Archive for the ‘Acts of the Apostles 8’ Category

A Light to the Nations VII   Leave a comment

Above:  Kent Lighthouse at Night

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Master of us all, you have given us work to do.

Also give us strength to perform it with gladness and singleness of heart;

and when it is completed grant us a place in your kingdom;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 86

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Jeremiah 10:1-7

Psalm 50

Acts 8:26-35

John 4:7-26

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We have a fine set of readings (as usual) this time.  My only negative comment regards not the portions of scripture themselves but the old lectionary itself; the lessons from Jeremiah, Acts, and John are too short.  One should read through Jeremiah 10:16, Acts 8:40, and John 4:42 for full effect.

God (in Jeremiah 10) and Jesus (in John 4) notably avoided condemning anyone.  (The condemnation came in Psalm 50 instead.)  God, speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, condemned idolatry and cautioned against practicing it, but proclaimed (in that passage) no punishment of practitioners of idolatry.  No, God did that elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible.  And Jesus, scandalously speaking at great length to the Samaritan woman at the well, did not condemn her for anything.  No, he, like God in Jeremiah 10:1-16, encouraged repentance.  That strategy worked on the woman.

A recurring theme in this series of posts has been being a light to the nations.  This has been appropriate, given the theme of the Season after the Epiphany, with the message of Christ spreading to the Gentiles, or to the nations.

Find the good and praise it.

–Alex Haley

A light to the nations stands out among them; it does not blend in.  Neither is a light to the nations a reflexive contrarian.  No, such a light affirms the positive and names the negative.  It does so in the proper way, so as to avoid defeating divine purposes by making unnecessary scenes.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ, by its nature, offends many, but the record of Christian missionary efforts is sadly replete with examples of evangelists who, out of racism, ethnocentrism, and other faults, sabotaged their work and actively (yet accidentally) discouraged many people from coming to God.

May we be lights to the nations properly.  May we be like St. Philip the Deacon (not the Apostle), who, in Acts 8, engaged constructively with the Ethiopian eunuch.  May we be like Jesus, who, in John 4, spoke the truth gently and persuasively to the Samaritan woman.  May we draw people to God and encourage discipleship.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2017 COMMON ERA

LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF PAUL JONES, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF UTAH AND PEACE ACTIVIST; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, JOHN NEVIN SAYRE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND PEACE ACTIVIST

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Grace: Free, Not Cheap   1 comment

Above:   The Prophet Balaam and the Angel, by John Linnell

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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Numbers 22:22-35; 23:7-12

Psalm 56:10-13

Acts 8:9-13, 18–25

Mark 4:21-23

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In God the LORD, whose word I praise,

in God I trust and will not be afraid,

for what can mortals do to me?

I am bound by the vow I made to you, O God;

I will present to you thank-offerings;

For you have rescued my soul from death and my feet from stumbling,

that I may walk before God in the light of the living.

–Psalm 56:10-13, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Grace is free yet certainly not cheap.  Also, most, if not all people might have their price, but God has none.  We find this theme in Numbers 22 and 23, in which Balaam, despite having his price, obeys God.  We also find this theme in Acts 8, in which Simon Magus offers to purchase the Holy Spirit, succeeding in giving us the word “simony.”

The attitude in Psalm 56:10-13 is preferable:  Be loyal to God.  And, as we read in Mark 4, what we put in determines what we get out.  Grace is free yet not cheap; it requires much of us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGISMUND OF BURGUNDY, KING; SAINT CLOTILDA, FRANKISH QUEEN; AND SAINT CLODOALD, FRANKISH PRINCE AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JAMES LEWIS MILLIGAN, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCULF OF NANTEUIL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2017/05/02/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-ackerman/

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Christ, Violence, and Love   1 comment

icon-of-the-resurrection

Above:  Icon of the Resurrection

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:

Exodus 34:27-28 (29-35) or Deuteronomy 9:8-21

Psalms 71:15-24 or Psalm 75 or Psalm 76

John 21:20-25 or Luke 24:36-49 or John 20:19-31

2 Corinthians 3:7-11 (4:16-5:1) 5:2-5 (6-10) or Revelation 1:1-3 (4-8) 9-20

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Once again we read of the coexistence of divine judgment and mercy.  This time the emphasis is on mercy, given the context of the assigned lessons.  The bleakest reading comes from Genesis 34, where we learn of two brothers committing violence (including honor killings) in reaction to either the rape of their sister (Dinah) by a foreign man or to her consensual non-marital sexual relations with a foreigner.  This story contrasts with the crucifixion of Jesus, in which those complicit in that act of violence unambiguously targeted an innocent man.

We who call ourselves Christians have a responsibility to follow Jesus–Christ crucified, as St. Paul the Apostle wrote.  St. Paul, as Saul of Tarsus, had approved of the execution of at least one Christian, St. Stephen (Acts 7:54-8:1a).  Saul of Tarsus had also dragged other Christians to prison (Acts 8:1b-3).

We who call ourselves Christians also have a responsibility to follow Jesus, the resurrected one.  May we die to our sins.  May we die to our desires to commit or condone violence against those we find inconvenient and/or who threaten our psychological safety zones.  May we die to the desire to repay evil for evil.  May we die to the thirst for revenge.  And may God raise us to new life in the image of Christ.  May we seek to glorify God alone and succeed in that purpose, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN NITSCHMANN, SR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; DAVID NITSCHMANN, JR., THE SYNDIC, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, THE MARTYR, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CECIL FRANCES ALEXANDER, POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN LUDWIG BRAU, NORWEGIAN MORAVIAN TEACHER AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD OF LUCCA; AND JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/devotion-for-easter-sunday-evening-year-d/

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Comfort and Discomfort with Divine Love   1 comment

baptism-of-the-eunuch-rembrandt

Above:   The Baptism of the Eunuch, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Merciful Lord God, we do not presume to come before you

trusting in our own righteousness,

but in your great and abundant mercies.

Revive our faith, we pray; heal our bodies, and mend our communities,

that we may evermore dwell in your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 38

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The Assigned Readings:

Jonah 4:1-11

Psalm 5

Acts 8:26-40

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The lection from the Book of Jonah challenges audiences.  The main character is a fool who resists God’s call on a part of his life–to give Assyria, the archenemy, one last chance to repent.  Jonah, of course, cannot flee from God (Who can?), and he eventually accepts the vocation reluctantly.  He succeeds, much to his dismay.  He, like the author of Psalm 5, wants the evil to suffer for their sins.  Yet God loves the Assyrians also, and chastises Jonah.  The Book of Jonah.  The Book of Jonah ends without revealing the reluctant prophet’s reply to God.  The ambiguous ending of the great work of religious satire challenges all of us who like to think of ourselves as godly while clinging to resentments.

St. Philip the Deacon (not the apostle) became an instrument in the life of the Ethiopian eunuch, who desired to understand the Bible yet lacked a good teacher.  St. Philip, unlike Jonah, answered the call of God obediently and readily.  To do just that is a challenge for each of us.  Will we answer and act affirmatively or will we prefer that those hostile to us perish than repent?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 29, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JEMIMA THOMPSON LUKE, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER; AND JAMES EDMESTON, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF BERNHARDT SEVERIN INGEMANN, DANISH LUTHERAN AUTHOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD HOPPER, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CASSIAN, DESERT FATHER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/devotion-for-monday-after-proper-4-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Grace, Demanding Faithful Responses, Part I   1 comment

Death of Simon Magus

Above:  The Death of Simon Magus

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Lord God, source of every blessing,

you showed forth your glory and led many to faith by the works of your Son,

who brought gladness and salvation to his people.

Transform us by the Spirit of his love,

that we may find our life together in him,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 3:1-5 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 3:19-25 (Friday)

Jeremiah 4:1-4 (Saturday)

Psalm 36:5-10 (All Days)

Acts 8:18-24 (Thursday)

1 Corinthians 7:1-7 (Friday)

Luke 11:14-23 (Saturday)

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Like a generous host you give them their fill of good food from your larder.

From your lovely streams which bring such pleasure you give them water to drink.

–Psalm 36:9, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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That is true, of course, so idolatry is especially galling.  Marriage, a literal matter in 1 Corinthians 7, is a metaphor in Jeremiah 3 and 4, where whoring becomes a metaphor for idolatry.  A relationship with God is intimate, this language tells us.

One of the themes in the Gospel of Mark, no part of which we read today, is that those who think they are insiders might actually be outsiders.  That theme applies to our Lord and Savior’s accusers in Luke 11; he was never in league with evil.  The fact that a person who knew Jesus could not recognize that reality speaks badly of that individual.  Jesus was no more in league with evil than Simon Magus could purchase the Holy Spirit, the offer to do which led to a quotable rebuke:

May your silver be lost for ever, and you with it, for you think that money could buy what God has given for nothing!  You have no share, no part, in this:  God can see how your heart is warped.  Repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the LORD that this scheme of yours may be forgiven; it is plain to me that you are held in the bitterness of gall and the chains of sin.

–Acts 8:20b-23, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

From that incident came the word “simony.”

Grace is free yet not cheap.  We can never purchase or earn it, but we can respond favorably to it.  Grace demands concrete evidence of its presence, as measured in deeds, which flow from attitudes.  Do we love our neighbors as we love ourselves?  I prefer that standard to any Pietistic list of legalistic requirements.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 27, 2015 COMMON ERA

PROPER 21:  THE EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEOBA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE CHURCH OF SOUTH INDIA, 1947

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/09/27/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-second-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Dawning Kingdom of God   1 comment

Christ in Majesty Icon

Above:  Christ in Majesty

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God,

you anointed your beloved Son to be priest and sovereign forever.

Grant that all the people of the earth,

now divided by the power of sin,

may be united by the glorious and gentle rule of 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 53

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 28:1-10 (Thursday)

Ezekiel 28:20-26 (Friday)

Psalm 93 (Both Days)

Acts 7:54-8:1a (Thursday)

1 Corinthians 15:20-28 (Friday)

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You, O LORD, are Sovereign;

you have put on splendid apparel;

you, O LORD, have put on your apparel

and girded yourself with strength.

You have made the whole world so sure

that it cannot be moved;

ever since the world began, your throne has been established;

you are from everlasting.

The waters have lifted up, O LORD,

the waters have lifted up their voice;

the waters have lifted up their pounding waves.

Mightier than the sound of many waters,

mightier than the breakers of the sea,

mightier is the LORD who dwells on high.

Your testimonies are very sure,

and holiness adorns your house, O LORD,

forever and forevermore.

–Psalm 93, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The journey toward Christ the King Sunday (evident in the selection of the Psalm) continues.  The sovereignty of God is a major theme in Ezekiel 28, where we read announcements that the prideful King of Tyre will die and that the hostile countries around Judah will fall.  The restoration of Judah will follow, thus people will know that Yahweh is the God of the Hebrews.

Death is a punishment in Ezekiel 28 and the penalty for St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr and one of the first Christian deacons.  In Acts 7-8, where we read of the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the accusation was blasphemy, although anger and defensiveness were the actual causes.  Whatever those who executed the saint thought regarding theology, their violence in the name of God belied their protests of righteousness.  St. Stephen was forgiving, however.  One will know a tree by its fruits.

Death is the last enemy to face defeat in 1 Corinthians 15.  The agent of victory over death is the crucified and resurrected Christ.  As verses 17-19 say,

If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.  Then those who have died in Christ have perished.  If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The Pauline case continues the assertion that God has put everything under subjection to Christ, in God.

The theme of Christ the King Sunday is that, despite appearances to the contrary, God is in charge.  Pope Pius XI created the feast in the 1920s, when dictators dominated Europe and fascism was on the rise.  The message of Christ the King Sunday remains relevant today, for human nature and divine faithfulness are constants.  The Kingdom of God has been present among us for a long time, for it was “at hand” nearly 2000 years ago, when Jesus of Nazareth walked the face of the Earth.  Alas, the Kingdom of God has not become fully realized, for it is simultaneously present and en route.  Human cruelty constitutes evidence of the partial realization of the Kingdom of God, so we hope and pray for the completion of the promise.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 10, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SCHEFFLER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORG NEUMARK, GERMAN LUTHERAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN HINES, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-proper-29-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Simony and Mustard Seeds   1 comment

Peter's Conflict with Simon Magus

Above:  Peter’s Conflict with Simon Magus, by Avanzino Nucci

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, you give us your Son as the vine apart from whom we cannot live.

Nourish our life in his resurrection,

that we may bear the fruit of love

and know the fullness of your joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 34

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 8:1-7 (Thursday)

Amos 8:11-13 (Friday)

Amos 9:7-15 (Saturday)

Psalm 22:25-31 (All Days)

Acts 8:1b-8 (Thursday)

Acts 8:9-25 (Friday)

Mark 4:30-32 (Saturday)

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The poor shall eat and be satisfied,

and those who seek the LORD shall praise him:

“May your heart live for ever.”

–Psalm 22:25, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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As I have written many times, a recurring theme in the Bible is that God cares deeply about how we treat each other, especially the poor and the other vulnerable individuals.  In Amos, for example, we read of predators who long for the next religious observance so they can cheat many people.  God promised to destroy such malefactors and never to forget their deeds.

Another bad actor was Simon Magus from Acts 8.  He tried to purchase God’s free blessings, earning the rebuke of St. Simon Peter.  From this account has come the word “simony,” or the buying and selling of ecclesiastical offices.  That practice has been the avoidable cause of much scandal in the Church for millennia.

The third strain of this devotion comes from Mark 4.  Some seeds are actually smaller than mustard seeds.  This fact proves that Jesus was a better theologian than horticulturist.  The points remain applicable, however, for a large plant–a weed, really–grows from a tiny seed.  The mustard plant goes where it will; the Kingdom of God is unstoppable.

So, to put all the pieces together, the great Kingdom of God, in which the last are first, the first are last, and the servant of all is the greatest, comes via small vehicles.  The Kingdom of God is the opposite of exploitative and corrupt human systems.  Also, grace is free but not cheap, for it requires commitment from its recipients.  Buying grace, if possible, might be easier from a human point of view, but it would not be better from a moral perspective.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 19, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF LARS OLSEN SKRESFRUD, LUTHERAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-fifth-sunday-of-easter-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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