to 4:32-5:11.

The portion of scripture for this post comes in two parts:  4:32-37 and 5:1-11.  4:32-37 bears the stronger similarity to 2:42-47.  The motif of members of Christian community in Jerusalem taking care of each other financially dominates in 4:32-37 and 2:42-47.

Also, we meet St. (Joseph) Barnabas in 4:36-37.

The famous story of Ananias and Sapphira is a cautionary tale.  Do not lie to the community, we learn.  One may be within one’s rights, legally, but do not lie.

What is done to the community is done to the Spirit of God.

–Dennis Hamm, in Daniel Durken, ed., The New Collegeville Bible Commentary:  New Testament (2009), 387

How we regard God and how we think of each other are related to each other.

According to that standard, how do you measure up, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 9, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DIETRICH BONHOEFFEFR, GERMAN LUTHERAN MARTYR, 1945

THE FEAST OF JOHANN CRUGER, GERMAN LUTHERAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN SAMUJEL BEWLEY MONSELL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND POET; AND RICHARD MANT, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF DOWN, CONNOR, AND DROMORE

THE FEAST OF LYDIA EMILIE GRUCHY, FIRST FEMALE MINISTER IN THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA

THE FEAST OF MIKAEL AGRICOLA, FINNISH LUTHERAN LITURGIST, BISHOP OF TURKU, AND “FATHER OF FINNISH LITERARY LANGUAGE”

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LAW, ANGLICAN PRIEST, MYSTIC, AND SPIRITUAL WRITER

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The Healing of a Crippled Beggar, with Its Aftermath   1 comment

Above:  The Sanhedrin

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LVI

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Acts 3:1-4:31

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A cliché tells us that no good deed goes unpunished.  If the world were not so!

Jesus had clashed with religious authorities.  The time for some of his Apostles–Sts. Simon Peter and John, in this case–to do so had arrived.  St. Simon Peter, who had often spoken before thinking, had eaten his spiritual Wheaties.

Two major themes stand out in my mind as I ponder Acts 3:1-4:31:

  1. Acts 3:17 includes the Lucan motif that those who had rejected and crucified Jesus had done so in ignorance.  See Luke 23:34, also, O reader.
  2. Acts 4:18f, in which the commandments of God override human orders to the contrary, belies strict law-and-order arguments that quote the Bible.  Acts 4:18f is not the only such passage in the Bible, but it is the one in the section of scripture for this post.  We will return to this matter in Acts 5.

My politics regarding the strict law-and-order, my-country-right-or-wrong argument are plain.  Neither anarchy nor totalitarianism allow freedom.  Disobeying some governments is a moral obligation.  Yet, on many other occasions, obeying governments is moral.  Everything depends on the circumstances.  The timeless principle at work is the Golden Rule.

We all know less than we imagine we do.  For example, we may think we know what we are doing when do not.  Or we may know partially.  Luke 23:34 has the crucified Jesus intercede for those who had put him on the cross and for those who had consented to this action:

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they are doing.”

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

I have recorded my mixed thoughts regarding the extent of this ignorance in Luke 23:34.  I have not arrived at a consistent position yet.

Sometimes we do not know what we are doing.  However, sometimes we do.  And sometimes we know somewhat.  I cannot always tell which situation is which.

Nevertheless, I know something, however, slight, regarding sins of ignorance:  We all commit them, individually and collectively.  And we all–individually and collectively–stand before God in need of forgiveness.  May we–collectively and individually–forgive each other, as we–individually and collectively–need forgiveness.  And may God forgive us all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 8, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MELCHIOR MUHLENBERG, PATRIARCH OF AMERICAN LUTHERANISM; HIS GREAT-GRANDSON, WILLIAM AUGUSTUS MUHLENBERG, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGICAL PIONEER; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, ANNE AYERS, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERHOOD OF THE HOLY COMMUNION

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIONYSIUS OF CORINTH, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF GODFREY DIEKMANN, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, PRIEST, ECUMENIST, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUGH OF ROUEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, ABBOT, AND MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIE BILLIART, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

THE FEAST OF TIMOTHY LULL, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, THEOLOGIAN, AND ECUMENIST

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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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The Authority of Jesus, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  The Calling of Matthew, by Vittore Capaccio

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Startle us, O God, with thy truth, and open our minds to thy Spirit,

that this day we may receive thee humbly and find hope fulfilled in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 124

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Numbers 14:11-24

Acts 4:1-12

Matthew 9:9-17

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Jesus kept some disreputable company.  He dined openly with people such as prostitutes and tax collectors, collaborators who enriched themselves as they collected taxes for the Roman Empire.  The response of the Pharisees in Matthew 9:10-14 was similar to that one might imagine respectable Christians upon witnessing a suspect religious leader doing the  same.  Do we not those who lie down with dogs rise with fleas?

Authority was one of the causes of conflict between Jesus then early Christian leaders on one hand and established religious leaders on the other hand.  Where did Jesus and his Apostles acquire their credentials?

Lesslie Newbigin (1909-1998), a great missionary, had a negative opinion of much of Christian apologetics.  He objected to portraying the Gospel as being true because it agreed with an outside standard.  The only proper authority for the truth of the Gospel of Jesus, Newbigin wrote, is Jesus.  To argue for the truth (reliability, literally) of the Gospel based on an outside authority is to depict that authority as being more authoritative than the Gospel, Newbigin insisted.

Absence of faith arises not only in the stubborn hearts of people who have witnessed mighty, dramatic deeds, but also in the minds of the conventionally devout, those piously upholding their received traditions and wisdom.  Absence of faith also arises in the minds of those attached to their power and prestige.

Read the stories again, O reader.  Then ask yourself,

Which of these characters am I like?

Then take the result to Jesus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 17, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WHITE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF THE CARMELIT MARTYRS OF COMPIÈGNE, 1794

THE FEAST OF BENNETT J. SIMS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF NERSES LAMPRONATS, ARMENIAN APOSTOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF TARSUS

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Posted July 17, 2019 by neatnik2009 in Acts of the Apostles 4, Matthew 9, Numbers 14

Tagged with

A Faithful Response, Part IX   1 comment

Above:  Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, by Rembrandt van Rijn

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 4:23-37

Psalm 31:1-9, 15-16

1 Peter 3:8-22

Matthew 20:1-16

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The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16) tells of the generosity of God.  The social setting is poverty created by rampant economic exploitation–in this case, depriving people of land, therefore depriving them of economic security.  The economics of the Kingdom of God/Heaven–in tension with human systems–the Roman Empire, in particular–are morally superior.

Trusting in God can be difficult during the best of times, given human sins and frailties.  Therefore trusting in God in precarious circumstances–such as persecution and/or systematic economic exploitation–can certainly prove to be challenging.  Yet, when faith communities do so and, acting on trust in God, take care of their members’ needs, grace is tangibly present.

Dare we have much trust in God?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/05/31/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-of-easter-year-a-humes/

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The Light of Christ, Part V   1 comment

Above:  The Sanhedrin

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 4:1-22

Psalm 23

1 Peter 2:11-25

Matthew 13:44-52

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One can find examples of God smiting evildoers in the Bible.  The fate of the evil in Matthew 13 falls into a side category, one in which angels smite evildoers–at the end, on the day of judgment.  Until then, as in Psalm 23, God simply outclasses and overpowers the wicked, who cannot keep up, much of the time.  The wicked cease to pursue the righteous; divine goodness and mercy pursue or accompany the righteous, depending on the translation one considers authoritative.

Although I am reluctant to label members of the Sanhedrin evil, I side with Sts. John and Simon Peter in the confrontation with that council.  I also rejoice that the Sanhedrin, for all its authority, lacked the power to prevent the Apostles from preaching.  I thank God that the Sanhedrin could not keep up with God and part of the public.

May we be on God’s side.  May we heed the advice of 1 Peter 2:12 and behave honorably always, to the glory of God.  Human authority is not always worthy of respect and obedience, and slavery (in all its forms) is always wrong, so I agree with part of the reading from 1 Peter 2, a text some have used to justify chattel slavery and submitting to the Third Reich.  The politics of early, persecuted Christianity aside, sometimes one must oppose human authority in order to live faithfully, in accordance with the divine commandments.  Those figures of authority cannot keep up with God either, and the call to live as one should–to manifest the light of Christ–is timeless.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/05/31/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-of-easter-year-a-humes/

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Empowered by God, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Landscape with the Thanksgiving of Noah, by Joseph Anton Koch

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O Lord, who never fails to help and govern those whom you bring up in your steadfast fear and love:

Keep us, we ask you, under the protection of your good providence,

and make us to have a perpetual sense of awe and love of your holy name;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 138

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Genesis 9:8-15

Psalm 2

Acts 4:8, 10-13, 18-20

Luke 10:1-11

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The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) informs me, in the note on Genesis 9:8-17, of a Talmudic teaching.  All humankind has obligations to keep seven commandments.  To obey them is to win divine approval.  The seven commandments are:

(1) to establish courts of justice, (2) to refrain from blaspheming the God of Israel, as well as from (3) idolatry, (4) sexual perversion, (5) bloodshed, (6) robbery, and (7) not to eat meat cut from a living animal.

–Page 23

That is quite a list!  Keeping all of those commandments is, of course, impossible on human power alone.  In some cases, keeping some of them violates decrees of human authorities.  Merely committing a non-violent act of mercy outside that list might get one into trouble, as in Acts 4.

With certain notorious exceptions, most of us try to be good people, do we not?  Many of us do this in the name of God.  Nevertheless, many of us, while behaving righteously, in our imaginations, oppose those who, like the Apostles in Acts 3 and 4, commit non-violent acts of mercy.  We do not for like people, even those who behave mercifully, to challenge our authority and/or sense of order.  We might not merely leave them alone; no, we might interfere with them.  We need to get out of God’s way.

One can tell what kind of plant a tree is by its fruit.  By grace we can be good trees for God, instead of agents of obstructionism.

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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The Sovereignty of God V   1 comment

Above:   Paying the Tax with a Coin from the Fish

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 27:1-10, 18-19, 26-33, 38-40

Psalm 12

Acts 4:23-31

Matthew 17:24-27

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O LORD, watch over us

and save us from this generation for ever.

The wicked prowl on every side,

and that which is worthless is highly prized by everyone.

–Psalm 12, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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One of the primary challenges understanding the Bible is the fact that we moderns come from different cultural and intellectual backgrounds than the ancients did.  The Biblical texts leave much unwritten because members of the original audiences did not require the explanation of every germane assumption.  Consider, O reader, blessings and curses.  By curses I refer not to profane and coarse language, but to the opposite of blessings.  One assumption in the Hebrew Bible is that spoken blessings and curses have power.  Oral blessings and curses are motifs in the Old Testament.  In this case the second son steals the blessing (due to the first son) by fooling an aging and blind father.  The stolen blessing, however, still has power.  Furthermore, God works through the blessing and the act of stealing it.

The theme of the sovereignty of God continues in the readings.  The promises of God are sure in Psalm 12, even though people exalt vileness.  In Acts 4 religious persecution becomes an opportunity certain early Christians, filled with the Holy Spirit, to proclaim the faith boldly.

The Gospel reading requires much explanation.  A standard exegesis is that the tax in question was the Temple tax.  However, Father Raymond E. Brown questions this conclusion in his magisterial An Introduction to the New Testament (1997).  He proposes that, since Matthew 17:24-27 does not identify the tax as the Temple tax, it might have been a different tax–perhaps the census tax mentioned in Matthew 22:15-22.  Or, if one assumes that the tax in Matthew 17:24-27 was the Temple tax, one might surmise that post-70 C.E. realities inform the telling of the story.  With the destruction of the Temple and the continuation of the Temple tax, the purpose of said tax had shifted to support the temple of Jupiter on the Temple Mount.

The real issue is the sovereignty of God.  The Roman destruction of the Temple could not overcome the sovereignty of God.  Imperial power might extend even to fish, but God could place the coin to pay the tax inside a fish.  For the sake of avoiding public scandal Jesus pays the tax with money God has provided, but God is still more powerful than the Roman Empire.

We who follow God should acknowledge divine sovereignty.  Our relations to the state might be strained.  I acknowledge the moral legitimacy of political revolution sometimes, especially when the system oppresses those who seek to change it peaceably.  In all circumstances, we ought to, in the words of Jesus,

Pay Caesar what belongs to Caesar–and God what belongs to God.

–Matthew 22:21, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

God, who is sovereign over empires and republics, wants us.  That is fair.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

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

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/devotion-for-proper-5-ackerman/

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