Archive for the ‘Acts of the Apostles 6’ Category

Spiritual Nutrition   1 comment

Above:   Give Us This Our Daily Bread Print, Currier & Ives, 1872

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZC2-2453

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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 41:9-40

Psalm 37:23-28a

Acts 6:1-7

Mark 8:14-21

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Depart from evil, and do good,

so you shall abide forever.

For the LORD loves justice;

he will not forsake his faithful ones.

The righteous shall be kept safe forever,

but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.

–Psalm 37:27-28, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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David Ackerman omits the second part (the passage contrasting the righteous and the children of the wicked) in Beyond the Lectionary (2013).

On another topic, the Psalmist might not have seen the children of the righteous begging for bread, but I have.  I am not alone in this.

The Joseph of the Book of Genesis bears little resemblance to the figure of whom I have read in many a book of Bible stories retold for children.  I read Genesis 37 and 39-50 (the Joseph Epic) and encounter a spoiled brat who grew up because he had no choice.  I also meet an interpreter of dreams who rose to a position of prominence, reunited his family, and in Chapter 47, fed the Egyptian population during a time of severe drought by returning their food (which he had ordered confiscated) to them in exchange for serfdom.   Joseph is an imperfect protagonist.

The surviving Apostles (plus St. Matthias) feed the hungry then decide to focus on preaching and teaching.  So they appoint deacons to wait tables.  This is the origin of the Christian diaconate.  There is no insistence upon serfdom here.  No, we find quite the opposite.

When we turn to the reading from Mark 8 it is useful to understand that we pick up immediately following Jesus feeding “about four thousand people” with seven loaves and a few small fish.  There are many leftovers.  Then some Pharisees demand, of all things, a sign.  Jesus warns his Apostles against the yeast–a metaphor for diffused or veiled evil (see Luke 12:1; 1 Corinthians 5:6; and Galatians 5:9) of the Pharisees.  The literal-minded Apostles, confused, think that Christ refers to bread.  Jesus is angry with them.

The depiction of the Apostles in the Gospel of Mark is interesting and part of a larger theme.  The earliest canonical Gospel argues that those who think they are insiders might not be that.  There are the condemnations of the religious establishment, of course.  Furthermore, those closest to Jesus do not understand him.  To the contrary, evil spirits recognize him immediately.  This depiction of the twelve Apostles as being clueless is stronger in Mark than in Luke-Acts, for narrative reasons.

A sufficient supply of food is essential to sustaining life.  Too little food leads to starvation, just as an excess of it leads to obesity.   Furthermore, the wrong type of food leads to health problems.  Likewise, improper spiritual nutrition leads to negative consequences.  Do we not yet understand this?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 16, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE BERKELEY, IRISH ANGLICAN BISHOP AND PHILOSOPHER; AND JOSEPH BUTLER, ANGLICAN BISHOP AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JOHN FRANCIS REGIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF NORMAN MACLEOD, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS COUSIN, JOHN MACLEOD, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF RUFUS JONES, QUAKER THEOLOGIAN

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2017/06/16/devotion-for-proper-7-ackerman/

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Two Stonings   1 comment

Murder of Zechariah

Above:  The Murder of Zechariah, by William Brassey Hole

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you gave us your only Son

to take on our human nature and to illumine the world with your light.

By your grace adopt us as your children and enlighten us with your Spirit,

through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 4:17-24

Psalm 148

Acts 6:1-7; 7:51-60

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Psalm 148 is a song of praise to God, especially in nature.  The text begins with references to the created order then moves along to people in social and political contexts.  Finally we read:

[The LORD] has exalted his people in the pride of power

and crowned with praise his loyal servants,

Israel, a people close to him.

Praise the LORD.

–Verse 15, The Revised English Bible (1989)

In the context of this day’s pericopes Psalm 148 functions as a counterpoint to the other readings.  In them holy men of God died for the sake of righteousness.  Zechariah, a priest and the son of Jehoida, also a priest, died because of his condemnation of idolatry.  Zechariah said:

Thus God said:  Why do you transgress the commandments of the LORD when you cannot succeed?  Since you have forsaken the LORD, He has forsaken you.

–2 Chronicles 24:20b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

His punishment was execution by stoning at the Temple in Jerusalem.

Similar in tone and content is the story of St. Stephen, one of the first seven Christian deacons and the first Christian martyr.  The diaconate came to exist because it was necessary.  Apostles perceived the need to divide labor:

It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables.

–Acts 6:2b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

So the deacons fed the hungry widows.  St. Stephen died by stoning not because of his participation in an ancient Means on Wheels program but because of his preaching.  He, like Zechariah son of Jehoida, accused his audience of having abandoned God.

These two stories end differently, though.  The dying words of Zechariah son of Jehoida were:

May the LORD see this and exact the penalty.

–2 Chronicles 24:22b, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The interpretation of subsequent events in that book is that God avenged the priest (24:24).  King Jehoash/Joash of Israel (reigned 836-798 B.C.E.) died after becoming wounded in a devastating Aramean invasion.  His servants murdered him on his bed.

In contrast, St. Stephen prayed for his killers:

Lord, do not hold this sin against them.

–Acts 7:60b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The text does not indicate what effects, if any, that had on any of his executioners.  We do know, however, that Saul of Tarsus, who approved of the execution, went on to become St. Paul the Apostle.  One need not stray from the proverbial path of reasonableness to say that St. Paul, pondering his past and God’s grace, to say that he regretted having ever approved of St. Stephen’s death.

The use of violence to rid oneself of an inconvenient person is sinful.  To commit violence for this purpose in the name of God, presumably to affirm one’s righteousness in the process, is ironic, for that violence belies the claim of righteousness.  Furthermore, there are only victims in violent acts.  The person who commits violence harms himself or herself, at least spiritually, if in no other way.  Violence might be necessary or preferable to any alternative sometimes, but nobody should ever celebrate it or turn to it as a first resort.

Whatever we do to others, we do to ourselves.  May we pursue peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation, not revenge.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 22, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN DRYDEN, ENGLISH PURITAN THEN ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/devotion-for-december-26-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Causing Dissensions and Offenses, Part II   1 comment

Premium Yeast Powder

Above:  Premium Yeast Powder, 1870

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ61-1537

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The Collect:

Ever-living God, your Son gives himself as living bread for the life of the world.

Fill us with such knowledge of his presence that we may be strengthened and sustained

by his risen life to serve you continually,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 43:1-15 (Monday)

Genesis 45:11-15 (Tuesday)

Genesis 47:13-26 (Wednesday)

Psalm 36 (All Days)

Acts 6:1-7 (Monday)

Acts 7:9-16 (Tuesday)

Mark 8:14-21 (Wednesday)

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The daily readings of the Revised Common Lectionary continue the motif of good and drink.  Jesus, in a pericope (John 4:7-26) for the previous post, was the living water.  Joseph, of whom St. Stephen spoke in Acts 7, fed not only his family but the entire Egyptian Empire.  Unfortunately, he enslaved the populace in the process.  On the other hand, Jesus brings freedom and serves as the ultimate thirst quencher (John 4:13-14).  Speaking of spiritual food and drink, one might, like the Pharisees of Mark 8:15, have bad food and not know it.  Herod Antipas was not a sympathetic figure either, but he lacked the pretense of holiness.  Sometimes deceivers are unambiguously bad, but others think they are righteous.

Yeast functions as a metaphor in Mark 8.  It indicated

the diffusion of veiled evil.

The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003), page 1823

Herod’s veil was the authority of the Roman Empire, legitimized by violence and oppression.  The Pharisaic veil was the Temple system, which depended on economic exploitation and a form of piety which favored the wealthy.  One lesson I have derived from these passages is that political legitimacy does not necessarily indicate moral fitness.

Do not let an arrogant man approach me,

do not let the wicked push me off course.

There they have fallen, those wicked men,

knocked down, unable to rise.

–Psalm 36:12-13, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)

Yet many such arrogant people thrive in this life for a long time, for many of the godly suffer because of them.  Economically exploitative systems continue to exist, and many people who consider themselves righteous defend them.  Oppressive violence persists, and many who consider themselves godly defend it.  Yet the testimony of faithful people of God, from antiquity to current times, against it remains also.  The words of Hebrew prophets thunder from the pages of the Old Testament, for example.  The condemnations of repression and exploitation are ubiquitous.  Dare we listen to them and heed them?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2015 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, APOLOGIST

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/06/01/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-15-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Causing Dissensions and Offenses, Part I   1 comment

Stoning of St. Stephen

Above:  The Stoning of St. Stephen, by Paolo Uccello

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Ever-living God, your Son gives himself as living bread for the life of the world.

Fill us with such knowledge of his presence that we may be strengthened and sustained

by his risen life to serve you continually,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 11:1-20 (Thursday)

Job 12:1-25 (Friday)

Job 13:1-19 (Saturday)

Psalm 34:9-14 (All Days)

Acts 6:8-15 (Thursday)

Romans 16:17-20 (Friday)

John 4:7-26 (Saturday)

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See that you never say anything wrong;

do not deceive people by telling lies.

Turn from bad behaviour to good,

try your best to live in peace.

–Psalm 34:14-15, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)

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One might start by refraining from blaming victims for their plights.

The titular character of the Book of Job, the opening of that composite text informs us, suffered not because of any sin he had committed.  No, God had permitted Satan, then an employee of God in the Hebrew theology of the time, to test the loyalty of Job.  (The adversary did not become God’s rival in Jewish theology until much later.  Many readers miss that point and read the Book of Job anachronistically.)  The primary guilty party in the case of the suffering of the impatient Job, then, was God.  (The expression “the patience of Job” makes no sense to me, based on the text which bears his name.)  Job’s alleged friends, including Zophar the Naamathite, argued however that God, being just, would not permit the innocent to suffer, so Job must have done something wrong.  Job gave as good as he got, as Chapters 12 and 13 indicate:

But you invent lies;

All of you are quacks.

If you would only keep quiet

It would be considered wisdom on your part.

–Job 13:4-5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Nevertheless, much of what Job’s alleged friends said sounds like what one reads elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible, especially in the Books of Psalms and Proverbs, stated authoritatively.  (Those books are too naively optimistic in places.  Of course some of those raised to follow God grow up and depart from the proper path, despite Proverbs 22:6, for example.)  These alleged friends were not entirely wrong, but they proceeded from a false assumption, one common in antiquity as well as today.  Old ideas–including demonstrably false ones–persist.  If one’s sins necessarily lead to one’s suffering, how does one explain the crucifixion of Jesus, the living bread, the living water, and the sinless one?  One must also, if one is to be intellectually thorough and honest, contend with the sufferings and martyrdoms of many faithful, mere mortals, from antiquity to current events.

There are, of course, various reasons for suffering.  The Buddhist statement that suffering results from wrong desiring covers much of that territory well.  One might suffer because of the wrong desiring of another person or because of one’s own wrong desiring.  Even that, however, does not account for the suffering one must endure apart from that with causation in wrong desiring.  Why do some children enter the world with terrible diseases with genetic causes, for example?

St. Paul the Apostle, writing in Romans 16:17, urged his audience

to keep an eye on those who cause dissensions and offenses, in opposition to the teaching that you have learned; avoid them.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

I file Zophar the Naamathite and the false witnesses against St. Stephen in that category.

A complicating factor is that “those who cause dissensions and offenses” usually do not think of themselves as such.  They might even consider themselves as righteous people, or at least as people who perform necessary, if unpleasant, deeds for the greater good.  Furthermore, you, O reader, and I might be among these people, according to others.  The only infallible judge of such matters is God.

We can attempt to act kindly, at least, and to refrain from blaming victims for their afflictions.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2015 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, APOLOGIST

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/06/01/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-15-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Unrighteous Violence   1 comment

St. Stephen

Above:  St. Stephen, by Luis de Morales

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

All-powerful and unseen God, the coming of your light

into our world has brightened weary hearts with peace.

Call us out of darkness, and empower us to proclaim the birth 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 20

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 26:1-9, 12-15

Psalm 148

Acts 6:8-15; 7:51-60

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Let kings and all commoners,

princes and rulers over all the whole earth,

youths and girls,

old and young together,

let them praise the name of the LORD,

for his name is high above all others,

and his majesty above earth and heaven.

He has exalted his people in the pride of power

and crowned with praise his loyal servants,

Israel, a people close to him.

Praise the LORD.

–Psalm 148:11-14, Revised English Bible (1989)

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The Psalm for today stands in dissonance with the other two readings.  Jeremiah preached the word of God–a word just in case people might repent–and they did not repent.  In fact, some tried to have him executed.  Centuries later, others succeeded in putting St. Stephen, who had also said much which certain people did not want to hear, to death.

The context of Jeremiah’s troubles (as 2 Kings 23:31-37) explains it, was the reign of King Jehoiakim, son of the great King Josiah.  Josiah had died in 609 B.C.E., losing his life to Neco, Pharaoh of Egypt, in battle.  Neco had appointed the next monarch, Jehoahaz, elder son of Josiah.  Jehoahaz had reigned for a mere three months before Neco imprisoned him.  Then the Egyptian ruler chose Eliakim as his Judean vassal and renamed him “Jehoiakim.”  The new vassal did his lord’s bidding, collecting the required tribute of one hundred talents of silver and a talent of gold.  (A talent was seventy-five pounds.)  Jeremiah’s message from God had a political tint for people living in a vassal state without the separation of religion and government.  King Jehoiakim tried to have the prophet killed, but one Ahikam son of Shaphan (Jeremiah 26:24) protected the holy man.

St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, had no such protector.  He was one of the original seven deacons, whose job descriptions entailed providing social services primarily.  Yet St. Stephen’s preaching, not his delivering of meals to widows, led to his death.  The crucifixion of Jesus was a recent event, so anyone who spoke as boldly as St. Stephen regarding Christ did took great risks.  For speaking the truth he suffered the Law of Moses-dictated death of a blasphemer.  His execution had a veneer of righteousness.  Some of his accusers believed him to have committed blasphemy, but sincerity did not excuse error.

Often we humans resort to violence to rid ourselves of inconvenient people who have merely spoken the truth.  We wish to defend our concepts of our own righteousness, but animosity and violence reveal the truth of our lack of righteousness.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 6, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM TEMPLE, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF TE WHITI O RONGOMAI, MAORI PROPHET

THE FEAST OF THEOPHANE VENARD, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MISSIONARY, AND MARTYR IN VIETNAM

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/06/devotion-for-december-26-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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This is post #1200 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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Allegedly Righteous Violence   1 comment

paolo_uccello_-_stoning_of_st_stephen_-_wga23196

Above:  Stoning of Saint Stephen, by Paolo Uccello

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.

Give us grace to love one another,

to follow in the way of his commandments,

and to share his risen life with all the world,

for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 34

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 12:1-3 (26th Day)

Exodus 3:1-12 (27th Day)

Jeremiah 26:20-24 (28th Day)

Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 (All Days)

Acts 6:8-15 (26th Day)

Acts 7:1-16 (27th Day)

John 8:48-59 (28th Day)

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 12:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/devotion-for-january-2-and-3-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/second-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/12/devotion-for-the-eighth-and-ninth-days-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/20/proper-5-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/06/week-of-proper-7-monday-year-1/

Exodus 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/devotion-for-january-4-and-5-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/18/third-sunday-in-lent-year-c/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/devotion-for-the-thirtieth-and-thirty-first-days-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/27/week-of-proper-10-wednesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/proper-17-year-a/

Jeremiah 26:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/second-day-of-christmas-the-feast-of-st-stephen-deacon-and-martyr-december-26/

Acts 6:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/second-day-of-christmas-the-feast-of-st-stephen-deacon-and-martyr-december-26/

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

John 8:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/week-of-2-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/10/week-of-2-epiphany-saturday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/devotion-for-february-26-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-second-day-of-lent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-28-29-and-30-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe,

for you are my crag and my stronghold;

for the sake of your name, lead me and guide me.

Take me out the net that they have secretly set for me,

for you are my tower of strength.

Into your hands I commend my spirit,

for you have redeemed me,

O LORD, O God of truth.

–Psalm 31:3-5, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Blasphemy is a capital crime in the Law of Moses, which frowns upon perjury.  In fact, the penalty for perjury is whatever fate the falsely accused suffered or would have suffered.  So, according to the Law of Moses, the authorities stoned the wrong man in Acts 7.

The stoning of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, is just one of several accounts of violence, attempted and otherwise, of which we read in these lections.  That kind of violence–done in the name of God by heirs of Abraham (physically or spiritually or both), members of a nation God has freed more than once–is always unbecoming.  To disagree with a person is one thing, but to seek to kill him or her because of that difference is quite another.  It constitutes an attempt to prove one’s righteousness by sinful means.  Thus such an act defines as a lie that which the perpetrator seeks to affirm.

I, as a Christian, follow one who died for several reasons, among them the motivation I just mentioned.  Thus I am especially aware of the perfidy of such violence, which, unfortunately, continues.  Christians in certain Islamic countries are subject to charges of blasphemy then to execution.  Honor killings continue to occur around the world.  They seem to attract the most attention in the Western press when immigrants commit them in Western countries, but they happen daily, often without the press noticing them.  I am also aware of the long, shameful history of “Christian” violence against Jews.  Ritual washing of hands, for example, contributed to greater cleanliness among European Jews relative to other populations on the continent and therefore helped to reduce their vulnerability to the Black Death in the 1300s.  Many fearful, Anti-Semitic Gentiles blamed Jews for the plague and attacked them.  God, please save us from your alleged followers!

May mutual love and respect prevail.  And, when we disagree with someone whose presence threatens our notions of our own righteousness, may we refrain from violence.  Even if the other person is wrong, partially or entirely, that does not justify killing or attempting to kill an innocent person.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ADELAIDE, HOLY ROMAN EMPRESS

THE FEAST OF MARIANNE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/12/16/devotion-for-the-twenty-sixth-twenty-seventh-and-twenty-eighth-days-of-easter-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Fear Not   1 comment

Above:  St. Simon’s Island, Georgia, Lighthouse, 1848

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Acts 6:1-7 (Revised English Bible):

During this period, when disciples were growing in number, a grievance arose on the part of those who spoke Greek, against those who spoke the language of the Jews; they complained that their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution.  The Twelve called the whole company of disciples together and said,

It would not be fitting for us to neglect the word of God in order assist in the distribution.  Therefore, friends, pick seven men of good repute from your number, men full of the Spirit and of wisdom, and we will appoint them for this duty; then we can devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.

This proposal proved acceptable to the whole company.  They elected Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, along with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas of Antioch, who had been a convert from Judaism, and presented them to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

The word of God spread more and more widely; the number of disciples in Jerusalem was increasing rapidly, and very many of the priests adhered to the faith.

Psalm 33:1-5, 18-22 (Revised English Bible):

Shout for joy in the LORD, you that are righteous;

praise comes well from the upright.

Give thanks to the LORD on the lyre;

make music to him on the ten-stringed harp.

Sing to him a new song;

strike up with all your skill and shout in triumph,

for the word of the LORD holds true,

and all his work endures.

He is a lover of righteousness and justice;

the earth is filled with the LORD’s unfailing love.

The LORD’s eyes are turned towards those who fear him,

towards those who hope for his unfailing love

to deliver them from death,

and in famine to preserve them alive.

We have waited eagerly for the LORD;

he is our help and our shield.

In him our hearts are glad,

because we have trusted in his holy name.

LORD, let your unfailing love rest on us,

as we have put our hope in you.

John 6:16-21 (Anchor Bible):

As evening drew on, his [Jesus’] disciples came down to the sea.  Having embarked, they were trying to cross the sea to Capernaum.  By this time it was dark, and still Jesus had not joined them; moreover, with a strong wind blowing, the sea was becoming rough.  When they had rowed about three or four miles, they sighted Jesus walking upon the sea, approaching the boat.  They were frightened, but he told them,

It is I; do not be afraid.

So they wanted to take him into the boat, and suddenly the boat reached the shore toward which they had been going.

The Collect:

O Lord, the life of the faithful, the glory of the saints, and the delight of those who trust in you: Hear our supplications, and quench, we pray, the thirst of those who long for your promises; 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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There are two kinds of fear:  good and bad.  Good fear tells me not to touch a hot surface, for example.  This variety of fear preserves me from needless and avoidable foolishness.  This day’s readings concern bad fear, however.

Bad fear is spiritually corrosive.  It prompts us to take our eyes off Jesus and not to trust in God.  Bad fear shifts our focus from our blessings to our anxieties.  These can assume a variety of forms:  financial, psychological, emotional, food-related, legal, et cetera.  And they are real and genuine reasons for concern.  Everyone who has lived long enough has accumulated these.  I know fear as I write this devotional.  Sometimes I experience episodes of crippling fear, but these end.  From late 2006 to middle 2007 I was at my low point; I would have welcomed death, not that I would have committed suicide then.  (I was too afraid to do that.)  But, with much divine and human help, I emerged from the crisis.  And I am stronger spiritually today because of it.

Experience teaches me that God casts out fear and calls me seek the divine face.  Life tells me that when I occupy a dark valley God is with me.  If I do not recognize this fact, I have not looked closely enough.

I write this devotional during a recession which affects mostly people who did not cause it.  During economic difficulties many people give voice to resentments, especially those located at the intersection of racism and economics.  Much of talk radio and 24-hour news channel programming relies on fear and fear-related anger to fill airtime and attract audiences.  Positive programming, although edifying, is less of a draw that fear-baiting.  Political strategists have known for many years that scaring people is more effective electoral strategy than appealing to the higher angels of human nature.

Who can deliver us from negative fear?  Only God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 6, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF ALBRECHT DURER, MATTHIAS GRUNEWALD, AND LUCAS CRANACH THE ELDER, ARTISTS

THE FEAST OF DANIEL G. C. WU, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MISSIONARY TO CHINESE AMERICANS

THE FEAST OF FREDERIC BARKER, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF SYDNEY

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Adapted from this post:

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

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Posted March 26, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Acts of the Apostles 6, John 6, Psalm 33

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