Archive for the ‘Acts of the Apostles 5’ Category

Suffering, Part III   1 comment

Above:  Saint Peter, by Marco Zoppo

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 5:17-42

Psalm 46

1 Peter 4:12:5:11

Matthew 24:1-14

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Suffering and persecution are prominent in the assigned readings.  The passage from Matthew 24, set during Holy Week, precedes the crucifixion of Jesus.  Sometimes suffering is a result of obeying God, yet, as we read in Psalm 46:7 (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989),

The LORD of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our refuge.

One might also think of lyrics Doris Plenn wrote in response to McCarthyism:

When tyrants tremble, sick with fear,

And hear their death-knell ringing,

When friends rejoice both far and near,

How can I keep from singing?

In prison cell and dungeon vile,

Our thoughts to them are winging;

When friends by shame are undefiled,

How can I keep from singing?

After all, God transformed a Roman cross, a symbol of humiliation and a means of execution, into the ultimate symbol of grace and victory over death and sin.

Here ends the lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 2, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BLANDINA AND HER COMPANIONS, THE MARTYRS OF LYONS, 177

THE FEAST OF ANDERS CHRISTENSEN ARREBO, “THE FATHER OF DANISH POETRY”

THE FEAST OF MARGARET ELIZABETH SANGSTER, HYMN WRITER, NOVELIST, AND DEVOTIONAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN OF SWEDEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY, BISHOP, AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/06/02/devotion-for-the-seventh-sunday-of-easter-year-a-humes/

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A Faithful Response, Part X   1 comment

Above:  Parable of the Great Banquet, by Jan Luyken

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 5:1-11

Psalm 66

1 Peter 4:1-11

Matthew 22:1-14

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The king’s action–burning the city in which the murderers lived–seems excessive in Matthew 22:7.  Yet, if one interprets that passage and the parable from which it comes in the context of the destruction of Jerusalem (70 C.E.), it remains problematic, but at least it makes some sense.  Might one understand the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. as divine judgment?  One might, especially if one, as a marginalized Jewish Christian in the 80s C.E., were trying to make sense of recent events.  A note in The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003) links this passage to Matthew 24:27-31  and divine judgment on the Roman Empire.

Scholar Jonathan T. Pennington, rejecting the consensus that “Kingdom of Heaven,” in the Gospel of Matthew, is a reverential circumlocution, contends that the Kingdom of Heaven is actually God’s apocalyptic rule on Earth.  The kingdoms of the Earth are in tension with God and will remain so until God terminates the tension by taking over.  That understanding of the Kingdom of Heaven fits well with the motif of divine judgment in the Gospel of Matthew.

We also read of divine judgment in Acts 5:1-11, which flows from the end of Acts 4.  The sins of Ananias and Sapphira against the Holy Spirit were greed and duplicity.  As I read the assigned lessons I made the connection between Acts 5:1-11 and Psalm 66:18 (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989):

If if had cherished iniquity in my heart,

the LORD would not have listened.

The brief reading from 1 Peter 4 is packed with themes and some theologically difficult verses, but the thread that fits here naturally is the call (in verse 8) to love one another intensely while living in and for God.  That fits with Acts 5:1-11 (as a counterpoint to Ananias and Sapphira) well.  That thought also meshes nicely with Psalm 66 and juxtaposes with the judged in Matthew 22:1-14.  At the wedding banquet a guest was supposed to honor the king by (1) attending and (2) dressing appropriately.  Infidelity to God brings about divine judgment, just as faithfulness to God (frequently manifested in how we treat others) pleases God.

That is a concrete and difficult standard.  It is one we can meet more often than not, though, if we rely on divine grace to do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, CHRISTIAN APOLOGIST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA, BIBLE SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL STENNETT, ENGLISH SEVENTH-DAY BAPTIST MINISTER AND HYMN-WRITER; AND JOHN HOWARD, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/06/01/devotion-for-the-sixth-sunday-of-easter-year-a-humes/

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Vindication, Part II   1 comment

Above:   Judah and Tamar, by the School of Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Vindication

JUNE 17, 2018

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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 38:1-26

Psalm 35:19-25

Acts 5:1-11

Matthew 12:43-45

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In June 1996 my father became the pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church in rural Appling County, Georgia, U.S.A.  One of the adult Sunday School classes was reading and discussing the Book of Genesis at the rate of a chapter per week.  I recall that, on the Sunday morning after they had read and discussed Chapter 37, the teacher skipped directly to Chapter 39.

Genesis 38 is a hot potato.  What are we to make of a story that approves of a childless widow pretending to be a pagan temple prostitute, seducing her father-in-law, and becoming pregnant with twins, his children?  Judah (the father-in-law) understands the deception by Tamar (the widow) as justified, per the rules governing levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5-10).  As Professor Amy-Jill Levine says, we must accept that people did things differently then.

The author of Psalm 35 prays for divine vindication against enemies.  Perhaps that mindset informs the treatment of the selfish people (struck dead by God) in Acts 5.  The sense of grievance certainly informs Matthew 12:43-45, which literally demonizes Jewish leaders who opposed Jesus.  One can reasonably imagine members of a marginalized Jewish Christian community demonizing the non-Christian Jews circa 85 C.E.

The desire for divine vindication can be legitimate.  Yet may we who seek vindication never surrender to hatred and thereby become as those who seek to harm us or otherwise deny us that which is rightfully ours.

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-6-ackerman/

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Unexpected Agents of Grace   1 comment

Goliath Laughs at David

Above:  Goliath Laughs at David, by Ilya Repin

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God of life, you reach out to us amid our fears

with the wounded hands of your risen Son.

By your Spirit’s breath revive our faith in your mercy,

and strengthen us to be the body of your Son,

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 33

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 17:1-23 (Thursday)

1 Samuel 17:19-32 (Friday)

1 Samuel 17:32-51 (Saturday)

Psalm 150 (All Days)

Acts 5:12-16 (Thursday)

Acts 5:17-26 (Friday)

Luke 24:36-40 (Saturday)

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Hallelujah!

Praise God in his holy temple;

praise him in the firmament of his power.

Praise him for his mighty acts;

praise him for his excellent greatness.

Praise him with the blast of the ram’s horn;

praise him with the lyre and harp.

Praise him with timbrel and dance;

praise him with strings and pipe.

Praise him with resounding cymbals;

praise him with loud-clanging cymbals.

Let everything that has breath

praise the LORD.

Hallelujah!

–Psalm 150, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The reasons to praise God are myriad, beyond any human capacity to count.  One of those reasons is that God frequently works via people some of us (at best) consider unlikely agents of grace.

Consider David, O reader.  Yes, I know that 2 Samuel 21:19 has Elhanan, son of Jair from Bethlehem kill Goliath of Gath, and that 1 Chronicles 20:5 has the same Elhanan kill Lahmi, brother Goliath.  If that is not sufficiently confusing, David plays the lyre for King Saul in 1 Samuel 16 yet has not gone to work for the monarch yet in chapter 17.  These contradictions result from the combining of differing traditions in the canon of scripture.  Such contradictions are commonplace in the Old Testament, starting in the early chapters of Genesis.  One needs merely to read the texts with great attention to detail to detect them.

I use 1 Samuel 17, in which David, not Elhanan, kills Goliath, for that is the version the framers of the lectionary I am following chose.

In 1 Samuel 17 young David seemed to be the least likely person to rid Israel of the menace Goliath posed.  A crucified troublemaker from the Galilee seemed to be an unlikely candidate for an inspiring and timeless religious figure.  Apostles hiding in fear after the crucifixion of Jesus seemed to be unlikely candidates for leaders in a movement to change the world.  They faced persecution; most of them died as martyrs.  As Jesus said,

Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.  Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

–Luke 6:22-23, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The theme of seemingly unlikely agents of grace occurs in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).  It is easy to overlook the fact that many in the original audience found the idea of a good Samaritan shocking, even beyond improbable.

The real question I address is not the identities of agents of grace but human biases regarding who is more or less likely to be one.  We mere mortals need to learn theological humility, especially regarding how we evaluate each other.  Do we even attempt to look upon each other as God perceives us?

The composite pericope from Acts 5 reminds us that functioning as an agent of grace might lead one to harm.  Sometimes people suffer for the sake of righteousness because the light exposes darkness for what it is.

…the light shines in the darkness,

and the darkness has not overcome it.

–John 1:5, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2010)

Perhaps we do not recognize agents of grace sometimes because we are caught up in the darkness and are oblivious to that fact.  Mustache-twirling villains, commonplace in simplistic morality plays, are rare in real life.  Most “bad guys” imagine themselves to be good, or at least engaged in necessary, if unpleasant work.

Another reason for failing to recognize agents of grace is functional fixedness.  We simply do not expect something, so we do not look for it.  We seek agents of grace as we know them and miss those agents of grace who do not fit our preconceptions.

How might God surprise you, O reader, with unexpected (to you) agents of grace?  And what will that grace cost you?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/12/18/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-second-sunday-of-easter-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Call of God V   1 comment

Abraham_Journeying_into_the_Land_of_Canaan

Above:  Abraham Journeying into the Land of Canaan, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, by grace alone you call us and accept us in your service.

Strengthen us by your Spirit, and make us worthy of your call,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 12:1-9 (Monday)

Genesis 45:25-46:7 (Tuesday)

Psalm 46 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 7:17-24 (Monday)

Acts 5:33-42 (Tuesday)

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The Lord of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

–Psalm 46:7, Common Worship (2000)

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I refuse to defend St. Paul the Apostle’s consistent failure to condemn slavery.  Perhaps he thought that doing so was unnecessary, given his assumption that Jesus would return quite soon and correct societal ills.  The Apostle was wrong on both counts.  At least he understood correctly, however, that social standing did not come between one and God.

Whom God calls and why God calls them is a mystery which only Hod understands.  So be it.  To fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant partially via notorious trickster and con artist as well as his sons, some of whom sold one of their number into slavery, was to take a route which many people (including the author of this post) would have avoided.  And the eleven surviving Apostles (before the selection of St. Matthias) had not been paragons of spiritual fortitude throughout the canonical Gospels.  Yet they proved vital to God’s plan after the Ascension of Jesus.

Those whom God calls God also qualifies to perform important work for the glory of God and the benefit of others.  This is about God and our fellow human beings, not about those who do the work.  So may we, when we accept our assignments, fulfill them with proper priorities in mind.  May we do the right thing for the right reason.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 23, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 29–CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY–THE LAST SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF JOHN KENNETH PFOHL, SR., U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP; HIS WIFE, HARRIET ELIZABETH “BESSIE” WHITTINGTON PFOHL, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN; AND THEIR SON, JAMES CHRISTIAN PFOHL, SR., U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLEMENT I OF ROME, BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF MIGUEL AUGUSTIN PRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/23/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Excuses   1 comment

Saul Rejected as King

Above:  Saul Rejected as King

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ, most merciful redeemer,

for the countless blessings and benefits you give.

May we know you more clearly,

love you more dearly,

and follow you more nearly,

day by day praising you, with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 9:27-10:8 (Monday)

1 Samuel 15:10-31 (Tuesday)

Psalm 86 (Both Days)

2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 (Monday)

Acts 5:1-11 (Tuesday)

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Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth;

knit my heart to you that I may fear your name.

–Psalm 86:11, Common Worship (2000)

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The assigned readings for these two days pertain to the theme of commitment to God.

The lessons from 1 Samuel tell us of King Saul of Israel.  We read first of God choosing him and Samuel anointing him.  In Chapter 15 we find one account of God and Samuel rejecting the monarch for violating the rules of holy war.   Saul’s army did not kill enough people and destroy enough property, apparently.  (1 Samuel 15 does not reflect my understanding of God.)  Two facts attract my attention:

  1. Saul simultaneously seeks forgiveness and shifts the blame.
  2.  1 Samuel 13 contains a different account of God and Samuel rejecting Saul.  There the monarch’s offense is to usurp the priest’s duty.  Making an offering to God properly was a major issue in the Old Testament, for some people died because they made offerings improperly.

When we turn to the New Testament readings we find fatal lack of commitment in Acts 5 and a stern Pauline warning regarding human relationships in 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1.  The unified message of the pericopes is to commit to God–not to be content with half measures.  We should, I propose, feel free to ask questions about people dying because of deception in Acts 5 and why Saul’s offense in 1 Samuel 15 was such a bad thing to have done, for asking intelligent questions is not a faithless act.  Nevertheless, I recall the words of Jesus to a man who used an excuse to refuse our Lord and Savior’s call to discipleship.  Christ said:

Once the hand is laid on the plow, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.

–Luke 9:62, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

At that point in the Lukan narrative Jesus was en route to Jerusalem for the climactic week of Passover.  He was neither offering nor accepting excuses.  Who dares offer one?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 20, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD WATSON GILDER, U.S. POET, JOURNALIST, AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF HENRY FRANCIS LYTE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LEO TOLSTOY, NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT MECHTILD OF MAGDEBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/20/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-second-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Love, Not Vengeance   2 comments

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Teach us, good Lord God, to serve you as you deserve,

to give and not to count the cost,

to fight and not to heed the wounds,

to toil and not to seek for rest,

to labor and not to ask for reward,

except that of knowing that we do your will,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 18:12-17 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 18:18-23 (Friday)

Psalm 69:7-10 [11-15], 16-18 (Both Days)

Hebrews 2:5-9 (Thursday)

Acts 5:17-26 (Friday)

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For your sake I have suffered reproach;

shame has covered my face.

–Psalm 69:8, Common Worship (2000)

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The desire for vengeance—directly by one’s own efforts or indirectly by those of God—is commonplace and frequently predictable and understandable. One finds it in the readings from Jeremiah and the Book of Psalms today, in fact. But it also poisons one’s soul. I have known that desire and the accompanying spiritual toxins. I have also known the grace to let go of that dark feeling. I recall what some people have done to me and refuse to deny objective reality regarding the past, but if anything bad happens to those individuals and I hear of it, I will have had nothing to do with it and I will take no delight in their misfortune. I have set my focus on the future.

Each of us is present on the planet to do great things for God and each other. Whether we fulfill that vocation is a separate question, of course. Sts. John the Evangelist and Simon Peter suffered as innocents for their good deeds, which upset the apple carts of some people. The Apostles, broken out of jail by the hand of God, simply returned to the tasks to which God had called them. And Jesus, another innocent—one which a legal system executed—not only rose from the dead but rejected vengeance. He returned to the work of God—the work of love.

That is our work also. May we, by grace, succeed more often than we fail.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW BOBOLA, JESUIT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF KERMARTIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND ADVOCATE OF THE POOR

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/05/19/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-proper-7-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Restoration IV: Grace and Restoration   1 comment

08033v

Above:  Design Drawing for a Stained-Glass Memorial Window with St. Peter’s Mother-in-Law for Sacred Heart Chapel in Carville, Lousiana

Created by J. & R. Lamb Studios

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/LAMB2006001918/)

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The Collect:

Stir up the wills of all who look to you, Lord God,

and strengthen then our faith in your coming, that,

transformed by grace, we may walk in your way;

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 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 29:17-24 (Monday)

Ezekiel 47:1-12 (Tuesday)

Zechariah 8:1-17 (Wednesday)

Psalm 42 (all days)

Acts 5:12-16 (Monday)

Jude 17-25 (Tuesday)

Matthew 8:14-17, 28-34 (Wednesday)

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Some Related Posts:

Isaiah 29:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/sixth-day-of-advent/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-13-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Ezekiel 47:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/devotion-for-january-20-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/twenty-fourth-day-of-lent/

Zechariah 8:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/devotion-for-january-29-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/16/week-of-proper-21-monday-year-1/

Acts 5:

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

Jude:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/18/week-of-8-epiphany-saturday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-12-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/18/week-of-proper-3-saturday-year-2/

Matthew 8:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/14/week-of-proper-7-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/week-of-proper-8-wednesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/devotion-for-october-4-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/devotion-for-october-5-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul,

and why are you so disquieted within me?

O put your trust in God;

for I will yet give him thanks,

who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

–Psalm 42:6-7, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The theme of restoration unites all these readings.

National restoration is one thread running through some of the lections.  The Babylonian Exile will come.  Before that Jerusalem will survive an Assyrian siege.  But Jerusalem will fall one day.  And restoration will follow.  As Gordon Matties wrote in the introduction to Ezekiel in The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003), God will deal with evil decisively, destroy the Temple and purify the land

polluted by Israel’s economic injustice, violence, and idolatry,

and only then

take residence again among the people.  (page 1154)

Thus restoration will be to a condition better than the previous one.  The strong arm of God will accomplish this.  And such extravagant grace will impose certain responsibilities upon the redeemed; they are to be a light to the nations, living for God’s glory and the benefit of others, not their own selfish desires.

Speaking of the glory of God and the benefit of others…..

Healings in the Bible restored the healed to wholeness in society.  The ritually unclean were pure again, the economically marginalized could cease from begging or avoid slavery, etc.  Yet sometimes the community, which defined itself in opposition to the marginalized, disapproved of the healing of the marginalized.  Who were they now that the marginalized person was in his right mind?  Pure compassion disrupted the status quo ante.  Such people should have heeded timeless advice (not yet written in these words at the time of the incident):

…keep yourselves in the love of God…..

–Jude 21a, The New Revised Standard Version

That advice merely rephrased an already ancient ethos.  That advice owed much to the Law of Moses, with its myriad rules regarding compassion for members of one’s community.  For how we think and treat those whom we can see indicates much about how we think of and behave toward God.  Those around us are the least of our Lord and Savior’s brothers and sisters; as we treat them, we do to him.

Those are challenging words, for we humans tend to like to think of ourselves as good people who do good things, especially when we are plotting or committing bad deeds.  A villain probably does not see a villain when he or she looks into a mirror.  Yet reality remains unchanged by human delusions.

Advent is about preparing for God to act.  When God acts God might overturn our apple cart and/or neutralize the pattern according to which we define ourselves.  Yes, grace can prove very upsetting and disturbing sometimes.  Every time it does so, that fact speaks ill of those who take offense, does it not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 3, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY THOMAS SMART, ENGLISH ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERRARD, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH OF PORTUGAL, QUEEN

THE FEAST OF JOHN CENNICK, BRITISH MORAVIAN EVANGELIST AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-the-third-sunday-of-advent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Seeking the Peace of God   1 comment

lamb-of-god

Above:  Lamb of God

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THE FIRST READING

Acts 5:27-32 (New Revised Standard Version):

When the temple police had brought the apostles, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying,

We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.

But Peter and the apostles answered,

We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.

THE RESPONSE:  OPTION #1

Psalm 118:14-29 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

14  The LORD is my strength and my song,

and he has become my salvation.

15  There is a sound of exultation and victory

in the tents of the righteous:

16  ”The right hand of the LORD has triumphed!

the right hand of the LORD is exalted!

the right hand of the LORD has triumphed!”

17  I shall not die, but live,

and declare the works of the LORD.

18  The LORD has punished me sorely,

but he did not hand me over to death.

19  Open for me the gates of righteousness;

I will enter them;

I will offer thanks to the LORD.

20  ”This is the gate of the LORD;

he who is righteous may enter.”

21  I will give thanks to you, for you answered me

and have become my salvation.

22  The same stone which the builders rejected

has become the chief cornerstone.

23  This is the LORD’s doing,

and it is marvelous in our eyes.

24  On this day the LORD has acted;

we will rejoice and be glad in it.

25  Hosanna, LORD, hosanna!

LORD, send us now success.

26  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord;

we bless you from the house of the LORD.

27  God is the LORD; he has shined upon us;

form a procession with branches up to the horns of the altar.

28  ”You are my God, and I will thank you;

you are my God, and I will exalt you.”

29  Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;

his mercy endures for ever.

THE RESPONSE:  OPTION #2

Psalm 150 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hallelujah!

Praise God in his holy temple;

praise him in the firmament of his power.

Praise him for his mighty acts;

praise him for his excellent greatness.

Praise him with the blast of the ram’s-horn;

Praise him with lyre and harp.

Praise him with timbrel and dance;

praise him with strings and pipe.

Praise him with resounding cymbals;

praise him with loud-clanging cymbals.

Let everything that has breath

praise the LORD.

Hallelujah!

THE SECOND READING

Revelation 1:4-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

John to the seven churches that are in Asia:  Grace to you and peace from him who is and was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the first born of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever.  Amen.

Look!  He is coming with the clouds;

every eye will see him,

even those who pierced him;

and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wait.

So it is to be.   Amen.

I am the Alpha and the Omega,

says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

THE GOSPEL READING

John 20:19-31 (New Revised Standard Version):

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said,

Peace be with you.

After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again,

Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.

When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,

Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him,

We have seen the Lord.

But he said to them,

Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said,

Peace be with you.

Then he said to Thomas,

Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.

Thomas answered him,

My Lord and my God!

Jesus said to him,

Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Eighth Day of Easter:  Second Sunday of Easter, Year A:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/eighth-day-of-easter-second-sunday-of-easter-year-a/

Eighth Day of Easter:  Second Sunday of Easter, Year B:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/28/eighth-day-of-easter-second-sunday-of-easter-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/27/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-second-sunday-of-easter/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/27/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-second-sunday-of-easter/

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/27/prayer-for-the-second-sunday-of-easter/

Acts 5:

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

Revelation 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-13-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/17/proper-29-year-b/

John 20:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/28/eighth-day-of-easter-second-sunday-of-easter-year-b/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/feast-of-st-thomas-apostle-and-martyr-december-21/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/eighth-day-of-easter-second-sunday-of-easter-year-a/

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Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.

–John 20:22b-23, New Revised Standard Version 

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Jesus had returned from the dead, a death which human authorities had ordered.  So, in Acts 5:27, St. Simon Peter could defy human authority in good conscience.  (That adds a wrinkle to an argument I made here:  http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/03/devotion-for-the-seventh-day-of-easter-saturday-in-easter-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/.)  Back in time, closer to the Resurrection, Jesus comforted his surviving eleven Apostles, saying

Peace be with you.

The Apostles’ task was to spread that peace to others.

What, then, does John 20:22b-23 mean?  In other words, who retains unforgiven sins?

Recently I watched The Twenty (2010), an independent movie which deals with that question.  The three main characters loathe themselves.  The recovering alcoholic who has been sober for just a few weeks before resuming drinking detests himself.  The pedophile who has apologized to his victims and lived as a recluse for twenty-two years is ashamed of himself.  Two of his three victims have forgiven him.  The third victim, now a bar waitress and a devout person, has yet to find a way to live with herself either.  The lack of forgiveness of others and of self causes problems for all three characters.  And all these lives intersect because of a message on a twenty-dollar bill, hence the title of the movie.

The film ends ambiguously.  Will the self-exiled pedophile confess his sins in public?  Will the bar waitress force him to do so?  Will the recovering alcoholic save his fragile marriage?  Will anybody forgive himself or herself and find a way to live with the person in the mirror?  And will anybody forgive anybody else?

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,

have mercy on us.

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,

have mercy on us.

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,

grant us your peace.

A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989), page 426

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 3, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MORAND OF CLUNY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LIPHARDUS OF ORLEANS AND URBICIUS OF MEUNG, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF UGANDA

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/03/eighth-day-of-easter-second-sunday-of-easter-year-c/

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He Was Known to Them in the Breaking of the Bread   1 comment

Above:  Supper at Emmaus, by Caravaggio

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Acts 5:29a, 30-32 (New Revised Standard Version):

But Peter and the apostles answered,

…The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree.  God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.  And we are witnesses to these things, as so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.

1 Corinthians 5:6b-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?  Clean out the old yeast that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened.  For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed.  Therefore, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Psalm 114 (New Revised Standard Version):

When Israel went out from Egypt,

the house of Jacob from a people of strange language,

Judah became God’s sanctuary,

Israel his dominion.

The sea looked and fled;

Jordan turned back.

The mountains skipped like rams,

the hills like lambs.

Why is it, O sea, that you flee?

O Jordan, that you turn back?

O mountains, that you skip like rams?

O hills, like lambs?

Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the LORD,

at the presence of the God of Jacob,

who turns the rock into a pool of water,

the flint into a spring of water.

Luke 24:13-35 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now on that same day, the first day of the week, two of the disciples were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them,

What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?

They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him,

Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?

He asked them,

What things?

They replied,

The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.

Then he said to them,

Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?

Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying,

Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.

So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other,

Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?

That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying,

The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!

Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

The Collect:

Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Both services for Easter Sunday contain Gospel readings which tell of followers of Jesus encountering him and not recognizing him until he said or did something which revealed his identity.  I propose that one reason (if not the reason) people did not recognize Jesus was that they did not expect to see him, for they thought he was dead.  When they realized that he was alive, however, they told the eleven surviving Apostles and those gathered with them.

Imagine how traumatized the followers of Jesus in and around Jerusalem must have been.  The Roman Empire had just executed Jesus via a method meant to make an example of him.  Might they be next?  Then God acted and restored Jesus to life.  This was wonderful news indeed.  Who, upon encountering the resurrected Jesus, would not feel encouraged and compelled to tell others?

Ask yourself:  Where, in our daily lives, are we on a walk to Emmaus?  When does God act powerfully in our proximity and encourage us, and we do not recognize the divine action?  May we open our spiritual eyes and understand what God has done and is doing, and act according to what that demands of us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 2, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN PAYNE AND CUTHBERT MAYNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF HENRY BUDD, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JAMES LLOYD BRECK, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JOHN PAUL II, BISHOP OF ROME

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/first-day-of-easter-easter-sunday-years-a-b-and-c-evening-service/

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