Archive for the ‘Acts of the Apostles 8’ Category

St. Paul’s Third Missionary Journey   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of St. Paul the Apostle

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LXX

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Acts 18:24-21:16

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The material for this post opens with St. Paul the Apostle back in Antioch in Syria, at the end of the Second Missionary Journey.

Meanwhile, we readers meet St. Apollos, a Jewish Christian recently arrived in Ephesus then in Corinth.  We read that Sts. Priscilla and Aquila (from Corinth) catechized him.  We also read that St. Apollos, who spoke boldly for Christ, had only experienced the baptism of St. John the Baptist.

Related to that point, St. Paul, en route overland back to Ephesus (where he had been recently in 18:19-21), encountered about twelve Christians who had never heard of the Holy Spirit.  This was not surprising; the religion was young, Trinitarian theology was in its infancy, and one could not purchase a catechism in a bookstore yet.

I know what I mean by “Holy Spirit,” but my understanding emerges from Roman Catholic tradition.  I even use the filoque clause, unlike the Eastern Orthodox.  Definitions of the Holy Spirit vary within Christianity.

I have read sufficiently deeply to know that St. Paul used “Jesus” and “Holy Spirit” interchangeably sometimes.  I posit that elements of St. Paul’s Trinitarian theology were heterodox, relative to the conclusions of subsequent, major ecumenical councils.  So be it.  Trying to explain more of the nature of God than we mere mortals can grasp (most of it) is a foolish undertaking.  Who am I to blame St. Paul for dying about two and a half centuries prior to the First Council of Nicaea?

St. Paul, who spent years in Ephesus, made powerful religious and economic enemies.  The growth of Christianity threatened the commerce related to the goddess Diana.  The town clerk (another good Roman official) talked down the rioting silversmiths, but St. Paul had to leave.

A few months later, at Troas, St. Paul and his entourage spent about a week.  One Eutychus, sitting in a window, fell asleep and feel three stories to his death.  St. Paul, like Jesus before him, restored the young man to life.

Sleep, in this case, represented moral laxity and spiritual dullness, as well as indicating a physical state.  Culturally, story legitimized Lord’s Day worship, in contrast to “nocturnal assemblies and associated immoralities” (to quote Charles H. Talbert).  These nighttime meetings were commonplace in the cultural setting.  St. Justin Martyr wrote of the pagan misapprehension that Christians at worship “extinguished the lights and indulged in unbridled sensuality.”  St. Luke took pains to mention that the room was well-lit (20:8).  St. Luke also used this story in 20:7-12 to refute allegations that Christians practiced child sacrifice.

Many ancient pagans harbored false notions regarding Christians and Christianity.  Frequently, correcting these misunderstandings would have required a minimum of effort.  The stubbornness of people in holding objectively inaccurate ideas has not ceased to be an element of human nature, sadly.

St. Paul, hurrying back to Jerusalem in time for Pentecost, bid farewell to the Ephesian elders in Miletus.  His farewell speech, reminiscent of Christ’s predictions of the Passion, included excellent advice and interesting historical information.

Presbyters (elders) and overseers (bishops) were interchangeable at the time.  Mutuality defined the farewell address.  And the Lucan motif of the Holy Spirit was present.

St. Paul and his entourage evangelized on the way to Jerusalem.  They visited St. Philip the Evangelist (Acts 6:5; 8:4-8, 26-40) and his four daughters, prophets, in Caesarea.  More predictions of St. Paul’s fate occurred, but the Apostle kept going to Jerusalem.  Like Jesus in Luke 9:51, St. Paul set his face toward Jerusalem.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 1, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP AND JAMES, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Simony and the Allure of the Spectacular   Leave a comment

Above:  The Death of Simon Magus

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LXII

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Acts 8:9-25

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The Encarta World English Dictionary (1999) defines simony as:

…in Christianity, the buying or selling of sacred or spiritual things.

That volume then informs me that “simony” derives from the Latin simonia, via French, in the 1200s C.E.

The unabridged Random House Dictionary of the English Language (1973) provides two definitions of simony.  The first is:

the making of profit out of sacred things. 

The second definition is:

the sin of buying or selling ecclesiastical preferments, benefices, etc.

Both kinds of simony have plagued Christian history.  The buying and selling of ecclesiastical offices–even the papacy–has been scandalous.  And how many crosses could one have made by putting together all the alleged pieces of the true cross of Christ?

“Simony” derives from Simon Magus, who offered to purchase the Holy Spirit.

Was Simon Magus’s repentance in Acts 8:24 sincere?

We, the readers of Acts 8, are to contrast the attitudes of Simon Magus and the Ethiopian eunuch.  We are to seek instruction in the faith, not seek the spectacular and the power that comes from channeling it.  Recall the temptations of Jesus, O reader.  Remember that one of them was to attract followers by being spectacular.

While miracles are a frequent phenomenon in Luke’s story world, the spectacular is always a means to draw people to hear the word of God.

–Robert W. Wall, in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume X (2002), 140

Yes, but how long are their attention spans?  Recall John 6:30, O reader:

So they said to [Jesus], “What sign are you going to give us, then, so that we may see it and believe you?  What work are you going to perform?”

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Recall, O reader, that in the Johannine narrative, those asking these questions had been some of the people Jesus had fed during the Feeding of the Five Thousand on the previous day.

I repeat my question:  How long are people’s attention spans?

May we seek a deeper relationship with God because of who God is, `not because of what we think God can do for us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 18, 2022 COMMON ERA

MONDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF ROGER WILLIAMS, FOUNDER OF RHODE ISLAND; AND ANNE HUTCHINSON, REBELLIOUS PURITAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT CORNELIA CONNELLY, FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF THE HOLY CHILD JESUS

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY ANNA BLONDIN, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT ANNE

THE FEAST OF MARY C. COLLINS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MISSIONARY AND MINISTER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MURIN OF FAHAN, LASERIAN OF LEIGHLIN, GOBAN OF PICARDIE, FOILLAN OF FOSSES, AND ULTAN OF PERONNE, ABBOTS; SAINTS FURSEY OF PERONNE AND BLITHARIOUS OF SEGANNE, MONKS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROMAN ARCHUTOWSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1943

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St. Philip the Deacon, Evangelist   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LXI

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Acts 8:4-8, 26-40

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We know little about St. Philip the Deacon.  We first read his name in Acts 6:5.  We read that he fed widows and preached the Gospel, but, unlike St. Stephen, lived to continue evangelizing in the midst of persecution.  And we read that St. Philip the Deacon went to where God sent him.

Acts 8:26-40, being part of lectionaries, is a portion of scripture I have written about a few times already.  I have, therefore, decided to let those posts stand, to refer you, O reader, to them, and to choose another point to emphasize in this post.

Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”  He replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?”

–Acts 9:30-31a, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

This explains why I have two tall bookcases full of Bibles, commentaries, and related reference works.  I am a serious student of the Bible, as well as an adult Christian educator.  I was a licensed catechist in the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia before I moved to the Diocese of Atlanta.  Now that I have returned to the Diocese of Georgia, I do not know if I am a licensed catechist again.  (How does that work?)  I know from experience that what I learned about the Bible growing up is not necessarily so.  My adult Christian faith is quite different from my childhood Christian faith.  My adult Christian faith, as of today, differs from my adult Christian faith five years ago.

And I am one of the churchiest people around!  I am an in-utero product of the Church.  I cannot conceive of how people new to the Bible must feel.

In a way, they have an advantage I lack.  I have had to unlearn most of my childhood religion.  The version of the Gospel in my head is a composite that easily glosses over many distinctive characteristics of each of the four canonical Gospels.  I continue to strive to get past my blind spots.  Those who come new to the Gospels lack these blind spots.  Those who are new to the faith help me to see my faith and the Bible with fresh eyes.

How can I understand [what I am reading], unless someone instructs me?

I pray that I am a good teacher of the faith, in my weblogs and in other ways.  I pray this not so much for my sake, but for the glory of God, the sake of Jesus, and the benefit of other people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 18, 2022 COMMON ERA

MONDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF ROGER WILLIAMS, FOUNDER OF RHODE ISLAND; AND ANNE HUTCHINSON, REBELLIOUS PURITAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT CORNELIA CONNELLY, FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF THE HOLY CHILD JESUS

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY ANNA BLONDIN, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT ANNE

THE FEAST OF MARY C. COLLINS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MISSIONARY AND MINISTER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MURIN OF FAHAN, LASERIAN OF LEIGHLIN, GOBAN OF PICARDIE, FOILLAN OF FOSSES, AND ULTAN OF PERONNE, ABBOTS; SAINTS FURSEY OF PERONNE AND BLITHARIOUS OF SEGANNE, MONKS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROMAN ARCHUTOWSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1943

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St. Stephen, the First Christian Martyr   Leave a comment

Above:  Saint Stephen, by Luis de Morales

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LX

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Acts 6:8-8:3

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…but they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.

–Acts 6:10, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

St. Stephen, one of the original seven deacons (Acts 6:1-7), had a simple job–to provide social services in the name of Christ.  Simply put, he, as a deacon, was supposed to provide the ancient equivalent of Meals on Wheels (Acts 6:2).  He died for his preaching, though.

Rather than focus on the reported contents of that fateful sermon, or on the politics of it circa 85 C.E. (when St. Luke composed the Acts of the Apostles), I choose other emphases:

  1. St. Stephen’s martyrdom resembles the crucifixion of Jesus.  The servant is not greater than the master, after all.
  2. We meet Saul of Tarsus, still a persecutor of the nascent Church.
  3. We read of sacred violence, one the most egregious oxymorons.

Those who behave violently toward the nonviolent do not impress me.  I understand that violence is sometimes the lesser evil; I am a realist.  Yet I contend that violence is usually unnecessary.  Violence in defense of another person, other human beings, and oneself is necessary at times, sadly.  yet violence against the nonviolent is never morally justifiable.

Nevertheless, violence in the name of God, especially against the nonviolent, is a repeating theme in history.  I, as a Christian, regret that violence in the name of Jesus, crucified despite being innocent of the charges against him, is a dark stain in Christian history.  And I, as a citizen of the United States of America, know that my nation-state, not exempt from human nature, has a record of incarcerating and martyring pacifists during wartime.  My Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days (available at SUNDRY THOUGHTS) includes some of these martyrs.  I also know about the four Quakers the Puritan government of the Massachusetts Bay Colony executed for merely being Quakers.  My Ecumenical Calendar also lists these four martyrs.

The variety of theological certainty that, in one’s imagination, justifies violence against the nonviolent is morally unjustifiable.  Consider the Lucan presentation of the execution of Jesus, O reader.  Remember that the Lucan account emphasizes the innocence of Jesus, hence the injustice of his death.  We have a similar murder here, in Acts 7:54-60.

I, as a Christian, have an obligation to follow Jesus.  I do not recall the verse in which he called for smiting the heretics and evildoers.  That verse does not exist.  I do recall reading about Jesus dying for the heretics and evildoers, though.  And I remember reading about Jesus praying that God would forgive them.

As for pacifists, they are harmless at worst and beneficial at best.  If one disagrees with them, one has the right to do so.  Yet nobody has the moral right to harm them, to seek to harm them, or to consent to their harm.  Why not permit them to lead their nonviolent lives without harassment and persecution?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 15, 2022 COMMON ERA

GOOD FRIDAY

THE FEAST OF SAINT OLGA OF KIEV, REGENT OF KIEVAN RUSSIA; SAINT ADALBERT OF MAGDEBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT ADALBERT OF PRAGUE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR, 997; AND SAINTS BENEDICT AND GAUDENTIUS OF POMERANIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 997

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DAMIEN AND MARIANNE OF MOLOKAI, WORKERS AMONG LEPERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT FLAVIA DOMITILLA, ROMAN CHRISTIAN NOBLEWOMAN; AND SAINTS MARO, EUTYCHES, AND VICTORINUS OF ROME, PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, CIRCA 99

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUNNA OF ALSACE, THE “HOLY WASHERWOMAN”

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Introduction to Luke-Acts   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of St. Luke the Evangelist

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART I

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The whole of Luke’s gospel is about the way in which the living God has planted, in Jesus, the seed of that long-awaited hope in the world.

–N. T. Wright, Lent for Everyone:  Luke, Year C–A Daily Devotional (2009), 2

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The Gospel of Luke is the first volume of a larger work.  The Acts of the Apostles is the second volume.  One can read either volume spiritually profitably in isolation from the other one.  However, one derives more benefit from reading Luke-Acts as the two-volume work it is.

Each of the four canonical Gospels bears the name of its traditional author.  The Gospel of Luke is the only case in which I take this traditional authorship seriously as a matter of history.  One may recall that St. Luke was a well-educated Gentile physician and a traveling companion of St. Paul the Apostle.

Luke-Acts dates to circa 85 C.E.,. “give or take five to ten years,” as Raymond E. Brown (1928-1998) wrote in his magisterial An Introduction to the New Testament (1997).  Luke-Acts, having a Gentile author, includes evidence that the audience consisted of Gentiles, too.  The text makes numerous references to the inclusion of Gentiles, for example.  Two of the major themes in Luke-Acts are (a) reversal of fortune, and (b) the conflict between the Roman Empire and the Kingdom of God.  The smoldering ruins of Jerusalem and the Second Temple in 70 C.E. inform the present tense of the story-telling.

Many North American Christians minimize or ignore the imperial politics in the New Testament.  In doing so, they overlook essential historical and cultural contexts.  Luke-Acts, in particular, performs an intriguing political dance with the Roman Empire.  The two-volume work unambiguously proclaims Jesus over the Emperor–a treasonous message, by Roman imperial standards.  Luke-Acts makes clear that the Roman Empire was on the wrong side of God, that its values were opposite those of the Kingdom of God.  Yet the two-volume work goes out of its way to mention honorable imperial officials.

Know six essential facts about me, O reader:

  1. This weblog is contains other blog posts covering Luke-Acts, but in the context of lectionaries.  I refer you to those posts.  And I will not attempt to replicate those other posts in the new posts.  Finding those posts is easy; check the category for the book and chapter, such as Luke 1 or Acts 28.
  2. I know far more about the four canonical Gospels, especially in relation to each other, than I will mention in the succeeding posts.  I tell you this not to boast, but to try to head off anyone who may chime in with a rejoinder irrelevant to my purpose in any given post.  My strategy will be to remain on topic.
  3. My purpose will be to analyze the material in a way that is intellectually honest and applicable in real life.  I respect Biblical scholarship that goes deep into the woods, spending ten pages on three lines.  I consult works of such scholarship.  However, I leave that work to people with Ph.Ds in germane fields and who write commentaries.
  4. I am a student of the Bible, not a scholar thereof.
  5. I am a left-of-center Episcopalian who places a high value on human reason and intellect.  I value history and science.  I reject both the inerrancy and the infallibility of scripture for these reasons.  Fundamentalists think I am going to Hell for asking too many questions.  I try please God, not fundamentalists. I know too much to affirm certain theological statements.
  6. I am a sui generis mix of Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Anglican theological influences.  I consider St. Mary of Nazareth to be the Theotokos (the Bearer of God) and the Mater Dei (the Mother of God).  I also reject the Virgin Birth and the Immaculate Conception with it.

Make of all this whatever you will, O reader.

Shall we begin our journey through Luke-Acts?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-THIRD DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF BATES GILBERT BURT, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF BENJAMIN TUCKER TANNER, AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL BISHOP AND RENEWER OF SOCIETY

THE FEAST OF D. ELTON TRUEBLOOD, U.S. QUAKER THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JOHANN CHRISTOPH SCHWEDLER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MICHAL PIASCZYNSKI,POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1940

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Corrupt High Priests: Jason and Menelaus   Leave a comment

Above:  Coin of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART VI

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2 Maccabees 4:7-50

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Jason had originally been Joshua, son of Onias III, son of Simon II “the Just” (3 Maccabees 2:1-20; Sirach 50:1-24), and grandson of Onias II.  The High Priesthood, of the lineage of Aaron, was supposed to be a lifetime appointment.  The pious Onias III was out of office.  Joshua, who took a Greek name (Jason), purchased the High Priesthood from the new monarch, Antiochus IV Epiphanes.  Jason committed what later became known as simony, after Simon Magus offering to purchase the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:9-24).

Jason, unlike his brother, father, grandfather, et cetera, betrayed the faith.  He imposed Hellenism and led people into apostasy.  The Jewish High Priest ever tried to make an offering to Hercules.  After three years of being the High Priest, Jason lost his job to simony.  How ironic!

Menelaus, son of Simon the corrupt Temple administrator, purchased the High Priesthood from King Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 172 B.C.E.  The cruel Menelaus never paid the king, though.  Meanwhile, Jason in exile among the Ammonites.  Menelaus, summoned to appear before King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, appeared before Andronicus, a regent, instead.  (The monarch had to deal with two rebellious cities.)  Menelaus attempted to bribe Andronicus.  Onias III denounced Menelaus, who suggested the murder of Onias III.  Andronicus had Onias III executed.  

Before leaving Jerusalem, Menelaus had placed his brother Lysimachus in his stead.  When a crowd protested his perfidy, Lysimachus doubled down on it.  He sent forces to attack the crowd.  But the crowd killed Lysimachus.

Menelaus managed to remain in office, despite an attempt to remove him.  

Yet thanks to the cupidity of those in power, Menelaus, this arch-plotter against his fellow citizens, continued in office and went from bad to worse.

–2 Maccabees 4:50, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Daniel 9, 11, and 12 help to date most of the Book of Daniel to a certain late period on the B.C.E. scale, due to historical references.  Onias III is “an anointed one cut off” in Daniel 9:26 and the “prince of the covenant” in Daniel 11:22.  King Antiochus IV Epiphanes is the “contemptible person on whom royal majesty had not been conferred” (11:21).   And Jason is “an alliance” in 11:23.  

As people say, 

It will get worse before it gets better.

That statement applies to the next post, I will cover the beginning of the persecution of the Jews by King Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 5, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF JAPAN, 1597-1639

THE FEAST OF SAINT AVITUS OF VIENNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JAMES NICHOLAS JOUBERT AND MARIE ELIZABETH LANGE, FOUNDERS OF THE OBLATE SISTERS OF PROVIDENCE

THE FEAST OF SAINT JANE (JOAN) OF VALOIS, COFOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF THE ANNUNCIATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILEAS AND PHILOROMUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 304

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God’s Surprises IV   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Simon Peter

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fifth Sunday after Trinity, Year 2

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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O God, who hast prepared for them that love thee

such good things as pass man’s understanding;

pour into our hearts such love toward thee,

that we, loving thee above all things,

may obtain thy promises,

which exceed all that we can desire;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 192

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1 Samuel 16:1-13

Psalm 62

Acts 8:26-40

Matthew 16:13-20

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God is faithful.  God also works in unexpected ways sometimes.  1 Samuel 16:1-13 makes plain that David, by human standards, was an unlikely choice is to be the King of Israel.  Acts 8:26-40 depicts St. Philip the Evangelist (the deacon, not the Apostle) finding foreshadowing of the Incarnation in the Hebrew Bible.  I feel confident, however, stating that he did not read certain texts that way before following Jesus.

Who do I say Jesus is?  Who do you, O reader, say Jesus is?  You cannot answer on my behalf, just as I cannot answer on your behalf.  My answer, dated October 18, 2011, is:

I trust that the historical figure known as Jesus of Nazareth was God incarnate.  We have atonement through his Incarnation, gracious life, execution, and resurrection.

That answer, according to some, is inadequate, especially for what it does not contain.  So be it.  I do not answer spiritually and doctrinally to any human being.  And the God of my faith does not mandate a canonical examination at the gates of Heaven.

A spiritual issue each of us needs to address daily is, how is God acting in ways we do not recognize?  Our obliviousness may not be malevolent.  No, it may merely come down to busyness or cultural conditioning.  Furthermore, recognizing God at work in us may be easier with the benefit of hindsight.  I have lost track of the number of times I have reflected on my past, connected the dots, and discovered another reason to thank God.

So, O reader, how is God at work in unexpected ways around you?  How is God active in people in unexpected ways around you?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILARY OF POITIERS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS, “ATHANASIUS OF THE WEST,” AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS PROTÉGÉ, SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN KEIMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FOX, FOUNDER OF THE RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF FRIENDS

THE FEAST OF MARY SLESSOR, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY IN WEST AFRICA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL PREISWERK, SWISS REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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The Kingdom of God, Part VII   1 comment

Above:  The Baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch by the Deacon Philip, by Lambert Sustris

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Isaiah 12:1-6

Psalm 29

Acts 8:26-39

John 1:29-34

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Isaiah 12:1-6 flows from Chapter 11.  The two chapters are the final section of a poem about the ideal king in a peaceful future.  As elsewhere in the Bible, divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.

Psalm 29 praises God.  It is also an adaptation of a hymn to Baal Peor, the Canaanite storm god.  Rewriting pagan stories and texts for Jewish theological purposes was a fairly common practice.  Doing so was one way of asserting the sovereignty of God and affirming faith in the one true deity.  Rewriting pagan texts also constituted an argument against the original texts’ validity.  In this case, rewriting a hymn in praise of Baal Peor was rebutting the legitimacy of his cultus.

Acts 8:26-39 and John 1:29-34 point to Jesus, as they should.

The ideal future remains an unfulfilled prophecy.  Nevertheless, I, as a Christian, affirm that the Incarnation was a game changer.  I hold that the reality of God’s presence became obvious in a way it was not previously obvious.

The presence of God is evident in many ways in our deeply flawed societies.  There are no gods; there is God.  God is sovereign, despite all appearances to the contrary.

May we–you, O reader, and I–keep the faith and work to make the world resemble more closely the fully realized Kingdom of God.  Only God can save the world and usher in the fully realized Kingdom of God, of course.  Yet we–you, O reader, and I–have a divine mandate to leave the world better than we found it.  

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 27, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS, YEAR B

THE THIRD DAY OF CHRISTMAS

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/12/27/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d-humes/

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Obliviousness, Deliberate and Otherwise   3 comments

Above:  St. Philip the Deacon and the Ethiopian Eunuch

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 8:26-40

Psalm 22:22-31

2 Peter 2:12-22

Mark 12:18-27

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Ignorance is a lack of knowledge.  Ignorance of scripture is a matter in Acts 8:26-40, in which St. Philip the Deacon (not the Apostle) evangelized a man on the path to finding faith in Christ.  That pericope fits well with the assigned portion of Psalm 22, with its global emphasis.  Ignorance of scripture is also a matter in Mark 12:18-27, in which Jesus fielded another in a series of trick questions–this time, about the resurrection of the dead, of which the Sadducees rejected.  Apostasy–rejection after acceptance–not ignorance–is a matter in 2 Peter 2:12-22.

The readings from 2 Peter and Mark point to deliberate obliviousness.  We human beings are deliberately oblivious to much.  This is not always negative, for we have finite time, and we need to choose where to focus.  I am deliberately oblivious to almost all television, the majority of movies, and bad (that is to say, nearly all) music.  I am also a Western classicist, and I enjoy many old movies.  The three and a half hours required to watch Lawrence of Arabia (1962) are always time spent well.

When we are oblivious to God, however, we occupy the realm of the negative.  When we seek a proper path, we need reliable guides.  May we walk in faith and, when God calls upon as to do so, may we function as reliable guides, so that all the nations of the earth will serve God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 27, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CORNELIUS HILL, ONEIDA CHIEF AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HUGH THOMSON KERR, SR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITURGIST; AND HIS SON, HUGH THOMSON KERR, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JAMES MOFFATT, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND BIBLE TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE GEORGIAN, ABBOT; AND SAINTS EUTHYMIUS OF ATHOS AND GEORGE OF THE BLACK MOUNTAIN, ABBOTS AND TRANSLATORS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2019/06/27/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-of-easter-year-b-humes/

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God’s Coins   11 comments

Above:  The Tribute Money, by Peter Paul Rubens

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 8:1-2, 9-25

Psalm 23

2 Peter 2:1-11

Mark 12:13-17

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The context for the reading from Mark 12 is Holy Week.  As one reads the chapter, one should notice the tension building up to the crucifixion in Chapter 15.

Jesus had the ability to spring traps on people who tried to ensnare him.  The Roman coin bore the idolatrous image of Emperor Tiberius, allegedly the “Son of God, ” the heir of Augustus, supposedly the “Savior of the World.”  The hypocrisy of Christ’s would-be ensnarers was evident physically by the possession of such a coin.

St. Augustine of Hippo, writing in On the Psalms 58, provided sage advice:

Caesar seeks his image; render it.  God seeks his image; render it.  Do not withhold from Caesar his coin.  Do not keep from God his coin.

In Tractates on John 40, St. Augustine wrote,

We are God’s money.

Empires, kingdoms, and nation-states rise and fall, but God lasts forever.  The latter deserves more love than the former.  Divine love, depending on the translation of Psalm 23, either pursues or accompanies us.  This grace, which is free, imposes demands and obligations on us in public and private morality.  We have an obligation to be God’s coins.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 27, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CORNELIUS HILL, ONEIDA CHIEF AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HUGH THOMSON KERR, SR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITURGIST; AND HIS SON, HUGH THOMSON KERR, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JAMES MOFFATT, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND BIBLE TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE GEORGIAN, ABBOT; AND SAINTS EUTHYMIUS OF ATHOS AND GEORGE OF THE BLACK MOUNTAIN, ABBOTS AND TRANSLATORS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2019/06/27/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-of-easter-year-b-humes/

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This is post #2050 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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