Archive for the ‘Acts of the Apostles 6’ Category

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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